Letting Prosecutors Think For You
A Temper Lost

Speculation, Fear, Reality, and Guns

I generally avoid blogging political topics, but this post at a legal blog is so asinine that it deserves highlighting:

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy, the issue of gun control is being kicked around.

At the University of Utah, students with concealed-weapons permits are allowed to carry their guns around campus.

Though the context is surely different, the renewed debate about whether students should be allowed to arm themselves took me back to the tragic killing of 4 Kent State students in 1971. The students were protesting America's invasion of Cambodia. The shooters were Ohio National Guardsmen. The events at Kent State marked the end of the rebellious '60s and the restoration of law and order.

But imagine a replay of Kent State today at a state university where carrying concealed weapons is legal.

Hundreds of students gathered to protest the president's Iraq policy. Hundreds of National Guardsmen with M-16 pointed at the students.

Because the M-16 can be fired with as little as 2.2 pounds of pressure, a sympathetic response by one guardsman because his left arm tired could trigger his weapon. By comparison, a Remington .12 gauge pump-action shotgun requires about 3.5 pounds of pressure on the trigger to fire a shell.

And then all hell would literally break loose. We'd have a wild west shootout.

Maybe Kent State could never happen again. But I'm not so sanguine.

To sum up the post: Because a "wild west shootout" could occur, we should presumably not allow students to carry guns.  While there are very strong arguments against arming students, this sort of fear mongering is embarrassing to respectable debate.

First the premise is off.  After all, the students at Kent State were murdered.  The National Guardsmen at Kent State were, if anything, just one rung above the shooter at Virginia Tech.  If those students had been armed, maybe (just maybe), the National Guardsmen would not have murdered them.  Maybe, realizing they faced an armed audience, reason rather than weapons would have been employed.  In any event, why would preventing another 4 dead in Ohio be a bad thing? 

Second, just because we can conceive of something horrible does not mean that the horrible thing is likely to occur.  Every night before falling asleep I conceive the idea that a serial killer is going to put sleeping gas under my door before capturing me.  (Yes, really.)  While it's possible this could happen to me, it's not likely - at all.  So while I lock up every night before bed, I don't sleep in a "safe room" or stay up all night in preparation for a battle with the serial killer.  We have to base our decisions on what is likely to happen.  We have to balance the risks and rewards.  (Installing good locks is sensible.  Installing a ventilation system to prevent the sleeping gas from effecting me is not so sensible.)

It's also not likely that arming students would lead to a "wild west shootout."  Why not?  Well, students in many places have been armed.  Thus far, there has never been a "wild west shootout" involving criminals and armed citizens.  If we are to base policy on something, shouldn't it be based on what is actually happening rather than what could happen? 

There are, of course, some notable exceptions.  Just because a terrorist hasn't ever detonated a nuclear bomb doesn't mean we should not prepare for such an attack.  But we do know that there are a) terrorists out there who b) are searching new and unconventional ways to destroy the United States.  But where are these students who want to have "wild west shootouts"?   In light of the fact that there are 250 million guns in the country, why haven't' more law-abiding Americans lived their dream of the O.K. Corral?

Third, the actual facts go against the "wild west shootout" argument.  As one blog notes, several mass murderers had their blood sport shortened by armed citizens.  In each instance, a killer who had every intention of continuing his killing spree was killed or subdued before killing another innocent person.

So on one hand, there has never been a "wild west shootout" the poster wants us to fear.  On the other hand, armed students have stopped mass murderers dead in their tracks.  Based on that record, is it more sensible to prevent students from being armed?

Again, there are good arguments for reasonable gun control.  There are good arguments against arming students.  But the post highlighted does nothing to further the discussion.  It's an example of fear mongering - not reasonable discourse.