Allowing Law-Abiding Citizens to Protect Themselves is the Best Solution to Killing Sprees
Question: What type of victims do homicidal maniacs like Cho Seung-Hui prefer?
Answer: Unarmed ones.
Like clockwork, this week's horrific murders at Virginia Tech prompted the instantaneous but typical, tired and misguided calls for increased infringements upon the Second Amendment's individual right to keep and bear arms.
For example, Newsweek's Howard Fineman hoped that it "might prompt a new wave of legislation - not just talk but legislation - to limit the sale of handguns in America," and the New York Times reflexively demanded more useless anti-gun laws. For its part, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence incorrectly decried "how easy it is for an individual to get powerful weapons in our country," despite the fact that Mr. Cho used two commonplace pistol models and had no criminal record.
Even Britain's Home Minister got in on the act, bizarrely calling for "a serious and reflective debate on gun issues and gun laws in the States." As if nobody ever discusses Second Amendment issues here in America, and as if Britain's overreaching restrictions weren't a disaster.
The sad reality, however, is that such measures, however well-intentioned, have precisely the opposite of their intended effect. Namely, these restrictions merely create sitting ducks for maniacal killers. Such measures may feel good to pundits and liberals, but only serve to make society less safe, not safer.
Virginia Tech provides a perfect illustration of this fact.
Under Virginia law, universities weren't required to be so-called "gun-free zones." Rather, university administrators are allowed to impose such firearms restrictions within their discretion.
Ironically, this past year, the Virginia legislature considered a bill to override university officials' ability to impose "gun-free zones" at public universities. It would have allowed faculty and students with concealed-carry permits to possess weapons on campus, under the justified belief that armed citizens are oftentimes the best defense against mass murderers.
Unfortunately, however, the bill died in committee, much to the celebration of naïve university officials. At the time, Virginia Tech Associate Vice-President Larry Hincker tragically proclaimed, "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."
When student columnist Bradford Wiles wrote an opinion piece advocating greater concealed-carry rights on campus, Vice-President Hincker ridiculed him:
"The editors of this page must have printed this commentary if for no other reason than malicious compliance. Surely, they scratched their heads saying, 'I can't believe he really wants to say that.' Wiles tells us that he didn't feel safe with the hundreds of highly-trained officers armed with high-powered rifles encircling the building and protecting him. He even implies that he needed his sidearm to protect himself. The writer would have us believe that a university campus, with tens of thousands of young people, is safer with everyone packing heat. Imagine the continual fear of students in that scenario. We've seen that fear here, and we don't want to see it again. Guns don't belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same."
Vice-President Hincker's mockery aside, the university's "gun-free" prohibition obviously meant nothing to a homicidal Cho Seung-Hui, who disregarded it and methodically murdered 32 people over a two-and-a-half-hour span. Witnesses report that Cho took his time, padlocked doors to trap victims and calmly paused several times to reload.
In other words, all that Virginia Tech's "gun-free zone" succeeded in doing was to render victims defenseless and create a safe haven for mass killers like Cho. The "hundreds of highly-trained officers with high-powered rifles" just couldn't get there in time.
The record of "gun-free zones" is no better in other locales. Homicidal maniacs have committed similar rampages in Winnetka, Illinois, Stockton, California and just last year in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
In contrast, the record - conveniently ignored in most media discussions - is replete with instances in which law-abiding citizens possessing firearms have minimized or even ended similar killing sprees.
In 2002, a student at Appalachian Law School in nearby Grundy, Virginia ended a mass murder after retrieving a firearm from his car. Just this past February, off-duty police officer Kenneth Hammond confronted and stopped a shopping mall attacker in Ogden, Utah with a weapon that he possessed despite the mall's prohibition against firearms on the premises. In 1997, Pearl, Mississippi Assistant Principal Joel Myrick stopped a killer in after pulling his handgun from his car and confronting the shooter. Mere days later, in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, an armed citizen similarly stopped an attack at a school.
In a 1999 study, economists John Lott and William Landes established that states that allow citizens to carry concealed handguns suffer 60% fewer multiple-shooting attacks and 80% fewer deaths from such attacks. In other words, allowing citizens to carry handguns is the best measure to prevent armed attack.
Consider for a moment what might have happened if an armed student or professor could have possessed a weapon with which to confront Cho. Perhaps they could have stopped, delayed or minimized Cho's carnage.
The simple truth is that prohibiting law-abiding citizens from carrying firearms merely encourages murderers by helping ensure unarmed victims. They create helpless targets, and disarm people who might otherwise deter, stop or at least minimize the type of maniacal carnage that occurred at Virginia Tech this week.
As Virginia Tech Campus Police Chief Wendell Flinchum acknowledged, "we can't have an armed guard in front of every classroom every day of the year."
We can only hope that accepting this unfortunate truth may help minimize future instances of homicidal maniacs preying upon disarmed, helpless victims.April 19, 2007