Dennis Hennigan of The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reckons campus carry advocates are irrational. “The pro-gun crowd assails college campuses as ‘gun-free zones’ that allegedly leave students and faculty as sitting ducks,” Hennigan writes. “But the fact is that currently gun-free campuses are far safer than the rest of our gun-saturated country.” When it comes to calculating campus carry’s cost – benefit ratio, Hennigan wants it both ways. His polemic points to the statistically low chances of rape and assault to dismiss the need for individuals to keep and bear arms on campus. At the same time, he uses statistically irrelevant example of gun violence to “strengthen” his case for campus gun bans. To wit, the Brady Campaign’s decision to hire Colin Goddard [above] as their spokesmodel, and constantly cite his experience any time anyone suggests allowing anyone to defend themselves with a firearm . . .
The Brady Campaign’s Colin Goddard, who still carries parts of three bullets in his body from the Virginia Tech shooting, has visited campuses in every part of the nation to argue that more guns on campus would mean more death and injury. The compelling documentary, Living for 32, chronicles his transformation from French student to gun control activist.
Compelling yes. A rational basis for sound public policy, restricting Americans’ right to keep and bear arms? Not so much. Let’s have a look at Hennigan’s stats:
The campus murder rate is 44 times lower than the general murder rate. Indeed, college students aged 18 to 24 experience violence at a 20% lower rate than non-students in the same age group. And 93% of the violence against students occurs off campus.
It would be nice if Mr. Hennigan would offer some citations in his statistical fusillade. But let’s take him at his word—and remember the difference between percentages and absolute numbers. For example, even if criminals assault just 100 students nationwide and seven of those incidents occur on campus, that’s still seven on-campus assaults. Is that OK? Is that a low enough percentage to justify a campus-wide gun ban?
Hennigan can make that argument. In fact, he does—without fessing-up to the “collateral damage” implications of his stats. But if that’s Hennigan’s case, how does it square with his single-minded focus on individual victims of violence? If a gun could prevent just ONE rape . . .
It’s a rhetorical conundrum, and Hennigan knows it. To shore-up his position, Hennigan must concede the possibility of armed self-defense and then argue that guns on campus would increase the odds of something bad happening to someone’s son or daughter.
Of course it is imaginable that a student with a gun could successfully defend against a campus killer, although other scenarios may be far more likely, such as a deadly crossfire taking even more lives, or the student who tries to draw his gun in defense becoming the first victim. The real problem is that, in order to create any realistic chance of successful resistance by gun, there must be lots of students carrying lots of guns all over the campus – in classrooms, dorm rooms, dining halls and sports arenas. Such a proliferation of guns and gun carrying introduces a panoply of new, everyday risks. For example, a student’s protest of a low grade could turn violent, a depressed student could commit suicide with his roommate’s gun, and a gun could discharge when it is accidentally dropped at a fraternity keg party. These kinds of shootings are far more likely to occur than a violent student entering a classroom intent on mass murder.
From hard stats to deliberate misinformation (surely Hennigan knows that modern guns are “drop-proof”) to baseless conjecture masquerading as statistical certainty. That’s what gun grabbers call “common sense.”
It’s also why Hennigan’s losing the fight: rhetorical trickery can’t hide the fact that he’s arguing against personal self-defense. While I agree with Martin Albright’s assessment that a concealed carrier’s ability to stop a spree killing is limited, how can you win hearts and minds by saying an individual shouldn’t defend themselves?
Truth be told, most adults (especially parents) know the difference between the dangers posed by a psychologically unstable individual and the dangers of being a victim of “normal crime.” Preventing the former may be largely a police matter, but the latter is an individual responsibility.
Parents don’t trust campus police—or police in general—to stop spree killers or rapists or violent assaults. Why should they? Where’s the evidence that they’ve done so? There’s plenty of examples where campus police didn’t prevent attacks; most recently their failure to take effective action against Jared Lee Loughner.
Parents know they have to trust in their child’s ability to stay out of harm’s way, hope their children don’t find themselves in harm’s way, and pray that their off-spring manages to do something to survive harm when it finds them. A gun is a means to that end. Consider this, via wtkr.com:
On the first day of classes for Old Dominion University, a student is robbed at gunpoint on 49th and Elkhorn.
The robbery occurred just after midnight according to university officials.
Two men in a green Ford Explorer, one armed with a gun, pulled up to a student and demanded his sneakers. The student was not injured.
Students received alerts and emails about the robbery and were advised to exercise caution.
Assuming Hennigan has his way—most American colleges maintain a gun ban for legal carriers (read: adult) of concealed firearm—what would he have college students do to protect themselves in the statistically unlikely but nonetheless real chance that they’re attacked by a mugger, rapist or fellow college student? Exercise caution?
If and when Hennigan addresses that question, his rants will gain credibility. Of course, Hennigan can’t go there. Because once you start talking about martial arts or pepper spray or other forms of personal self-defense you’ve opened the door to a discussion which leads away from a gun-free environment. Because a gun is still the most effective form of self-defense there is. And that’s the truth.