Wednesday, April 18, 2007

End the Campus Gun Ban

At every entrance to Western Michigan University, there is a sign stating that no firearms are allowed on campus. The signs come with the silhouette of a revolver with a ghostbusters slash through it.

Such policies exist on most college campuses across America.

Virginia Tech, where a man murdered thirty-two people Monday, has a similar policy.

Opponents of gun rights are already calling for more gun control. They aren't about to let facts and logic get in their way.

Gun control doesn't work. Criminals don't follow gun laws. Banning guns would never work. This can be seen from the fact that drugs remain widely available despite being banned and massive expenditures on enforcement. The main impact of gun control is on law-abiding citizens.

In fact, the most effective means of combating crime is private gun ownership and use. Quite simply, only the potential victim or someone who happens to be nearby is in a position to stop a crime in progress. Only physical force can thwart a criminal's evil designs. A gun is the best tool for doing just that.

Numerous studies have shown that Americans stop crimes by using guns roughly 2.5 million times per year. In the vast majority of cases, a gun is simply displayed and not fired. (Source: Point Blank by Gary Kleck)

Private gun ownership also deters crime. Allowing private citizens to defend themselves with lethal force greatly increases the risk of committing violent crimes. This creates a strong disincentive to do so. Although measuring this effect precisely is difficult, we can be confident that a great many crimes simply never happened because of private gun ownership.

This is particularly true of mass shootings. A striking fact about such shootings is that they virtually always happen in places where guns are not allowed, whether by law or policy. This includes schools, universities, businesses, subways, and some entire cities and states. Mass shootings never seem to happen at gun shows and NRA conventions. For that matter, they never seem to happen at malls and theaters, even the densely packed crowds at such locations would seem to present numerous targets to would-be mass murderers.

This is not a coincidence. Economist John Lott conducted a study on mass shootings several years ago.
We found that when states passed right-to-carry laws, these attacks fell by 60 percent. Deaths and injuries from multiple-victim public shootings fell on average by 78 percent.

To the extent that attacks still occurred, they overwhelmingly happened in the special places within right-to-carry states where concealed handguns were banned.
This shows that mass murderers are evil, not irrational. They seek targets which will give them the highest number of casualties. Some may be willing to die as a consequence of their efforts, but they are much less willing to die without fulfilling their evil designs.

Laws can deter crimes, but they cannot stop crimes in progress. Mass shooters can only be stopped by force. But the victims of Seung Hui Cho couldn't do that, because Virginia Tech has a policy preventing people from owning or carrying a gun on campus.

Thirty-two people are dead.

We can't know for sure what would have happened had this policy not been in place. But there's a good chance that things would have turned out differently. The last time that there was a mass shooting on a college campus in Virginia, it was thwarted by students who had retrieved their guns.

At least one Virginia legislator saw a problem. At the behest of the excellent grassroots gun rights group Virginia Civil Defense League, Delegate Todd Gilbert proposed a bill last year to overturn college gun bans. The bill never made it out of committee.
Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
That didn't work out so well.

Feeling safe is quite different from being safe. Most universities pursue the former, including Western.

This is the awful truth: Western Michigan University would rather let you be raped or murdered than allow you defend yourself with a gun.

Guns bans at Western and every other college in America must be repealed immediately.


Anonymous said...

Tell me Allan, if madmen are irrational, on what logical grounds can you claim they would be dissuaded by others having firearms? Such a policy might dissuade a few at the margin from committing such acts but are Harris and Klebold or Whitman or Cho to be considered at the margin? If everyone was armed to such an extent, madmen would still kill. They might be killed sooner but how long before the numbers killed equal in the end? Your argument requires we factor in that madmen would have increased access to guns because overall available supplies would be increased and they could simply steal or lie to get them. So if the totals end up equaling in the long run, isn’t the better policy thus gun control to reduce the absolute numbers of guns available at any given time? I realize gun rights are a part of your rather unsophisticated, "government is the enemy" worldview but tell me how you can de facto value simplicity as being right. I don’t suppose you have a response though do you?

Matthew said...

Allan specifically said that these killers are not irrational and provided case studies indicating that these types of crimes tend to take place in locations where they will be the only ones with guns.

If even a reasonable number of people had fire arms on VT's campus, do you think that Cho would have been able to murder so many?

Allan hit the nail on the head: The main impact of gun control is on law-abiding citizens. When you create restrictive gun laws, you don't prohibit criminals and murders from having weapons; rather you simply prohibit and restrict their victims from defending themselves.

Adam said...

I agree with you Matt, but giving everyone a gun is not going to solve any problems. It would most likely encourage those gun carrying citizens to take matters into their own hands and become vigilanties.

These type of murders, as gruesome as they are, are so completely random it is hard to prevent them.

I agree, tighter gun control laws won't do anything to prevent crime and it will give the criminals an upper hand.

People who have and carry guns are more likely to use them.

You cannot let this society dissolve into vigilante justice.

Extremes never work. Letting everyone carry a gun won't prevent spree killings. Taking away everyone's guns won't prevent anything either.

Matthew said...


I did not suggest giving everyone a gun, but merely allowing them to carry one. Allowing someone to carry a gun does not mandate its use; however it does two important things:

1) It creates hesitation to any would-be criminal for fear of intervention by someone carrying a fire arm, and;

2) Creates an option for someone whose life is in danger to protect themselves.

Allowing people to carry guns is not an endorsement of vigilante justice. It is not a mandate on compulsory bearing of fire arms. It is a policy which creates a safer society and one which is more personally responsible, empowered, and less dependant on government and security for personal protection.

Anonymous said...

Both of your comments are interesting. I think you may be correct in suggesting that incidents of petty crime would decrease as would the potential for such situations to escalate. What is still unclear, however, is how your appeal to rational behavior can be applied to irrational individuals who are intent on mass murder. That seems to be the question asked by the first commenter.

In such circumstances, the argument seems to boil down to answering murder with murder. It’s a Wild West conceptualization of justice and one, in my opinion, not befitting a civilized society. What have either of you heard/read about why incidents of gun violence are so high in the US compared to other industrialized democracies? If Adam is right, as I think he is, that neither extreme offers plausible alternatives, one cannot be as quick as some to say this incident demands the "immediate" repeal of gun control laws.

Matthew said...

Mass murders, Cho included, are not always irrational. As you can see from reports, this event was carefully planned. He sent a parcel to the media containing his manifesto, pictures, etc, and prepared far in advance for this assault.

As Allan indicated, there is a statistical correlation between multiple-victim public shootings and places in which right-to-carry laws do not exist. These killers plan their assaults and seem to factor these things into their decisions, on average.

You can make the appeal that allowing people to carry a gun creates a "Wild West" mentality that we're "too good for." However, tell that to someone with a gun pointed to their head and no way of defending themselves. Tell that to the families of the 32 people who died because Cho was the only one with a fire arm.

People have the right to defend their lives from those who would do them harm. Lets make it a fair fight.

Dan said...

In order for an individual to carry a firearm in this state, they must:

1. Be 21 years of age or older.
2. Pass an extensive background check, including fingerprinting.
3. Complete a training course, much of it involving LEGAL training regarding what one may or may not do with a firearm.
4. Cough up some big money.

A CPL holder can carry in most areas. They are also the most law abiding citizens in the entire country. There won't be much vigilante justice if any. If that was the case, it would not be legal in most states to obtain a CPL.