Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wow. Republicans in Legislature finally propose a good gun bill.

Rarely, if ever, do I agree with any piece of legislation proposed by right-wing bogeyman Russell Pearce.

But his proposal to allow people with concealed carry permits to carry weapons on college or grade school campuses makes a lot of sense.

Had any of the students had a concealed weapon available when Steven Kaczmierczek opened fire this week in a classroom at Northern Illinois University then maybe some of the five people he murdered or the eighteen people he wounded would have been spared the carnage that he inflicted in what according to all accounts lasted less than two minutes.

The University had put in place a plan for dealing with such an eventuality after the Virginia Tech shootings last year, and by all accounts the system worked as it should have. The police were on the scene within minutes, the campus was placed on lockdown and computers sent the news and the alert zipping around campus.

However, in spite of the quick response, it was too late. Kaczmierczek had already taken his own life at the end of the rampage even before the police arrived.

Contrast that to what happened several weeks ago in a church near Colorado Springs. A man named Matthew Murray, armed with over a thousand rounds of ammunition and several weapons entered the building after murdering two people the night before and two more in the parking lot, clearly intent on carrying out a massacre. But he failed, because Jeanne Assam, a volunteer security guard at the church, had a gun which she used to take him down after he ignored her order to halt. Dozens, scores, or maybe even hundreds, of lives were saved thereby.

Fred Boice, the director of the board of regents for the University system in Arizona was quoted in today's Arizona Republic as expressing concern about allowing eighteen to twenty-five year olds on campus with a firearm and apparently raising the specter of tempers flaring into a firefight compared with a 'one in a million' chance. Of course on a grade school campus it would generally be only the teachers and staff who might have a CCW permit, so let's focus on universities, where he presumably is concerned about eighteen to twenty-five year old students.

Wrong on both counts. On the first count, getting a permit requires an evaluation and is not something you can do on a whim. Further, soldiers in the armed forces carry weapons all the time and don't start gunning each other down because of a dispute over a parking place or a seating arrangement. Why would military members be more mature about stuff like that than college students? They're not. Both groups are mature enough to be trusted, especially if they've gone to the length of getting a CCW permit. Of course it is true that if someone started firing at everyone in an army barracks, then they would obviously be killed themselves before they got very far-- but that's exactly the reason why maybe we SHOULD allow firearms on college campuses.

As to the 'one in a million' chance-- that is dead wrong as well. There are less than 200 division I colleges, and since 1991 we've seen mass shootings (which I will define as three or more murders, not counting the shooters themselves) at the University of Iowa, San Diego State University, The University of Arizona Nursing College (remember that), Virginia Tech and now Northern Illinois University. That is more like a 'one in forty' chance than 'one in a million.' Certainly enough of a chance to take very seriously.

To put it in perspective, the five incidents that I just listed are more than the number of major fires that have killed three or more people at the same universities during the same time frame, but we would never think about letting students go to school in universiites that did not include fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire escapes and other features that are part of the building code.

I've certainly been critical of Republicans in the legislature (especially Pearce) and even on second amendment issues, where I'm most likely to agree with them they've been kind of nutty in the recent past. For example they passed a bill last year (which was vetoed, because our Governor at least is sane) requiring businesses to provide gun lockers or else allow customers to walk around with weapons on them. This would have required, among other things, a late night clerk working alone at a convenience store to allow someone to literally walk right up to the counter brandishing a weapon or else step out from behind the counter to take the weapon and store it. This of course would have negated their silent alarm, weapon under the counter or whatever other security system they had in place (why not call it the 'hello, my name is Rob' bill?)

But this bill makes sense, for once.


Anonymous said...

Great points, Eli. I didn't know about that recent gun bill in the state legislature. Thanks for the update!

thephoenixnyc said...

Nothing says safety like armed frat boys at a kegger.