On April 16, 2007, a young man, a college student, an English major, carried out the bloodiest school shooting in history. His name was everywhere in the months that followed. He will not be named here. He didn't deserve what amounted to fame for his crime. In fact, simply acknowledging that he set some sort of record on his rampage (killing 32 people, Virginia Tech students and professors, and injuring many more) means that the bar has been raised for the next maladjusted student with an axe to grind.
So, understanding that possibility, we come to the alter of an age-old debate. It involves the Second Amendment. It involves the basic self-preservation instinct. It involves statistics (which I loathe) and emotions (which I thrive upon).
Should college students be allowed to carry concealed weapons on college campuses?
In Utah and Colorado, legislation has already passed which allows licensed gun owners to carry their weapons at school (on select campuses, for now). Several other states have declined such legislation. But grass-roots student organizations are bouncing up all over the country, and the members are calling for their right to defend themselves against potential on-campus violence.
Today, CNN.com ran a story about one such group hailing from the University of Cincinnati. Students Want Chance To Defend Themselves . The profiled member, Michael Flitcraft, a 23-year-old sophomore, was noted as "a leading advocate for college students to carry weapons on campus...organizer for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus."
It's not an excellent article, but it is at the crux of all the posturing and protesting which has erupted around this issue.
On one side you have the students who are afraid of being the next helpless victims of another tragic school shooting. On another side, you have the campus law enforcement officer who doesn't think allowing more guns into the increasingly strained environment of a college campus will solve anyone's problems. And finally, you have the other students, the ones who want schools to remain "gun free" and peaceful.
No one can win this fight. Can they meet in the middle?
While arming the fearful and untrained is a terrible idea, the potential compromise could be the establishment of a volunteer "Student Security Force." Acting much like the Federal Marshals did after 9/11, these students would maintain some anonymity. That way, a school shooter wouldn't know, when stalking down a hallway and glancing into rooms filled with easy prey, whether a trained, licensed "Security Agent" is sitting behind any given door.
Students wishing to join the force would be required to enroll in a training class, teaching them gun safety along with the actual use of the firearm. This process would also allow the school to perform background checks on the individuals wanting to be involved and maintain control over which types of firearms were sanctioned on campus. Perhaps students could even receive credit for this class, paying for units as they would with any other. The inclusion of mandatory homework, lecture hours and a final would definitely act as a filter for those most serious about protecting themselves and their fellow students.
The article is interesting, though weak in places. But if you really want some fun... take a peek at the comments posted by fellow CNN.com readers! I'll post a few of my favorites.
"Somehow the idea of arming what is probably the drunkest demographic of our country doesn't seem too smart." -- Richard
"The last thing we need are armed fratboys with temper problems." -- John
"23 year old sophomore? a little behind isn't he? might possibly be the dumbest idea i have ever heard. do you realize how immature college kids can be? i can't believe this is actually up for discussion. i am 23 and i wouldn't want any of the kids i went to college with to have a gun. ever." -- Chris
"Number of shootings on school campuses since 1966 where concealed carry is illegal = 17; Number of shootings on school campuses since 1966 where concealed carry is legal = 0; Which odds do you like better?" -- Kevin
"Do you think we would have less hunters go into the forest if they knew Bambi had a rifle too?" -- Greg
"Yes, I think we need a way for students to feel safer. Anyone see Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles? The solution is advancing robotic technology, armed robots in every building...if someone pulls out an unauthorized weapon...they get Terminated with extreme prejudice." -- N
"The 2nd Amendment reads: "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." I don't really see any mention of personal defense, rather the defense of the State. While many will contend that the second half is the 'right to bear arms', they neglect the part about the WELL REGULATED militia. In my opinion, the regulation part needs to be addressed more thoroughly rather than bleating about your right to own an AK-47." -- BW
"If you are going to allow guns in classrooms you might as well invite the monsters on maple street." -- Silas
Hmmmmm... "drunkest" demographic, "fratboys" with temper problems and monsters on maple street... and being compared to an animated deer. Not one of these guys will ever plan to shoot up his school. I don't fear Silas or Chis or John or Richard. I fear the guy who isn't reading this article because he does not care what the law says. Gun control? Not his highest priority. Because the laws against murder don't matter to him either.
So, this is my solution, if a solution is absolutely necessary. After all, though "high-profile school shootings have increased public concern for student safety, school-associated violent deaths account for less than 1% of homicides among school-aged children and youth," according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention . Really, our schools remain safe. But they are less safe every day, and the more air time we give to the perpetrators of these crimes, the more we stimulate the possibility of copycats.
My viewpoint really comes down to this... Fourteen students were gunned down inside a single classroom during the Virginia Tech massacre . They were taking Intermediate French. And if one of them had been armed that day, the number of total dead might have been less.
Merely for the sake of the might, I think we owe our students the option of self-defense.