The Empty Holster: Do Gun Free Zones Work?
This week, around campus, you have seen a sight that has become all too common. The national ensign is once again at half-mast.
The reason? On Monday, Aaron Alexis, a contractor working for the Navy, entered a ‘gun free zone’ at the shipyard in Washington D.C. Of all the ‘gun free zones,’ one would expect a military instillation to be among the safest.
Nonetheless, 12 are left dead in his rampage and at least eight more wounded according to the Washington Post.
This type of violence is not new to America, but it’s few and far between for the military. The last well known incident was the Ft. Hood shooting in 2009 where Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed 13 people and injured 30 more.
What do these acts of violence have in common? They were not only committed in ‘gun free zones,’ they were committed on military bases, where one naturally assumes a larger degree of safety.
If we take a look back at Virginia Tech in 2007, we can clearly see that a ‘gun free campus’ does not work. In the most violent campus shooting in American history, a student named Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting spree, killing 32 people, 28 of which were shot in the head, and injuring 25 more.
I used this example of a campus shooting because I remember it well. I remember friends being there. I remember how my community was affected. I remember asking, ‘why were students not allowed to defend themselves with their own weapons?’ Why did brave students have to sacrifice their lives, holding doors closed as others escaped? Why could they not fight back?
While looking at the Virginia Tech shooting, we must also look where Virginia Tech is. It’s a reach from the streets of Norfolk. It’s located in the quiet college town of Blacksburg. It does not see the daily crime that we do here in Norfolk, so how could this happen there?
It’s simple. A mass shooting can happen anywhere, and as we have seen in the recent years, the favored venue for this act is in a ‘gun free zone.’
Now that we have seen what happens when law-abiding citizens are disarmed, let’s look at shootings that were stopped by citizens before they turned into large-scale tragedy.
In 1997, Luke Woodham stabbed his mother and killed two students, but the swift action of assistant principal Joel Myrick, a U.S. Army reserve officer led to Woodhams detention. Myrick went to his truck where he kept a .45 caliber pistol and prevented further deaths by subduing Woodham.
In 2002, Peter Odighizuwa arrived at the Appalachian School of Law with a handgun. He killed three people and wounded three others but his shooting came to an end when two students ran to their cars and retrieved their personally owned weapons. They ordered Odighizuwa to drop his weapon and subdued him until police could arrive.
In December 2012, Jesus Manuel Garcia opened fire in a restaurant. The violence spilled over into a movie theater. The San Antonio Police engaged the shooter and closed off the area. Nonetheless, it was a movie theater employee who fired the shot that ended the shooting spree.
Notice that in two of these cases students and administrators had to run to their cars to retrieve their weapons. They responded faster than the police and ended the violence. Imagine how much faster the violence would have ended if their weapons were on their hip, or in a bag.
As we have seen in the past week, let alone the past few years, unarmed citizens are not safe. With ODU being located in the middle of Norfolk, we face more than the threat of on campus violence. We also face off campus threats.
This is a map of registered sex offenders in the area of ODU as found on the Virginia State Police website.
Let this sink in. Look how close they are to campus. Now ask yourself, women particularly. Do you feel safe walking at night? Men, would you like your sister to walk around at night?
I know I wouldn’t, because ODU has unarmed the students and forced us to depend on a response time that is lackluster. 11 minutes is the average.
Before you jump to the argument that students have no business being in these areas after dark, look at where these offenders are. They are where we live. They are a block from where we live. They are where we eat.
Blaming a victim for being in these areas, saying ‘they shouldn’t have been there’ is like blaming a rape victim for how they were dressed. It is not our right or duty to be a victim, it is how ever our right to defend ourselves and it is our duty to protect those who otherwise would fall victim to violence.
With all this information being thrown at you, I want to leave you with one final fact.
In a National Institute of Justice survey among prisoners who committed violent crimes, the vast amount claimed that their biggest fear was that their victim was armed. And those most frightened of this fact were those located in areas with high percentage of gun ownership and personal carriage.
We have seen this week that ‘gun free zones,’ even those on military bases are not safe from violence and do not work. You have been informed of the alarming amount and proxy of sex offenders to campus and where you live. The average response time for police is 11 minutes. A well-trained shooter can draw their weapon and put six rounds down range, center of mass, in three seconds. What would you rather have; someone 11 minutes away, or someone 11 feet away?
I welcome any concerns or comments from you the student. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you support Campus carry? Be heard – support the cause on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ODUcampuscarry
By Michael Sobey