February 19, 2009

Campus Rights vs. Student Rights

Debate Arises Over Legality of Guns on Campus
College Student Suspended Over Right-to-Carry
Oregon Student's Suspension Renews Gun Debate
Campus Can't Be It's Own Law

Okay, a short summary (but make sure you read the articles and get the details!):
A thirty year-old, former Marine, is studying psychology at Western Oregon University. He has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Knowing that in the State of Oregon the law allows him to carry on campus, he slips a pocket knife in his back pocket and a small handgun in his front pocket. Someone sees the knife, panics, and reports him to campus security. Campus security finds him studying in the student center, takes him into custody, and calls the police. Naturally, the police refuse to charge him with anything. Since the police refuse to jail him, the campus organizes a tribunal which suspends him pending psychological examination and a ten-page paper on the effects of carrying a gun on other people!

We call this kind of thing, a "witch hunt" for good reason. Whenever paranoia takes precedence over legal rights we poise our society on a razor edge between anarchy and despotism while obscuring the path between.

I have been here in Japan for twenty-three years. In that time I have seen numerous mass shootings in "gun-free" school zones. Each one horrifying in it's brutality. So now I find myself months away from returning to the U.S. for graduate school (pending acceptance, naturally). Needless to say, I am worried. The most alarming element of these kind of shootings is the helplessness of the students. Sitting there, cowering behind the useless shield of a plywood desk, waiting for the killer to reach them. I get shivers up and down my spine just thinking about it.

Under no circumstances do I want to sit helpless while some marginalized, despondent, suicidal individual comes strolling through campus taking potshots at everything that moves. If I wind up being in the small minority that ends up facing such an individual, I want to have a fully-loaded, well-maintained pistol of my own. I'm a damn fine shot. While I was in the U.S. Army I qualified "Expert" with both pistol and rifle. I am certain that I can take down an armed assailant as safely, if not more safely, than a part-time campus security guard. I'd be willing to match my competence against most uniformed police, as well.

Personally, I prefer to openly carry a pistol on my hip where everyone can see it. Any student on the same campus who is considering a mass shooting will know that there is at least one other armed student on campus and they will have to decide if the possibility of facing me is worth the risk. I'm betting they'll take their plan somewhere else. If they don't, I'm certain I can stop them long before they kill a dozen or more of their fellow students.

Mind you, I never want to find myself in such a situation, nor would I actively seek out such a situation. The point is, I cannot know the future. None of us can. I do not understand why in the face of so many mass shootings there are so many people who want to disarm the students! The students are the first line of defense when something like this happens. They are the ones in the gunman's sights. They are the only ones in a position to do something to save their own lives. In order to take that initiative, they need to be well-trained and well-equipped. That does not mean students need to walk around in body armor with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders. It does mean that those students who are willing to learn self-defense shooting techniques and able to afford a good-quality firearm should have the freedom to prepare themselves.

Whether they choose to carry concealed or openly, adult students who are willing to go to the time and expense of learning how to handle firearms safely and competently should be granted the freedom to carry their weapons to class. Clear, easily understood rules against using a firearm for intimidation and setting out exact punishments for such use also need to be in place. I don't want students threatening teachers they don't like, nor other students. Absolutely not. I do want them (and by extension myself) to have the tools needed to mount an effective defense should someone decide to go on a rampage.