Gun Control Claims More Victims

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Last year,
Virginia Tech University successfully lobbied the state legislature
to prohibit concealed-permit holders from carrying a sidearm on
campus. At the time, university spokesman Larry Hincker commented,

I’m
sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly’s
actions because this will help parents, students, faculty, and
visitors feel safe on our campus.

In June of
last year, the university reemphasized its ban on carrying guns
on campus by students, employees, and visitors. Last spring, it
disciplined a student with a concealed-carry permit who brought
his handgun to class. On April 16, 2007, 43 students and faculty
members paid the price for such shortsightedness when a deranged
student killed 33 and wounded the remainder with handguns.

Despite claims
to the contrary, this is not the worst school killing in U.S. history.
On May 18, 1927, a disgruntled school-board member killed 45 people
and injured 58 – most of them second-grade to sixth-grade children
– when he set off bombs at Bath Consolidated School in Bath,
Michigan.

In response
to the Virginia Tech incident, gun-control advocates predictably
demanded more gun-control laws. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), author
of the latest assault-weapon ban making its way through Congress,
which is a more draconian version of the Clinton 1994 assault-gun
ban that expired in 2004, suggested that we need to talk about guns
on campus. For once, I agree with Representative McCarthy.

The gunman,
Cho Seung-Hui, a Korean national with permanent resident status,
had filled out the required forms and undergone the mandatory background
check and waiting period, proving once again the uselessness of
such laws.

The problem
at Virginia Tech was not that there were guns on campus – only
the campus police and gunman were armed – but that it was a
“gun-free zone.” As a result, there were not enough people
carrying guns to neutralize the gunman once he began his rampage.
He should have been outgunned after his first shots. To a criminal
or deranged person bent on killing, a gun-free zone is a free-fire
zone. As is obvious from all such incidents, the police arrive too
late to prevent multiple killings.

That’s
not to disparage the police. In most cases, they act aggressively
and competently. But they are rarely the first to arrive at the
scene of a crime. The first ones there are the perpetrators and
their victims. That’s when self-defense weapons are needed,
not after the damage is done.

Consider that
in all such incidents, the shooters are not so deranged as to attack
police stations, shooting ranges, or gun shows. They have enough
presence of mind to assail unarmed people in gun-free zones because
they will encounter no effective resistance. (The one incident in
which an individual was foolish enough to threaten to kill hostages
where guns were prevalent was at a shooting club in California in
July 1999. The gunman was promptly shot by an employee, without
harm to the hostages.)

Test my hypothesis.
Was anyone carrying a gun killed or injured in the Virginia Tech
shooting? Only one, the perpetrator by his own hand. All the other
victims were unarmed. They were unarmed because of state law, university
policy, the success of gun-control advocates, and a false sense
of security. The gun-control lobby has succeeded in stigmatizing
gun possession and training; influencing legislators to pass laws
making it difficult for law-abiding people to purchase, carry, and
use firearms; and convincing people that they can depend on the
police to protect them. The students are also at fault for believing
the lie that they are not responsible for their own protection in
the face of common sense and history.

Handguns
and self-defense

Handguns are
self-defense tools. They are designed to protect people from those
who would harm them. In many cases, merely the appearance of a firearm
dissuades an attacker. When you prevent people from carrying self-defense
weapons, you are making them easy targets.

Let’s
look at some examples to illustrate my point:

  • In 1974,
    34 Israeli students were gunned down in a bus on a school trip.
    Israel responded by arming teachers, administrators, bus drivers,
    and others to protect their children. Israel has not had a repeat
    of that tragedy. The U.S. government’s response? Prohibit
    guns within 1,000 feet of schools, as if criminals and deranged
    people obey laws.
  • In October
    1997, Assistant Principal Joel Myrick used a gun to stop a violent
    teen who was shooting up his high school in Pearl, Mississippi.
    The student killed two and wounded seven before Myrick could stop
    him. Why did it take Myrick so long to disarm the shooter? His
    gun was in his automobile, which was parked more than 1,000 feet
    from the school in compliance with the law.
  • In January
    2002, a disgruntled student at the Appalachian School of Law in
    Grundy, Virginia, shot and killed the dean, a professor, and a
    fellow student. He was disarmed and subdued before he could harm
    anyone else by two students who retrieved guns from their automobiles.
  • Utah and
    Oregon allow concealed-permit holders to carry their weapons on
    campus. To date, no school shooting incidents have occurred in
    these states.
  • The most
    heavily armed populations are the Swiss and the Israelis. Crime
    is negligible in both countries.
  • The Luby
    Cafeteria shootings in Killeen, Texas, on October, 16, 1991, where
    a gunman killed 23 people, provide a stark example of the danger
    of gun-control laws. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, who was having lunch
    with her parents, left her gun in her car in compliance with state
    law. Her parents were among those killed. Two other diners also
    left their guns in their cars for fear of violating state law.
    Hupp had a clear shot at the killer several times as he reloaded
    and leisurely executed patrons.

“I was
mad as hell at my legislators,” she said, “because they
had legislated me out of the right to protect myself and my family.”
Hupp is responsible for Texas’s having enacted a concealed-carry
law in 1995.

How many more
victims must be sacrificed on the altar of gun control? How many
more Virginia Tech incidents must occur before common sense prevails?
Blaming inanimate objects for criminal acts and legislating barriers
to self-defense is foolish and self-destructive. The hostile atmosphere
to gun possession and training fostered by gun-control advocates
is costing lives. Frustration, pain, and other emotions shouldn’t
drive legislation; reason should. Though we may not be able to prevent
such incidents, we can limit the damage they do.

Instead of
listening to gun-control advocates whose advice brings death and
injury, we would do better to abide by the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared!

February
28, 2008

Benedict
LaRosa [send him mail]
is a historian and writer with undergraduate and graduate degrees
in history from the U.S. Air Force Academy and Duke University,
respectively. He is the author of Gun
Control: An Historical Perspective
and other works.

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