Friday, April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech student's plea: why was I disarmed?

--------------------The faces of some of the victims.

A Virginia Tech graduate student has written a potent and powerful piece about how he was left unarmed and vulnerable and unnecessarily so. Bradford Wiles, in the Roanoke Times, described being evacuated from his classroom and suddenly realizing, as he is fleeing, “that I had no viable means of protecting myself.”

He wrote:

Please realize that I am licensed to carry a concealed handgun in the commonwealth of Virginia, and do so on a regular basis. However, because I am a Virginia Tech student, I am prohibited from carrying at school because of Virginia Tech's student policy, which makes possession of a handgun an expellable offense, but not a prosecutable crime.

I had entrusted my safety, and the safety of others to the police. In light of this, there are a few things I wish to point out.

First, I never want to have my safety fully in the hands of anyone else, including the police.

Second, I considered bringing my gun with me to campus, but did not due to the obvious risk of losing my graduate career, which is ridiculous because had I been shot and killed, there would have been no graduate career for me anyway.

Third, and most important, I am trained and able to carry a concealed handgun almost anywhere in Virginia and other states that have reciprocity with Virginia, but cannot carry where I spend more time than anywhere else because, somehow, I become a threat to others when I cross from the town of Blacksburg onto Virginia Tech's campus.

Of all of the emotions and thoughts that were running through my head that morning, the most overwhelming one was of helplessness.

That feeling of helplessness has been difficult to reconcile because I knew I would have been safer with a proper means to defend myself.

I would also like to point out that when I mentioned to a professor that I would feel safer with my gun, this is what she said to me, "I would feel safer if you had your gun."

The policy that forbids students who are legally licensed to carry in Virginia needs to be changed.

I am qualified and capable of carrying a concealed handgun and urge you to work with me to allow my most basic right of self-defense, and eliminate my entrusting my safety and the safety of my classmates to the government.

This incident makes it clear that it is time that Virginia Tech and the commonwealth of Virginia let me take responsibility for my safety.

I feel incredibly silly right now because his writing has made so clear how unnecessary this tragedy was. I feel silly because the thought that all those people didn’t have to die has me sitting at my computer with tears in my eyes. It just wasn’t necessary. People died. Thousands, probably tens of thousands are suffering because of it.

I don’t love violence. I can’t even watch war films without getting upset. To this day I’ve never seen Saving Pvt. Ryan and I never will. Anything that shows someone being abused or physically hurt sickens me and I usually turn away. It is not a love of guns or a love of violence that compels my position. It is a love of, and for, people.

And sometimes policies on the Left are humane and sometimes not. Ditto for the Right. I fluctuate between the two constantly and for that reason. Often what the Left thinks is their most humane views are not due to unintended consequences and their lack of knowledge about the incentives they create. The same is true for the Right. I just don’t want people to suffer needlessly. And what happened at Virginia Tech may not have been entirely preventable but the suffering could have been minimized. Bradford Wiles plea ought to be heeded.

Please note that most the victims of this killer were actually older students and faculty. As I have outlined already the majority of the victims were over 21 years of age with about a third being older than 30. They were not kids fresh out of high school but mature individuals who could be trusted.

In a previous post I noted that there were four cases of mass shootings which ended before the police arrived due to an individual being present who had a gun or quick access to a gun. When I wrote that I said I suspected there were probably more. Here is another case.

Fifteen year old Charles Williams was upset because he was being bullied at school. On March 5, 2001 Williams stole a gun from his father and took it to school. In the boy’s toilet he opened fire. He killed two and shot 13 others. According to CNN “authorities with guns drawn arrested the suspect in the bathroom.” Close but not exactly accurate either.

Robert Clark was a parent, he was at the school, with his wife, to register his daughter for attendance when the shooting happened. He was also an off-duty police officer who was carrying a weapon. Jim Fotis, of Law Enforcement Alliance of America says that Clark: “courageously acted to save lives by confronting the armed killer, ordering him to surrender and preventing him from killing or harming countless others.”

No doubt the authorities had their guns drawn and no doubt they arrested him. But the man who ended the shooting was Robert Clark not the police who responded to the call. Deputy Ali Perez of the San Diego Police Department told CNN that when he got the call he went as fast as he could but “fortunately for me, there was an off-duty San Diego P.D. officer there, Bob Clark, who was there a minute and a half before I was, two minutes before I was.”

Clark said he had just pulled up to the school with his wife when he say large numbers of students outside. He thought it a bit odd but didn’t give it too much thought. Inside he saw the facial expressions on the staff and asked what was wrong. He was told that there had just been some shots fired.

Clark immediately headed for the location of the shooting passing gun shot victims along the way. He cornered the suspect in the bathroom and contained him there preventing further victims. Even if Clark had contained the shooter only a few minutes earlier when it comes to multiple shooting cases a few minutes can mean another dozen or so victims.

Fotis and his organization of law officers are trying to relax the laws so that police officers are allowed to carry weapons while off duty. Just as gun regulations prevented students at Virginia Tech from defending themselves they also restrict and regulate police officers unless they are on jurisdictional duty. Off duty and outside their jurisdiction they are liable to the regulations just like anyone else. Fotis writes, “as a retired police officer, I can tell you trying to understand the patchwork of federal, state and local law concerning carrying firearms across this nation is nearly impossible.” He says the “maze of regulations is so daunting that many officers simply choose not to carry their firearms rather than risk being prosecuted for a criminal act.”

Trained police officers who stop a violent criminal using their service revolver can be arrested for doing so if the jurisdiction does not allow one to carry weapons. It doesn’t matter that they are police officers if they are not on duty and not inside their jurisdiction. Yet LEAA documents numerous cases where police officers outside their jurisdiction save lives because of it. The Trolley Square shooting was one example I have used. LEAA offers many, many more examples.

And while we are at it here is another case that while not a school shooting ought to count as similar at the very least. Shawn Clark was an off-duty police officer when he was went to deliver some milk to a day care center. He expects children but finds a knife-wielding felon inside the building. Sure it wasn’t a shooting but a criminal with a knife can still kill a lot of kids in a very short time. Clark and the man fought, Clark shot him twice, still the man fled the scene but was apprehended soon after.

No one can say what would have happened if an armed man delivering milk had not stopped by the day care center at that precise moment. Maybe nothing. Maybe something horrendous.

In a few cases we out have outlined individuals with guns were coincidentally within a “gun free zone” at the time of a shooting. In the five cases documented so far that coincidence prevented the slaughter of more victims. It was pure coincidence that someone had a gun available at that time. It was luck. Shooters rely on the gun free zones being actually gun free, that is what they need to do their horrendous deeds. Removing the gun free restrictions may not always prevent such lunatics from expressing their rage but is sure does up the odds against them.

Photo: Some of the people killed inside the gun free zone.

Labels: ,