Student pleaded with Tech: Allow guns
April 20, 2007
Wiles, of New Castle, is a graduate research assistant in the department of human development at Virginia Tech.
My fears have been realized. As a graduate student at Virginia Tech, I have been adamant about changing the university's policy forbidding students from defending themselves. Before I proceed, let me please express my deepest condolences to those who have lost family, friends and loved ones in this awful tragedy. I do not want anyone to misconstrue my pleas for reform of university policy with a disregard for the human impact of this calamity.
It is clear that we need to rethink the idea of gun prohibition. If just one person in Norris Hall had a gun to defend himself or his classmates from an armed attacker, lives could have been saved. It is difficult not to think about how I would have felt had I watched in horror as my classmates were gunned down, and me standing there without my gun, helpless. What would it be like to stare down the barrel of the gun when it was aimed at me?
Then I think about how abhorrent that scenario is. Shouldn't I be able to think about how I would draw my own gun and stop this madman from killing my classmates and me? Gun laws and policies affect law- and policy-abiding citizens. Are we really expected to think that the shooter thought, "I shouldn't go on a murderous rampage; it's against school policy?" Can't we all see how ridiculous that is?
The policies in place on Virginia Tech's campus ask that we, as students, faculty and staff, do exactly that. In August I wrote a letter to the president of Virginia Tech, Charles Steger. An excerpt reads: "The policy that forbids students who are legally licensed to carry in Virginia needs to be changed. I am qualified and capable of carrying a concealed handgun and urge you to work with me to allow my most basic right of self-defense, and eliminate entrusting my safety and the safety of my classmates to the government. This incident makes it clear that it is time that Virginia Tech and the commonwealth of Virginia let me take responsibility for my safety."
If they had made the change at that time, then perhaps things would have been different.
The fact is that we have seen where gun control gets us. Prohibiting guns on campus only creates a place where those bent on murder can inflict the most amount of harm with the least fear of armed resistance. Virginia Tech has asked that its students choose between expulsion and death. Is that a choice we need to be forced to make?
Would my wife and family, knowing how much I have written and spoken about allowing me my most basic right of self-defense on campus, feel any comfort in the policy that supposedly protects me?
Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations, in response to a column I wrote in August asking that the university change its policy forbidding law-abiding concealed handgun permit (CHP) holders from carrying on campus, wrote the following in The Roanoke Times: "Guns don't belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same."
Do you still feel the same way about your policy now, Mr. Hincker? Will your faith in that policy provide comfort to any of the victims' families?
In the coming weeks and months there will be calls for gun bans and tougher restrictions on gun rights. This is only "feel-good" legislation and does nothing to prevent those who follow the law from protecting themselves. The answer is not restricting freedoms, the answer is to make would-be killers think twice because of the probability of armed resistance.
Let us try the other end of the spectrum, responsibility for our own safety. If the university community members were not subject to penalties for arming themselves, perhaps someone would have neutralized the attacker before he could kill more than 30 people. The Virginia Tech police did the best they could in responding. Responsible individuals who want to protect themselves need to have that option, without being subject to disciplinary action or termination of employment.
The devastating events on Virginia Tech's campus remind us of just how sacred and precious life is. The Virginia Tech community and the entire nation wish that the families and friends of the afflicted students find peace somehow.
We all need to come together and do what is prudent to minimize the possibility of this ever happening again.
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Last update: April 21, 2007