Guns! Guns! Guns!
I don’t often interact with the columns written by students for my campus newspaper, The Daily Nebraskan, even though I was a guest columnist there last year.
But this morning I read Zach Nold’s paean to guns on campus and couldn’t resist a brief response.
Nold thinks that guns make us safe when wielded by good people. He also notes that sometimes bad people use guns to shoot at other people on college campuses. So, of course, he decides that college campuses would be safer if more of the good people were carrying guns because then the good people could shoot at the bad people.
I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating (especially in the wake of a recent shooting in New York where all of the victims were apparently shot by the good guys with guns than by the bad guy with a gun):
It seems like a bizarre line of argument that if everyone had a gun and could wave it around, criminals would definitely think twice about their bad behavior. After all, criminals break into homes all the time, completely unaware of whether or not the homeowner is armed. Criminals rob convenience stores too, despite the popular portrayal in film and television of shotgun-wielding convenience store owners. How can this be? My suggestion, here, is that it’s probably not the case that “If more people had weapons on them and others knew that, then a crazy person would think twice before doing something stupid.” And we’ll leave aside the question of whether “a crazy person” is more or less likely to make reasonable calculations than Nold might be.
But more likely the stronger argument runs in a different direction; that is, that criminals will always be up to their nefarious actions, but that a well-armed citizenry can stop them in the act by shooting them. First of all, let me say that it seems an unfair rhetorical strategy to assert that things would have been better if only there had been more guns, not fewer guns, at Virginia Tech in 2007. We have no way to demonstrate the veracity of this hypothetical claim, so we might just as well assert that things would have been much, much worse. We might all be safer if everyone was carrying a weapon or we might be a good deal less safe. Hard to say.
But let’s presume, as Nold does, that more people carrying guns to class would mean fewer people shot by Seung-Hui Cho. What this assertion presumes is excellent marksmanship from all of our run-of-the-mill gun-toting citizens, especially in the midst of an unfolding crisis; it suggests that, upon seeing someone with a gun, at least one citizen would pull out a gun of his/her own and shoot the shooter, thus preventing many deaths. But I wonder why we should make this assumption, rather than the assumption that a shoot-out would ensue that would take the lives of more people still, that aiming at the shooter isn’t the same as hitting him, or that the police or other bystanders (also with guns) would be able to sort out which gun-wielder is the criminal and which the helpful vigilante. I wonder also, why we presume that it’s as easy to fire a weapon accurately as it is to own a weapon? Or perhaps we’re presuming that every gun owner also spends the incredible amount of time it would take to hone the craft of marksmanship? Personally, I presume none of these things.
Here’s Nold’s conclusion; it’s stunning:
Per capita, the United States owns the most guns. Yet, it still ranks below other nations in firearm crime ratings. So, let’s bring that number down even more. Let’s reduce the number of future casualties by protecting our campus and our way of life here at UNL. Legalize the carrying of firearms on campus.
In other words, the good guys have the most guns of any country but we still have more lots of gun violence. The lesson for Nold is somehow that we need even more guns rather than that all the guns we currently have aren’t making us any safer.