Sunday, December 12, 2010
Reflections on Gun Free Zones
Between stories of TSA pat-downs and the recent salacious details of Julian Assange’s sex life, the media has all but forgotten the little story of 15-year old Samuel Hengel. He was the Marinette High School sophomore who took his teacher and 24 students hostage last month. Unlike other situations, this ended with only the shooter taking his own life.
The story highlights the benefits of drills to train students and staff what to do in the event of a shooter situation. What the story also highlights is 11 years after the Columbine massacre and three years after the Virginia Tech shootings, students are still able to bring firearms on to campus.
I recently completed the Ohio CCW (carry a concealed weapon) course. The course is 12 hours, ten hours of law and two hours of range time. The part on law teaches students all of the places where you can’t legally carry a firearm (especially concealed) including all government buildings, establishments that serve alcohol (class D liquor permit), police stations, and schools.
On first blush, these seem like reasonable restrictions but upon further review the restrictions on schools equates all (elementary, secondary and college) as the same. As I’ve written before, elementary and secondary schools can effectively lock the front door significantly reducing the potential for unauthorized visitors.
Students are in class or study hall at the same time. A student walking around the hallway during class time is far more noticeable as a result than on a college campus. Elementary and most secondary schools consist of a single building unlike colleges and universities that have multiple buildings scattered over the campus. Thus college campuses are unable to run people through a single checkpoint for weapons (and as the Marinette High School shows, this is no guarantee).
College campuses are open and have a constant wave of current students, prospective students, alums, faculty, staff and visitors. Colleges fall into the category of schools in the minds of legislators even though post-secondary educational institutions share little in common with elementary and high schools.
Talk with a college student or a campus police officer and you will learn there are many people walking around with weapons. These include students and others who are on campus to conduct drug deals or other criminal activities. The signs declaring a “Gun Free” zone have no impact on individuals with criminal intent.
No, this isn’t a pro-gun rant as much as questioning the wisdom of banning CCW holders from carrying on campus. The CCW ban effects everyone, including people who simply are walking or jogging through campus from protecting themselves. Women living on campus or nearby are unable to carry to protect themselves yet the threat is well armed.
Staff and faculty get to face an armed threat without being to go armed. Phones are in the classrooms so that faculty can contact campus police in the event of an emergency or violent situation. The phones are not always near the podium. Even if the phone is on the podium, it may take several minutes for the police to arrive. By then, a situation can have gone from bad to deadly.
The “Gun Free Zone” sign is hypocritical at best as there are still guns on campus and deceptive at worst as it leads people to believe there are safe from gun violence. All it does is prevent law-abiding people who have been trained and passed the necessary background checks from carrying. The criminals and potential shooters are still armed and dangerous. And yes, the criminals will be prosecuted but too often that won’t be until after some law abiding citizens has stared down the business end of a firearm.