Monday, March 3, 2008

Guns won't make campuses safer

Kudos to the Tulsa World, whose editorial writers weighed in today against the harebrained idea, now floating around the Oklahoma legislature, to allow college students to take concealed weapons into the classroom.

Let's see: young men, high stress, too much alcohol—what could possibly go wrong with this idea?

Here's the
World's editorial, which we endorse:

Earlier this year, in response to horrifying events like last year's mass shooting at Virginia Tech, a group of college and vo-tech officials outlined a rational plan to keep Oklahoma campuses as secure as possible.

It called for a standard response plan for campus emergencies, more training on mental-health issues, and standards for emergency notification systems.

Task force members also pointed out what was already well known, that the state needs more room for patients at mental-health and drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment facilities.

The group -- made up of people who work on campuses -- studied the issue carefully and determined that no major changes in state laws were needed.

That wasn't good enough for some people in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, says the way to address the problem of campus security is to allow college students to pack heat in the classroom.

Murphey has proposed legislation that would allow licensed students to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Here's the way he figures it: If any frat boy might have a .357-Magnum

in his backpack, the crazed killer would think twice before he starts on a rampage.

Actually, crazed people don't think things out. If they behaved rationally, they wouldn't go on a rampage in the first place. That's the way rampages work.

All Murphey's bill would do is make campuses less secure and hamstring police responding to emergencies.

Officers responding to an emergency like the Virginia Tech massacre would face a nightmare within a nightmare if marginally trained amateurs were pulling out their guns.

Rep. Paul Roan, a retired state trooper and no softy on crime, put it right: Currently, guns are illegal on campus, so any cop who sees one knows the armed student is a bad guy.

Heaven forbid that Oklahoma see a Virginia Tech-type incident, but it if happens police need to be able to respond without worrying about whether the gun-toting student they see is a good guy or a bad guy.

The Virginia Tech killings horrified the nation. The urge to do something is natural. The task force addressed the issue appropriately. Murphey needs to go back to school on this one.


Tulsan said...

His bill could become "Murphey's Law."

Dan Paden said...

Again, I must dissent on a couple of points:

Actually, crazed people don't think things out.

I certainly question that, on several grounds. They clearly have enough mental wherewithal to decide on their arsenal and ammunition, and the whole point of their going on rampages on campuses--indirectly acknowledged even by you, in your previous post on the subject, is that they know they are much more likely to meet with their twisted version of "success" if they commit their deeds in a place where they know they won't likely be shot right out of the gate, so to speak. Their very choice of victims indicates enough rationality--and rationality that speaks specifically to this point--to make it clear that it is by no means absurd to take it into account.

All Murphey's bill would do is make campuses less secure...

Indeed! So far, I think the campus body count over the last few years via the "secure" gun-free zone policies is about seventy-two. That doesn't seem particularly secure to me, and I would certainly question how allowing concealed-carry permit holders--who have an excellent track record in the real world--to carry their weapons on campus is going to make it less secure than that.

Officers responding to an emergency like the Virginia Tech massacre...

This is ludicrous to the point of absurdity; so far as I can tell, in the instances wherein officers have responded, it has been entirely too late for anyone to worry about how they perceive the scene! The crimes have already been committed and in some cases, it appears that the perp has already committed suicide. The reality is that all too often, the situation is "dial 911 and die"--unless you or someone around you can fight back on the spot. This certainly seems to have been the case in all the campus massacres we are discussing. For those already shot and dead or dying, it is cold comfort that the absence of armed students and faculty might make the police a little less confused when they eventually arrive.

Currently, guns are illegal on campus...

And that policy is clearly working so very well...

And again, I can't help but recall that these same arguments, applied to "the streets" instead of "the campus" were levelled by concealed-carry opponents when Oklahoma's concealed-carry law was being debated. They did not, in practice, prove true on the streets, and I doubt seriously that they will prove true on the campus. The weight of history, at least as far as problems caused by concealed-carry permit holders is concerned, is greatly against you.

Tulsan said...

Dan, you previously conceded of economist Thomas Lott, the leading light for pro-gun advocates that:

"...the reality is that his lapse of judgement vis-a-vis the Mary Rosh thing makes it impossible to effectively cite his work, accurate or not."

So, what other research do you have supporting your views? According to this article, "Double Barreled Double Standards" (which details the problems Lott's peers have with his work,) there isn't much else available:

"The right has good reason to stick by Lott: 'The entire ideology of the modern gun movement has basically been built around this guy,' says Saul Cornell, an Ohio State University historian who has written widely on guns. Over the years the pro-gun intellectual agenda has had two prongs: Defending a revisionist legal understanding of the Second Amendment in constitutional law, and refuting social scientists and public-health researchers who argue that the widespread availability of guns in America plays a key role in the nation's staggering number of homicides and suicides. Without Lott's work, the latter argument becomes much harder to make."

Furthermore, I don't regard the ability to choose effective lethal weapons as a good measure of rationality or sanity. Nor is the propensity of these shooters to kill themselves a plus for this assertion.

Tulsan said...

Here's a Google Books link to relevant pages of Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review by Charles Wellford, Karen Norberg, Peter Reuter, and Joel Waldfogel under the auspices of the National Research Council of the National Academies.

This is the 2004 book cited in the above article, analyzing Lott's data and methods. The approach is strictly academic and statistical.

A footnote addresses two groups of Lott's critics on page 121. You'll have to read it to get the full context.

Final sentences of the footnote:

"The correctness of Lott's arguments is also an empirical question about which there is little evidence. Rather, it shows that little can be decided through argumentation over a priori beliefs and expectations."

(Emphasis mine.)

Dan Paden said...

Tulsan, the principle point I want to make here is that the actual track record of Oklahoma's concealed-carry permit holders is extremely good. Since the bill, according to Alt Tulsa's Thursday post, would permit only adult concealed-carry permit holders to carry their firearms on campus, this is the only group I am interested in--at least in this case. It is their history which I refer to being greatly against the World's--and Alt Tulsa's--case.

In this case, I need not rely on John Lott's work. You can google the record of Oklahoma's concealed-carry permit holders for yourself. You will rapidly find out that it is darn hard to find instances wherein these people have been proven to have committed a crime.

Crimes of passion--over a grade, for example, as has been facetiously suggested recently--are notably absent from the record of Oklahoma's concealed-carry permit holders.

Instances of police arriving on the scene of a concealed-carry permit holder's use of his weapon, only to find themselves confused as to who the perp is, are conspicuous by their absence.

I prefer that you google this one yourself. I have, more than once, and I am confident that you will find no "smoking gun," so to speak, but I'd rather you see the results of the search for yourself.

My basic contention is simple enough: there is no basis in the actual record of Oklahoma's concealed-carry permit holders for suspecting that they will be a problem on Oklahoma's campuses. I further note that my personal recollection is that the arguments leveled against the concealed carry law in the first place--though this was some years ago now, of course--sounded darn near identical to those trotted forth against this bill. The prophecies of doom made then have gone conspicuously unfulfilled and there is nothing in our history to justify expectations that they will suddenly be fulfilled on Oklahoma's campuses.

It's also in my mind to ask, since you apparently don't think that students or others on campus should be able to defend themselves with a firearm, by exactly what means do you think it appropriate to defend themselves? You would agree that they should at least be able to defend themselves, would you not? And if so, doesn't it therefore follow that they should have the means to defend themselves?

Or do you honestly mean to suggest that they have no inherent right to defend themselves? I seem to recall that you recently said that you wanted such a right for yourself. Why deny it to others, then?

It always amazes me that people are so distrustful of law-abiding adults--at least when they carry a perfectly legal firearm. And, as I said, we are talking, not about criminals, not about children, but about Oklahoma's adult concealed-carry permit holders. If I were one of them, I'd almost find myself insulted.

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Tulsan said...

Dan asked:

"...since you apparently don't think that students or others on campus should be able to defend themselves with a firearm, by exactly what means do you think it appropriate to defend themselves? You would agree that they should at least be able to defend themselves, would you not? And if so, doesn't it therefore follow that they should have the means to defend themselves?"

AT extended Dan's logic in a subsequent post:

"After all, the reasoning goes, if they are old enough to vote and serve in the military, they ought to be able to handle a concealed weapon, right?

"Makes sense to us. But while we are doling out rights to teenagers, let's go ahead and legalize alcohol sales to 18-year-olds. Hey—they're old enough to vote and serve in the military.

"Come to think of it, 16-year-olds can legally drive, so let's keep the gun (and alcohol) rights flowing. After all, don't 16-year-olds have a right to shoot back if they are attacked by crazed gunmen? Of course they do!

"But, dang it, there's the problem of unarmed 13-, 14-, and 15-year-olds. Don't they deserve a chance to shoot back too?"


Dan, do you think there is any logical stopping point before we have armed every man, woman, and child?

I must agree with you in your limited point that there is no evidence suggesting that concealed carry itself is likely to lead to significantly greater number of gun deaths. Though the requirements for a concealed carry permit are laughably minimal, perhaps even that degree of regulation is helpful.

On the other hand, maybe gun ownership is at such a saturation level that adding a few more makes little difference. I don't know. Maybe one more straw is insignificant to the already broken back of the camel.

Here is what you do to get the permit:

Be a U.S. Citizen
Have a Oklahoma Drivers License or Oklahoma State ID
Be at least 21 years of age.
Complete an approved training course and score 70% (11 of 15) on the written exam
(The target for the qualifying firing test is about 10' away, so leave those glasses at home.)

Tulsan said...

I should add that I think the idea of 17 and 18 year olds legally carrying concealed firearms on campus is a distinct question from 21 and older concealed carry in general.

Dan Paden said...

AT extended Dan's logic in a subsequent post...

Hmmm--I don't know how fair it is to suggest that the next post, which was more about the advisability of lowering the concealed-carry age, is really an extension of my logic in my last comment here. I don't recall having said anything about lowering the age. My question to you was, and is, do students have the right to defend themselves? And if so, by what means?

I'm not trying to harangue you here: I'm genuinely curious.

Now, as for the age at which people should qualify for concealed-carry permits, indeed, even the existence of the permits themselves, that is really something of a broader question, one that I haven't addressed yet. So far--at least as far as I can recall--my comments have been confined to supporting the original bill.

I once wrote a post about the first amendment; eventually, I will get 'round to expounding my views on the second amendment more completely than I am prepared to do here. But for now, to directly and succinctly answer your question: you think there is any logical stopping point before we have armed every man, woman, and child?

I must first point out that "we" are not arming anyone; all that is under discussion is allowing people to arm themselves. And yes, I do think there is a logical stopping point. Two, actually, come to mind: the first is individual choice, that is, some people will never choose to arm themselves, no matter what; the second is parental choice, that is, it is fairly obvious that some (I think we can safely assume the overwhelming majority) parents would not allow a minor child to carry a firearm. Think about Arizona (You did know that it is quite legal to carry a firearm on your hip, without a permit, in Arizona, right to this minute, didn't you? My boss, who spent most of the last twenty years there, will tell you that it is no uncommon sight to see someone walking around armed.): is there a big problem with everyone--let alone minors--being armed there? Of course not. Most adults choose not to be armed. I am sure that they would likewise not choose for their minor children to carry firearms.

I am glad to hear you say:

I must agree with you in your limited point that there is no evidence suggesting that concealed carry itself is likely to lead to significantly greater number of gun deaths.

in that, to my mind, that was the largest point in my argument about concealed carry on campus, and also, it proves that you're not a fanatical idealogue on the issue.

It appears that we can get along. You never know, maybe we'll have a beer together sometime.