Reader Bryce Booher writes:
Over the last several weeks, there’s been a growing debate over Campus Carry. Should we allow college students to carry concealed firearms on campus? What about other weapons? My position: Our 2A rights shall not be suspended or removed simply because we’ve crossed an imaginary line and walked onto a college campus (or anywhere else for that matter). No other rights are treated in such a manner.
Despite what some professors at the University of Texas would have you believe, the world will not end because law-abiding, already responsibly-armed students can now carry concealed firearms on campus without being arrested. Before diving into the major issue of allowing campus carry or not, it’s important to understand why it’s an important issue.
One of the first reasons those who are in favor of concealed carry give for campus carry is, “In case there’s a mass shooting on campus.” Contrary to what the national media would have you believe, mass shootings are extremely rare. They do happen, however.
It’s impossible to get an exact figure on the number of mass shootings on college campuses that were stopped or prevented by a student carrying a firearm. According to the Washington Post, since 1966, there have been 127 mass shootings (by definition) in the U.S. Keeping in mind not all of those took place on a college campus, you can see the chance of a shooting on a campus is very small. The FBI estimates, however, that a firearm is used to stop a crime approximately one million times a year (note that this doesn’t mean a firearm was actually discharged).
College campus crime rates
If a mass shooting is highly unlikely then, what other reasons are there to carry a self defense weapon on a college campus? If we look at the top 10 schools in the U.S. in terms of violent crime rates, we find some astonishing numbers.
1. University of Illinois-Chicago (No surprise here for most of you)
1.59 incidents per 1000 students
21 total forcible sexual offenses, 96 total aggravated assaults
2. University of California-Berkeley
1.56 per 1000 students
89 total forcible sexual offenses, 31 total aggravated assaults
4. Harvard University (this was a huge surprise to me)
1.18 per 1000
87 total forcible sexual offenses, 10 total aggravated assaults
6. Penn State University (hold the Sandusky jokes, please)
1.16 per 1000
119 total forcible sexual offenses, 39 total aggravated assaults
I have purposely skipped over a few colleges on the list for the sake of brevity. These statistics were compiled over a three-year span (2011-2013).
It seems save to speculate that the overwhelming majority of the forcible sexual offenses on college campuses are committed against female victims. Then again, it’s also important to note that given current standards, some of those forcible sexual offenses could be an unwanted hug (as defined in the student conduct guidelines of many college websites). I’m not making excuses for that either, but it’s a far cry from forcible violent rape. These are important distinctions as campuses are reportedly becoming increasingly dangerous for young women.
So now that we now the reasons campus carry is something to consider, it’s time to arm up. But with what exactly?
Most universities will ban carrying concealed firearms on campus, even by those with a concealed carry permit/license. Despite my personal views on the subject, this alone will deter many from carrying a firearm. Depending on the laws, the penalties for carrying on campus could range from a misdemeanor to a felony – so it’s important to research your state laws and decide if the risk is worth it.
If you decide to carry a firearm on campus, you should carry on your person for a number of reasons. If you open the wrong pocket, other students may be able to see you have a firearm in the classroom – not a good thing. If a fire-alarm goes off, most teachers want you to leave your belongings behind and make your way to an exit. If your firearm is in your bag, you’ve now left a loaded firearm unattended – also not a good thing.
If you bought a cheap convenience store “stun gun” for $15, throw it away. If you choose not to carry a firearm while on campus, your main objective then becomes to inflict as much pain as possible on an attacker and get away. A $15 “stun gun” is much like a shock collar for a dog. It hurts as long as you’re holding the button down. As soon as you release the button (keep in mind these are press contact weapons – so you will have to be within arm’s reach of your attacker to use it), the pain ceases and your attacker is able to continue as usual. If he has a temper (which is likely), it may do more harm than good, and may not even force him/her to lose their grip on you.
There are many good law enforcement and civilian model tasers that are incredibly effective. The two biggest benefits to these are they can be deployed with or without being close enough for your attacker to grab you. Most of these have fish-hook-like barbs that shoot out and stick in the individual and deliver a painful and incapacitating jolt of electricity.
They are also a quick way of dropping an attacker to his/her knees with the press of a button (YouTube is full of videos showing the effectiveness of tasers). If the barbs make contact, the taser will continue to shock the attacker until you flip the safety on, or the battery runs out. Either of those will give you time to get away.
Two major drawbacks to these weapons are the cost (sometimes as high as many concealed carry firearms), and their size (often bigger than single stack 9mm’s and 380’s).
There’s a variety of pepper spray options out there. The truth is most of them are the same chemical on the inside. What you’re really looking for here is the OC percentage. Pepper spray contains Oleoresin Capsaicin (OC) and the percentage of OC is usually listed on the canister. Normally, you will see OC percentages range from 2% to 18%. These percentages tell you the amount of OC proportional to the volume of the canister. The higher the percentage, the more potent the spray.
Something important to keep in mind is that if you spray indoors, you will want to clear the area quickly. Pepper spray will fill the air around you and can cause severe irritation to your own lungs, eyes, and skin, whether you get hit directly or not. The good news is it’s very effective. While it may not put an attacker on the ground, it will disorient him/her and allow you a window to escape.
Finally, personal safety is your responsibility. You shouldn’t rely on others to protect you everywhere you go. Remember that the best tool you have available to you is your brain. Your mindset is your biggest asset in a self defense situation. How you prepare in peace, often determines the outcome in war.
There are certainly other options I’ve passed over for this post. Knives, tactical pens, flashlights, etc. could all be used defensively if given the right scenario. The moral of the story is making sure you’re armed with something. If your state’s laws allow you to carry a firearm on campus, carry one. If the law doesn’t, you still have options for self defense.
Bryce Booher runs Defensive Resources LLC and is a NRA certified firearms instructor.