Is it time to rethink campus gun restrictions?
The gun control debate has once again been set ablaze after Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, left nine dead and seven injured, during last Thursday’s (Oct. 1) school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. As is expected, pundits from both sides of the debate have weighed in, each taking the episode as an object lesson in the follies of American gun policy, whether that be a lack of restrictions or an over-abundance of them. In light of the recent tragedy, it is prescient to discuss the pros and cons or firearm restrictions on college campuses.
One thing that might be emphasized in this case is that Umpqua Community College has a policy in place to regulate the possession of firearms on campus. Here’s the language of the policy: “Possession, use or threatened use of firearms…on campus property, except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations, is prohibited.” After last Thursday (Oct. 1), this begs the questions: What purpose do such policies really serve? How do firearm restrictions affect campus safety?
It has been repeatedly made apparent over the last few decades that those, like Harper-Mercer, who are willing to break laws prohibiting murder, have absolutely no regard for the laws or policies which regulate firearms. Some may dislike the implication of this realization; however, it seems beyond dispute that restrictive campus firearm policies primarily affect law-abiding students and citizens, not criminals. To the extent that such policies make it harder for students to legitimately carry firearms on campus, they interfere with their ability to defend themselves, and are therefore detrimental to campus safety.
Of course, “good guys with guns” can’t always stop a mass-killer in his or her tracks. In fact, many have pointed out that there were multiple armed students at Umpqua at the time of the shooting, yet they were unable to prevent the tragedy. However, this doesn’t mean that armed citizens never stop crimes such as this. A quick Google search will immediately refute that claim. So, while armed citizens can’t prevent every single crime, it is at least reasonable to posit that the likelihood of a successful massacre diminishes the more armed people there are in the vicinity of the crime. For this reason, schools should encourage open and concealed carry on campus, not discourage, restrict, or prohibit it.
It is wishful thinking to believe that gun bans of any sort can actually prevent violent crime. Violent crime is itself already illegal! If the passage of new laws could alter reality in such a way, the problem would have been solved long ago. Mental illness and the human capacity for wickedness are left completely untouched by restrictive gun laws and policies, while those citizens who could be in a position to prevent violent crime and save lives are prohibited from doing so. Let’s stop fantasizing. Guns are but tools in the hands of those who use them and until the phenomenon of violent crime can be excised and eradicated from human behavior, people will need – and indeed are entitled to by right – a means of self-defense.