Health & Social Policy

Is University Gun Policy Making Us Safe or Making Us Victims?

The police responded with lightning speed on Tuesday, Sept. 28, when a masked gunman brought an AK-47 onto campus, terrorized students then killed himself. University police were on the scene within 12 minutes after the shooting started. If 12 minutes sounds like a long time, keep in mind that the Virginia Tech massacre lasted over two hours.

But we need to understand that the police cannot be everywhere at once. In times of emergency when seconds count, police are minutes away. In the 12 minutes that it took the police to respond, the shooter could have murdered a lot of people, and there would have been no way for the police to stop it.

Like most universities in the United States, UT is a “gun free zone,” meaning that it is illegal to possess a firearm in university buildings. Does preventing law-abiding citizens from legally carrying their guns onto campus keep students and faculty safe?

Schools don’t like to talk about it, but “gun free zones” are frequently the target of mass public shootings. Guns were forbidden at Columbine (14 murdered), at Virginia Tech (32 murdered), and at Jokela High School in Finland (eight murdered). Gun control laws will not stop criminals from bringing guns onto campus and killing unarmed students and faculty.

There are many arguments for why law-abiding citizens should not be allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Below are four arguments often offered by gun control advocates:

1: An environment is safer with fewer guns, not with more guns.

2: Those carrying concealed weapons will be dangerous to others.

3: If there is a public shooting, the police will be confused and could shoot the wrong person if concealed handgun license holders use their guns.

4: If there is a public shooting and those carrying concealed guns draw their weapons, civilians could be struck by stray bullets in the exchange between the citizens and the shooter. This very argument was made by University of Texas psychology professor Arthur B. Markman in an op-ed in The Dallas Morning News. Markman concluded that, “When we think specifically about real emergencies it is clear that that adding extra guns into a chaotic situation is only a recipe for tragedy.”

1: I agree that guns are dangerous. The question we have to ask ourselves is this: By preventing law-abiding citizens from carrying guns on campus, are we making campus safe or vulnerable? The many instances of shootings on school campuses show that “gun free zones” are vulnerable to multi-victim shooting sprees and are not safe havens from gun violence.

Fact: There is not one example in the United States when violent crime has decreased after the passage of gun control laws, nor of violent crime increasing when concealed carry laws are passed. In doing research for his book “More Guns, Less Crime”, economist and former Yale professor John R. Lott, Jr. could not find one peer-reviewed study found a statistically significant increase in violent crime rates after concealed carry laws are passed, and numerous studies found that crime rates fall. Furthermore, Lott discovered that after states pass laws permitting citizens to carry concealed, deaths from mass public shootings plummet 69 percent.

2: Citizens should absolutely be concerned that those around them are carrying a gun, a weapon that could potentially kill them and others around them. Keep in mind that CHL holders must be law-abiding citizens in order to get a license. There is no reason to believe that CHL holders will use their guns for violence just because they are legally permitted to carry a gun.

3: If multiple citizens have their guns drawn when police enter a scene, it would indeed be difficult for police to determine which one is the bad guy. I took the CHL training course on UT’s campus last spring, and during our training we learned that if you do not want to get shot by police, you need to holster your weapon before the police arrive. CHL holders in the state of Texas understand that they risk getting shot by police if their guns are drawn when police enter the scene. Consequently, examples of police shooting the wrong person in these instances are rare.

4: It seems likely that CHL holders will shoot with poor accuracy and injure or kill innocent bystanders when exchanging rounds with the criminal. Professor Markman makes a compelling argument that with all the confusion and stress of a public shooting, CHL holders could accidentally shoot innocent bystanders. When we look at the data for public shootings stopped by CHL holders there is not one example of a CHL holder accidentally shooting a bystander. Over 30 years of crime data must be given greater weight in the decision making process than a theory proffered by a professor who studies neither guns nor crime.

The Founding Fathers understand that the right to defend oneself was essential to liberty. The Second Amendment of the Constitution says, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

In 2008 the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia vs. Heller that the D.C. handgun ban was unconstitutional. If our nation’s capitol is restricted from banning guns, why can schools and universities ban guns?

And guess what happened in D.C. after the ban was lifted? According to D.C. police statistics crime dropped 23 percent in 2009 (the year after the ban) and were the lowest they have been since 1967.

What is the logic of banning guns at schools? Why does the University of Texas want to keep these responsible adults who can carry their guns into Starbucks and the State Capitol from carrying on campus, especially considering that college campuses are frequently the location of mass public shootings?  Michael Cargill, an Austin resident who taught the CHL training course on UT’s campus last spring, said that many UT professors have taken his concealed carry course. In times of emergency professors would be able to protect their students if they could concealed carry on campus.

I implore the policymakers of tomorrow and the UT administration of today to make decisions concerning the right to concealed carry on campus based upon historical evidence and crime data, not emotion and fear of guns.

If you disagree with any or all of the above, please respond to this article. Write a response of your own for the Baines Report or send me an email at Professor Markman, I would be honored if you would respond to the data referenced in this article.

For information on the data I cite, please see Professor Lott’s book “More Guns, Less Crime”, University of Chicago Press.

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