Virtually all public universities maintain a prohibition against gun possession on their grounds. But in the wake of the recent campus shootings, this policy is coming under scrutiny. A chorus of activist voices, such as an Internet-based group named Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, is asking authorities to guarantee Second Amendment rights at public universities. While the activists have a long hill to climb — only Utah presently allows gun-permit holders to carry their weapons at such institutions — 12 other states are considering following Utah's lead.
The simple rationale behind the movement was expressed by a college student quoted in USA Today. The paper writes: "'The only way to stop a person with a gun is another person with a gun,' says University of Cincinnati sophomore Michael Flitcraft, 23, a mechanical engieering major who has a license to carry guns but is prohibited by university rules from bringing one onto the campus.”
This isn’t just wishful thinking. The National Rifle Association regularly documents the abounding instances in which everyday citizens use firearms to defend themselves and others from criminals. Columnist Glenn Reynolds wrote about examples of this in a 2007 piece:
In fact, some mass shootings have been stopped by armed citizens. Though press accounts downplayed it, the 2002 shooting at Appalachian Law School was stopped when a student retrieved a gun from his car and confronted the shooter. Likewise, Pearl, Miss., school shooter Luke Woodham was stopped when the school's vice principal took a .45 from his truck and ran to the scene. In February’s Utah mall shooting, it was an off-duty police officer who happened to be on the scene and carrying a gun. If these sources seem too biased and their information too anecdotal, consider Florida State University Criminologist, self-described liberal Democrat, and lifelong ACLU member Gary Kleck. An award-winning expert on the links between violence, guns and gun control, Kleck used to be, as he put it, "a believer in the 'anti-gun' thesis." While doing research, however, he became skeptical of his long-held position. He found that firearms were used at least 2.5 million times a year to thwart crimes, over six times more than they were used to commit them. Kleck now recognizes the value of gun ownership.
While stories have great emotional impact and data satisfies the statistical mind, reason alone exposes the fallacy of the gun-control argument. Let’s consider the logic of its proponents: We’re going to make laws stating that you may not own guns to stop those who don’t follow laws preventing gun ownership . . . .
No, it doesn’t make sense on an intellectual level, which means it’s motivated by that realm in which logic finds no home: the emotional one. The truth is that the ranks of gun-control advocates are populated mainly by soccer-mom types and ivory-tower pedants, who are afraid of firearms or abhor them. A case in point was criminologist Marvin Wolfgang. While admitting that Gary Kleck’s research troubled him because it was "hard to challenge" and that he could not "further debate it," he also revealed:
If I were Mustapha Mond of Brave New World, I would eliminate all guns from the civilian population and maybe even from the police. I hate guns — ugly, nasty instruments designed to kill people.Ah, what rationality. I wonder if Wolfgang had ever heard Thomas Jefferson’s admonition, "Passion governs, and she never governs wisely."
The same lack of rationality is apparent in the debate over guns on campus. Does it make sense to think that declaring a school a "gun-free zone" will do anything but render the hands of potential white knights gun-free? Is a madman going to reason: "Well, I did want to shoot up the university, but it’s a gun-free zone. So I guess I’ll massacre people at the mall instead." You might as well think that declaring your home burglar-free and your body disease-free will ward off robbers and ill health. Heck, if that worked, I’d want to declare the academy leftist-free.
Yet fear runs high. USA Today also mentions that Omar Samaha, whose sister, Reema, was murdered in the Virginia Tech massacre, argues, "Guns on campus are a risk in an environment where young people drink and fight and are not always able to control their emotions."
While Samaha deserves compassion, allowing policy to be influenced by the traumatized is unwise. The emotions in need of control are those giving us standards that de-claw good students and professors, making them easy prey for predators. The truth is that drinking, fighting, and a lack of impulse control are widespread problems. Moreover, the spate of campus shootings hasn’t been born of conflicts in Animal-House frat parties but of those within disturbed minds.
Then there is the idea that individuals deemed sane enough to carry a gun beyond the boundaries of the academy are not equipped to do so within them. Are we to believe that, upon stepping foot on campus, a person is seized by a unique madness that causes him to temporarily take leave of his senses?
The reality is that the academy is a great bastion of leftist feeling posing as thought, and its minions just don’t like firearms. But with gun-free now synonymous with shooting spree, they would do well to remember that guns don’t kill people, bad policies do.