Concealed Carry on Campus?

Full disclosure: I am a proponent of concealed carry of handguns for those who are licensed by the state, get the background check (nearly as deep as required for a police officer), and go through the training class required by the state in Texas. I support the Second Amendment in full.

I recently engaged in conversation with a new acquaintance regarding the subject of concealed carry on college campuses, and this caused me to do a bit more research. I found a fairly well-balanced article here, by Desiree Hanford, that you should probably read, since I am admittedly biased more towards the pro-carry side of things. Having said that, I’m going to take specific areas of the article and make my case.

I am basing my commentary on several basic principles:

Principle #1: Sign-based or rule-based gun free zones only keep out the guns of those who are law-abiding. Such “gun-free” zones decrease the number of guns in the hands of the law-abiding, but have no effect whatever on the guns or other weapons being carried by those who do not respect the law – which are the ones you should be worried about.

Principle #2: Massacres stop when another gun arrives.

In the shooting-spree massacres at Virginia Tech, and the Luby’s Cafeteria Massacre in Killeen, Texas, the perpetrator committed suicide when confronted by the police (with guns). In the Fort Hood terrorist attack, the shooter, Hasan, was stopped when the police arrived and shot him. In the Columbine High School Massacre, the perpetrators committed suicide. In these four incidents alone, a total of 83 people were murdered, and 91 more were wounded.


All four massacres occurred in “gun-free” zones. In all four cases, the only guns present at the beginning were those illegally brought by the murderers, right past those “gun-free zone” signs. The victims were defenseless.

The first three massacres listed above ended only when another gun arrived on the scene. In the case of Columbine, whether the suicides were initiated because of the presence of the police is open to debate; so this may or may not be true of that case.

This is typical of malicious shooting incidents. Simply put, the perpetrator is already in it over his head; he just hasn’t got any particular reason to stop until he is confronted by somebody that can stop him, or until he runs out of weapons.

The point here is that if only someone on site at any of these incidents were already armed, a great many people’s lives could have been saved. Most of these incidents lasted exactly as long as it took for someone with a gun (besides the shooter) to arrive. And meanwhile, people were dying.

Principle #3: This discussion is about whether CHL holders, trained as described above, are to be allowed on college campuses. This is NOT a discussion of letting just anybody have guns on campus. This differentiation is a major point in the arguments made by those who are against CHL carry on campus – they act as if we were talking about turning untrained, uneducated, hormonal teenagers loose with guns. Not so – we’re talking about people who have been taught the law, gun safety, and practical aspects of concealed carry.

Now, to the article. This isn’t an in-depth review, I am only going to comment on a few specific points.

(A) There is a Floyd Phelps quoted in the article who claims that “the average person carrying a gun … isn’t” as qualified as a police officer, and in his mind this disqualifies anybody but police having a gun. I would suggest that the police aren’t always qualified, either. Often, police don’t practice more often than is required to qualify for their jobs. And anybody that is getting shot at by a killer is going to be wishing he / she had a gun, regardless of the law – or their “qualifications”.

Phelps apparently feels that nobody but the police are qualified to have guns. I should point out that we are talking here specifically about those who have been background checked, licensed, trained in gun safety, demonstrated at least minimum proficiency, and who care about this enough to go to the trouble to do these things. This subset of people are probably at least as proficient as your average police officer – at least those I know personally. Often, they are more proficient than the average policeman, because it is also their favorite sport. They have, in acquiring their CHL, been taught the legal requirements, under what circumstances gun use is legal, and gun safety, including safe storage.

Phelps said “No teacher would think that a police officer could come in and teach their class. It’s the same thing with security, guns, schools and hostile situations”. Mr. Phelps misses the point that people are dying while the police are on the way. And, it is NOT the same thing. There are some situations that simply don’t allow for waiting for the trained professionals to show up, and this is one of them. This is more comparable to a person with CPR training who is on the site of a heart attack taking action immediately rather than waiting on a paramedic team to show up – seconds count!

(B) A lot of hypotheticals are thrown around. One is that, suppose a student confronts a teacher with a gun? My response is, if the student has a CHL, he knows better. Furthermore, CHL holders are statistically SEVEN times less likely to be involved in a violent crime compared to the general population. This obviously doesn’t rule out your occasional crazy person; but then, the teacher should be armed to protect himself against the killers, if he wants to be protected. And chances are, a CHL licensee is not one of the crazy ones, having passed that background check mentioned earlier. They try to prevent unstable people from getting licensed.

Another hypothetical: the risk of CHL carrying students not locking their rooms. Safe storage of weapons is covered in the CHL class, and a lock-box is relatively inexpensive; I’ve got a couple of them, myself. Having said that, the safest place for a handgun is in a holster on the owner. Modern firearms simply won’t go off unless the trigger is pulled, and the holster, by design, covers the trigger area of the gun. You can take a modern firearm, loaded, with one in the chamber, and drop it, kick it, run over it with your truck; it won’t go off unless the trigger is pulled. Many, like my XD 45, have back strap safeties as well; my gun won’t go off even if you pull the trigger, unless you are holding it in your hand with the back-strap safety depressed.

A third hypothetical: the risk of a student letting their emotions over-ride their better judgement. While this could potentially happen, again, the CHL carrier has been taught the law and at least knows the risk. CHL carriers are taught that they have a responsibility NOT to loose their temper – for the protection of the unarmed around them. Someone that unstable has probably been in trouble with the law before, in which case they would have trouble getting a license. I think this is a low probability for a CHL licensee. My own personal view on this is that a CHL carrier, when armed, gives up the right to lose his temper. In five years, I have never even been tempted to pull my gun. When and if I ever do, anger won’t be a part of it. Again, training and understanding are key, here – and the CHL program provides at minimum, the basics.

A fourth case: they site an incident (un-sourced and unverified) where a student drops his gym bag on the floor, and a gun inside discharges. First, if true, it must have been a very old gun, or something got into the trigger guard, showing that the gun was not holstered properly. Second, this case doesn’t apply to the present discussion – obviously, the kid in question did not have a CHL – and that is what we’re talking about here. This discussion is NOT about letting just anybody carry a gun on campus – it is about people who have gone to the trouble to get licensed.

The running theme of these hypotheticals brought up in the article is that people can’t be trusted with guns. I disagree, obviously, although I am talking here again about people who have been trained in gun safety and the law, and have demonstrated proficiency. One oddity in our laws, because this is still an area in transition, is that the law trusts me with a gun in a movie theater, in Walmart, in a restaurant (that doesn’t make 51% of its income from liquor sales), in most places in public. Yet there are other places they don’t trust me, like the court-house, or on jury duty, or in public schools. Our laws are schizophrenic in this regard. If they trust you at all, they should trust you everywhere. Believe me, you are lots safer with me in the room with you than otherwise; because, if things go pear shaped, I will defend you as well as myself – unless you are the person who is the attacker.

(C) In the article, somebody named Phelps makes the case that anybody planning an attack in school will bring heavier hardware if they think they may meet resistance from CHL carriers. I doubt this, but even if they did – wouldn’t you want to be able to shoot back? I’d rather have a pistol to shoot back at somebody who is shooting at me with a full-auto machine gun (which, by the way, are darned hard to get), than to have nothing to shoot back at somebody who is shooting at me with a small pistol. Phelp’s logic fails. Me having a gun doesn’t guarantee I’ll win, but I’ll darn sure not just sit there and be shot to death.

(D) Another item from the article is the risk of police entering the area, and the CHL holders getting shot by the cops. Again, CHL holders are taught how to handle the presence of a police officer, by immediately disarming and raising your hands. But even if this was a concern, in a massacre situation I’d still take my chances. A trivial personal risk versus a confirmed mass killer? No question.

All of these arguments by the opponents of carry on campus, if successful, still leave a bunch of students completely helpless in the face of the occasional binge-murderer. No matter how you slice it, the opponents want to deny the right of trained adults to defend themselves and others around them. And because of these opponents, if they are successful, the next time some nut-case pulls a Virginia Tech type attack, another 20 or 30 people will die. And it could be prevented by just ONE qualified person who happened to be on site, with a gun.

Guns are evil only in the hand of evil-doers. Guns are a blessing when in the hand of the upright and law-abiding. Guns don’t kill people – people kill people.


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