MASSACRE AT VIRGINIA TECH
Yes, it's a wake-up call. But for what?


2006: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University enforces a ban against firearms on campus to make it safer, in fact, as one school official put it, so that students can be “free from fear.”

2007: Lunatic shoots 48 people at Virginia Tech.  Conscientious law-abiding citizens who are studying, teaching, visiting, and working on the VPISU campus, including those with concealed-carry permits, respected the ban today and consequently were unable to subdue the shooter.

16 April 2007. Here we go again.  Tempers will flare once more in the decades-old debate over the Second Amendment.  Once more we’ll compare numbers of people killed each year by Chevrolets and Toyotas with the numbers killed by Glocks and Winchesters.  The Chevrolets score higher, but we don’t ban them or raise the age at which one can operate them or sue the manufacturer for creating something so deadly.  We’ll make those perennial threats against the manufacturers of guns.

Cars kill more people on and off college campuses than guns.  And the victims of automobile violence generally look more gruesome to emergency response teams.  We prohibit everyone from bringing guns onto college campuses but we only prohibit freshmen from bringing cars on campus.

Because we are a society deeply concerned for the civil liberties of lunatics, assuring that they are free to refuse confinement and treatment, we have few ways to prevent them from becoming deadly with incendiary accelerants, automobiles, blades, nasty chemicals, and of course firearms.  We blame the guns for killing, not the people holding them.  As Larry the Cable Guy has said, if the guns are to blame, then I can blame all my mistakes in school on my pencil. 

But we won’t use logic to analyze the problem.  We’ll go on emotion.  We will blame the guns, which are not sacred, because the lunatics who misuse them, just like the criminals who drink and drive, are untouchable.

The President said today that a school should be a sanctuary, meaning, I suppose, a safe haven.  The only sanctuaries – the only places where one is arguably safe from assault by an armed lunatic or criminal – are found inside buildings that have body-scanning equipment to disarm everyone entering.

If the law forces me to disarm in certain areas, then I want an x-ray or metal detector to disarm everyone else entering a closed space with me as well.  That’s what makes it a safe haven.  Everywhere else, and let’s emphasize the everywhere part, we are all better served if some unknown and unknowable number of citizens are quietly, legally carrying something concealed that can immobilize and if necessary kill a rampaging murderer.

(Among the thirty-three states with “shall-issue” concealed carry laws, there are over three million Americans with concealed carry permits.  That number alone, without estimating the numbers in the remaining states, says that on average one out of a hundred Americans could be packing heat, or about one in 70 adults.  That's the proportion in Virginia.  Actually, the odds are better in some places than others.  In Utah and Idaho it's one in 25 adults, in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and South Dakota it's one in 15 adults, while in the crime-free states of New York and Massachusetts, where the Second Amendment is outlawed, concealed carry is extremely restricted.  In Alaska and Vermont, where the right to keep and bear arms is not infringed because someone there DID read the Constitution, there are no statistics, but some Alaskans themselves have estimated a percentage of one in four adults is armed with a firearm at any one time.)

Demanding that the world become less brutal by banning weapons when and where they are most needed is foolhardy.  The world is a brutal place.  More precisely, humans are a brutal species, not because rational citizens carry weapons, but because they are thwarted in doing so and therefore those with the intent to commit great harm can do their damage largely unimpeded.

I hope the Virginia Tech massacre is a wake-up call to responsible people to arm themselves.  Not so that we can have war in the streets – notice I used the word “responsible” – but so those set on wreaking havoc can count on one intended victim out of ten, rather than one in a hundred or fewer, stepping up to stop the carnage.  If those with the will to carry responsibly had been respected in their right to do so instead of demonized at Virginia Tech, it is improbable that such a massacre would have happened there today. 

I can see where it’s going to go, though.  Politicians will find it impossible to argue that the solution to gun violence is to relax gun restrictions.  They will be afraid to support the logic in that answer.  Their solution will be to create even larger pools of sitting ducks.  Why is it, for instance, that people intent on mass murder don’t enter military bases and start shooting?  They may be lunatics, but they’re not idiots.

And it will get worse for those who do still carry concealed in places where it is not yet forbidden.  Instead of congratulating a hero who stops a shooting spree, we will probably step up prosecution of those who deprive a depraved individual of civil liberties and a fair trial simply because that depraved individual is shooting people.  We will persist in enabling more Columbine and Virginia Tech disasters because the only target we can settle on as a society will be our own foot.

I’m very sorry for the victims of the Blacksburg massacre.  The agony among the victims’ families and in the college community must be indescribable.  I hope, probably in vain, that this demonstrates the truth: We don’t create safe havens, free from fear, by declaring a certain setting a weapon-free zone.  It’s not enforceable against the very individual who it is most definitely intended to ban, who is the most to be feared.  And indeed it only makes him more effective.

2007
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