Guns on campus?

State Senator Pam Roach likes guns. Really, really likes guns.

That, perhaps, explains why she thinks it should be illegal for universities to ban guns from campus.

(Actually, it was her response to Sen. Ed Murray’s bill that would ban weapons at colleges hosting high school students. Neither bill is expected to go anywhere this session.)

The logic goes something like this: if concealed carry is legal on college campuses, then at least when the stalkers and disturbed gun nuts show up with their arsenal, you can shoot back. “I want to make sure the record reflects that Virginia Tech was a gun free zone, and results (were) painfully predictable,” said an NRA flack, talking about Roach’s bill. “Only the victims were gun free.”

I grew up back East. Every time I hear this, I keep thinking of Philadelphia. Last year, Philly’s finest–who, let us remember, are highly trained professionals entitled and obligated to openly carry guns–fired between 85 and 107 shots, depending on whose account you read, to kill an armed, deranged man in South Philly. Last New Years Eve the Philadelphia police chased a different armed man into a house full of partygoers and shot up the place, leaving one in a coma, one wounded, and one 9-year-old with a slight chest wound.

Remember: trained professionals chasing an armed man. And bystanders got shot anyway. That’s what happens when bullets start flying around. What happens when the good guys, fearlessly protecting themselves and us, have no training and are shooting back?

All that said, how do you protect yourself in a classroom? The Virginia Tech shootings scared everyone in academia, and poor Rebecca Griego’s case didn’t help. (Griego was shot and killed at UW last year by a deranged stalker.) Teachers sometimes have to piss off students; it’s part of the job description. What happens when that pissed off student comes back in with a pair of semi-automatic handguns?

There’s this tempting fantasy to imagine yourself as the John McClane-style hero, the one who singlehandedly shoots the attacker in the head and saves the lives of all those innocent people. Trouble is, those movies are fantasies.

9 Comments so far

  1. Ryan Healy (unregistered) on February 10th, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

    You make a good, if rare, argument. Shooting a handgun accurately is a very difficult task. As someone who has a modicum of experience with guns, the last thing I want is a bunch of armed amateurs running around.

    It’ll be nice when people realize that more guns = more gun violence. Until then, we get to deal with crazies like Pam Roach.

  2. joykiller (unregistered) on February 10th, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

    "What happens when the good guys, fearlessly protecting themselves and us, have no training and are shooting back?"

    Something other than a one-sided massacre. Plus, I’m pretty sure a concealed-carry permit requires some sort of basic firearm training anyway.

    Do you seriously believe UW, WSU, WWU, et al, would be safer if firearms were expressly banned from campus? That it’s safer to have a single armed homicidal maniac rather than a homicidal maniac vs. a normal person with less-than-SEAL quality training?

  3. Colin (unregistered) on February 10th, 2008 @ 3:36 pm


    As far as I can tell from the RCWs and the King County web site, you do not need any training whatsoever to obtain a concealed carry permit. (Note: I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice.)

    Firearms are already expressly banned from campus by UW. I’m not certain about the other universities you mentioned.

  4. Mark (unregistered) on February 10th, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

    So, the argument is: if everyone carried guns, this would somehow lead to… less gun violence overall?

    Even if you allow the Hollywood fantasy that there might be an off chance of limiting the rare Virginia Tech style event to a somewhat smaller number of casualties (let’s be honest–someone sufficiently mentally deranged will find ways to cause harm no matter what), in an environment where handguns are ubiquitous, I find it impossible to believe that the number of gunshots fired in the name of heroism would be greater than the number of gunshots fired in anger.

    Personally, I would feel much safer on a campus free of guns than on a campus where everyone around me carried deadly weapons.

  5. dw (unregistered) on February 10th, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

    Do you seriously believe UW, WSU, WWU, et al, would be safer if firearms were expressly banned from campus?

    They basically are right now. And I don’t think they’re any more or less safe than, say, the University of Oklahoma where there is no weapons ban.

    Before VT, there was Charles Whitman. What could someone with carry concealed have done against him?

    That it’s safer to have a single armed homicidal maniac rather than a homicidal maniac vs. a normal person with less-than-SEAL quality training?

    Less-that-SEAL quality training? More like virtually no training. I can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a .357. I know. I’ve gone to the range and tried to hit a target at 30 feet. Missed everything.

    Now, imagine a campus FILLED with people like me. People who couldn’t hit a gunman at 30 feet, their bullets scudding in all sorts of odd directions.

    This is why automatic weapons were invented, after all — to make it easier for people like me to kill the enemy without having to think about it. But we’re not exactly allowing carry conceal SAWs, are we?

    What we need to ask is whether we need a campus full of vigilantes, or a well-funded, well-staffed, well-trained police force who can quickly respond to situations like this. I see a lot of people like Roach wanting to pass these laws but not give one cent to UW/Wazzu to beef up their police force.

  6. Bob McCarty Writes (unregistered) on February 11th, 2008 @ 7:33 am

    I’ve covered the shootings in Kirkwood, Mo., during the past four days and, after watching a local St. Louis television station’s interview of City Attorney John Hessel, I couldn’t help but think how he and other victims of Thursday night’s shooting tragedy might have fared better with the help of concealed firearms.

    Among the 30 or so gathered in the Kirkwood City Hall meeting room that night, only one trained and qualified person — Officer Tom Ballman — carried a firearm. Had only one other trained person carried a firearm into the meeting that night, the number of dead and wounded might have been greatly reduced. Surprisingly, Kirkwood city laws don’t entirely prevent it!

    Read more about it here.

  7. Paul Robichaux (unregistered) on February 11th, 2008 @ 9:10 am

    One quick note on Bob McCarty’s post.

    The only armed person in the Kirkwood City Hall meeting room was openly carrying. That made him an immediate target. Part of the calculus of concealed carry is the fact that a potential attacker can never be sure which nearby people might be carrying a weapon.

    Do you think that the Virginia Tech massacre might have had a different outcome if the attacker knew that he might encounter armed students during his rampage?

    BTW, I’m from Ohio, where we just had a classroom *stabbing*. The nuts will always find a way; it’s the honest citizens who pay the price.

  8. Myles (unregistered) on February 11th, 2008 @ 10:18 am


    Firearms are *NOT* "expressly banned from campus" by the University of Washington. I had a coworker at UW that conceal carried every day after he got permission from the UW Police.


    (f) Possession or use of firearms, explosives, dangerous chemicals or other dangerous weapons or instrumentalities on the University campus, except for authorized University purposes, unless prior written approval has been obtained from the Vice President for Student Affairs, or any other person designated by the President of the University (see WAC 478-124-020 (2)(e)) (legal defense sprays are not covered by this section);

  9. Colin (unregistered) on February 11th, 2008 @ 10:38 am

    Yes, Myles, I read that bit of the handbook too. I stand by my wording: it’s a firearms ban, and it’s written in the handbook ("expressly").

    Your argument is that there are exceptions: you could apply for special permission to carry a weapon and, potentially, get it. Okay, granted. That doesn’t change the general rule. Most UW students, faculty, and employees don’t have that exemption. I know of UW students who’ve been expelled for weapons possession.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.