Saturday, March 01, 2008

Carrying on Debate

On Monday, the Herald published two articles and an editorial on the subject of carrying concealed weapons on campus. The articles published opinions of several police officers, professors, students, and the Herald editorial writers. Two students had good pro-gun comments. The police, professors, and (of course) the Herald were against it.

Officials question concealed carry
Students remain at odds on concealed weapons
Concealed carry: School shootings would not be prevented by allowing concealed weapons on campus

One of the more striking features of the gun debate is that the anti-gun side makes assertions based on no reason or evidence. Let's take a look at some quotes from the Herald.

"It doesn't matter whose hands they're in, fewer guns is less of a chance for gun violence on campus," said Lt. Brian Crandall of the WMU Department of Public Safety. Crandall said on WMU's campus, guns should only be carried by trained professionals such as campus police. He said he agrees with the campus policy of "no guns on campus."
When is Lt. Crandall going to give up his gun? After all, fewer guns means less violence! That includes the police, too. It doesn't matter whose hands they're in! Or does Crandall want more violence on campus? Or don't more guns automatically mean more violence?

Deputy Chief Blaine Kalafut of the WMU DPS is slightly more skeptical of the idea. He said not every professor would want to carry a gun and if they did, they would have to be properly trained. Therefore, it might not solve the problem because there is a chance of a suspect figuring out which professors carry guns and which ones do not and acting accordingly, Kalafut said.
How likely is that? The suspect would have to investigate all the professors in a building, and somehow figure out if they were carrying. Act accordingly might mean not shooting people, and at least the professors who carried could save their own lives.

"The proper defensive use of a gun in a classroom setting by a professor would be highly unlikely," Kramer said. Kramer said only law enforcement officials should be allowed to carry guns on campus.
Says who? Two million or so crimes are disrupted every year by citizens with guns. Why can't professors do the same? Are college professors supposed to be smarter than average people?

"It could help depending on the situation but every situation is so case specific that it may do more harm than good," Crawford said. Crawford said he believes professors carrying guns on campus could help in some situations.
How did this guy get hired by the Sociology Department?

"I can't even imagine how it would poison the classroom," Swanson said. "I'm very against it and it could be very dangerous."
This is pure emotion. No reason in sight.

"Guns have no place in our modern society and the fact that people feel the need to own guns says that there are some major problems in our society," Jon Snoek, administrator of "Students Against Guns," said in a Facebook message. "If there was no trigger to pull, the bullet they fired might never have killed that person."
The purpose of guns is to protect citizens against violent crimes. Modern society depends on freedom and private property rights. There was plenty of crime before guns were invented.

"We should require mandatory gun training, safety, and education courses which must be passed in order for someone to purchase a gun," Snoek said. "In addition to that, I feel there should be mandatory psychological evaluations to ensure that the person wanting to buy a gun is a stable individual and at the time of the evaluation isn't a high risk to go on a murderous rampage."
Training and education aren't going to stop crime. As much as we would like to think that we can use screening to identify future criminals, we can't. Giving government the power to decide who may buy a gun would take away freedom and cost innocent lives.

"Most people who have permits to carry concealed weapons have limited training and undergo less testing than even a novice police recruit," reads the campaign Web site. "Yet they are led to believe that, given a dangerous situation, they will use deadly force with the same care and consideration that police officers will."
Concealed carry is not the same as police work. Police chase and arrest criminals, citizens defend their lives.

"The National Rifle Association at every opportunity uses the fear of crime to promote the need for ordinary citizens to secretly pack a gun. The NRA is working to create a world where people carry guns into schools, bars, parks, courts, churches, and just about anywhere else they like," reads the Web site.
It's called freedom. The Brady Bunch is using fear of crime to take away our freedom. Is there any number of times that they are wrong after which the media will stop treating them as a legitimate organization? Every time concealed carry is debated, they warn of blood in the streets. It never happens.

There are always concerns about safety immediately following tragedies like this. Allowing students, professors or both to have guns on campus is not the solution, though. For every one incident that might be prevented by concealed carry on campus, there would be many more incidents that would be caused by the same allowance. Concealed carry on campus would only give those carrying weapons the opportunities to overreact. Not only that, but if professors had guns on campus, students would obviously be aware of this. This might intimidate a lot of students, and unfortunately the risk of a student stealing a professor's gun does exist.
Where's the evidence? Such fears have been shown to be illusory again and again.

Unfortunately, in the world we live in, shootings can happen anywhere. A college campus is just one more place that large amount of people congregate that can sometimes be the sites of massacres, just like the Omaha mall that was the site of a shooting last year. No amount of security can be guaranteed to prevent shootings like this - killers will always be able to find opportunities to kill. Not everyone can be protected from it. All that we can do is remember that while they are tragic and memorable, these events are still unlikely. While there are steps that can be taken to improve safety, allowing fearful people to carry guns on campus is not one such step. Concealed carry would only give the opportunity for additional tragedy as opposed to prevented tragedy.
Guess what that mall had in common with most universities? It prohibited concealed carry too!

The alleged need for training is a common argument. But there is no evidence that more training actually helps. Economist John Lott, who has studied concealed carry extensively, found no benefit to training requirements. Certainly, all else being equal, more training is better. But it also costs money, so requiring it can prevent some people from carrying and make everyone less safe.

Using a gun isn't that complicated. It's certainly much simpler than driving a car. Most times that a gun is used to prevent a crime, it isn't fired. Training is nice, but not having it isn't a reason to not let people protect their lives.

Concealed carry isn't some new, untested idea. Thirty-nine states have a right to carry, and nine more allow concealed carry with more restrictions. Universities in Utah and others scattered across the county allow concealed carry. We know the results. Concealed carry reduces crime and liberal fears are baseless.

On Thursday, the Herald published letters to the editor from Steve Sessions, Caleb Lohman, and Jeff Koenig supporting gun rights.

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