The Cavalier Daily’s Managing Board ran an editorial on April 10 decrying both Liberty University’s 2011 decision to allow students to bring firearms onto campus and Liberty’s more recent decision to permit those loaded firearms into university buildings. The MB has published its disapproval — and, in some cases, near-condescension — for Liberty University and its policies. I hope to offer a reasonable counter in this column.
First off, it should be noted that the MB approaches a few specific facets of the issue — examining the effects weapons will have on the classroom setting and inter-student dynamics — rather than addressing the big question: will concealed firearms lead to violence? The MB contends that concealed weapons in the classroom will create a “hierarchy,” in which students with weapons have more power than those who do not. The MB also states that weapons could stifle debate. Students can become “quite passionate” during academic debates and the MB’s argument is that, in the presence of weapons, students would be less likely to challenge others for fear of the concealed “latent violence.” It seems to me that the implication is that the bullets will start flying should a debate get too heated.
These arguments are not only patently ridiculous, they are irresponsible. The main point that the editorial attempts to drive home is based on nothing other than conjecture, and it paints an inaccurate picture of students swaggering into class with holsters on their hips. The MB ignores the fact that those weapons that are present — held only by that small fraction of students 21 years or older who have also completed competence training and been issued a permit — will be concealed, unless those students shout to everyone that they have a gun. This problem of a “hierarchy” about which the MB is so anxious should be nonexistent, if it exists at all. But what really struck me about the editorial was not the conjecture-heavy argumentation — it was the blatant disregard of the larger issue. Do concealed weapons actually make people safer?
Evidence points to yes. According to John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, an in-depth study of right-to-carry laws and trends in crime rates, concealed weapons do, in fact, lead to a decrease in crime. The worst that critics of Lott’s work can say about Lott’s findings is that the data show no link between right-to-carry laws and crime rates. One can Google “Gun control reduces crime” or “Right-to-carry states have lower crime rates” and you will get results either way, yet there is no widely-recognized conclusive study on the subject. But there are a significant number of stories that back up Lott’s findings.
There are plenty of stories of armed individuals stopping a shooting because they were armed and willing to respond. In 2002, there was a shooting at the Appalachian School of Law. The shooter, Peter Odighizuwa, killed three people — the dean, a professor, and a student — but his killing spree was cut short when two students, Mikael Gross and Tracy Bridges, — the first a police officer, the second a county sheriff’s deputy — ran to the scene after retrieving firearms from their cars. The shooter laid down his weapon and was tackled to the ground by another student who, along with Gross and Bridges, subdued the shooter.
If only Virginia Tech had been a similar example of what armed individuals can do to prevent the deaths of others. When Seung-Hui Cho began his shooting that day, six years ago yesterday, what would have happened if he had been met with armed resistance? We will never know. Everyone followed the “gun-free” rules this time — everyone except for the shooter. So in this case, the shooting was not stopped within minutes. Lives were not saved by valiant armed responders. The whole incident lasted over two hours, and resulted in 32 lives lost. It ended when police finally arrived on the scene.
We have two sobering incidents in Virginia in which we can see two very different outcomes. And yet, the Cavalier Daily MB sees fit to bemoan the decision by Liberty University to allow students to carry concealed firearms into university buildings as if no good can come of it. To add to this, the MB feels it was necessary to point out that students at Liberty cannot kiss in public or listen to music that is not “in harmony with God’s word.” The editorial cites the question of God’s existence as one of those dangerously passionate debate topics, but humorously notes in parenthesis that, at Liberty University, that topic “might not come up for discussion.”
The Managing Board goes out of its way — deviating quite far from its argument — in order to portray the Christian university as restrictive or backward, perhaps in the hope to delegitimize the university’s decision to allow concealed carrying. However, the MB comes off as condescending and intolerant, and so ultimately does more damage to itself than to Liberty.
While the floor is still open to debate on how gun control and crime rates relate, there are significant examples and research that indicate just the opposite of what the MB tries to state in its editorial. Conjecture and condescension do the MB no favors, and I am pleased to offer another view and celebrate Liberty’s step in the right direction.
Sam Novack is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. His columns run on Wednesdays.