Lynchburg, Virginia‘s Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced a change in policy that now allows students, staff, and visitors with concealed weapons permits to carry guns on campus. He commented that the new policy “adds to the security and safety of the campus and it’s a good thing. If something—God forbid—ever happened like what happened at Virginia Tech, there would be more than just our police officers who would be able to deal with it.” He added, “I think it’s consistent for a school, for a student body that’s strongly in favor of the Second Amendment…to have policies that are at least as lenient as a number of other universities.”
Although the new policy still prevents students from carrying guns into dormitories and classrooms, and those who do decide to carry on campus must pass a background check in addition to meeting Virginia’s requirements for a concealed weapon permit, Liberty senior Craig Storrs, who heads up the local chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, was ecstatic:
I’m over the moon! I thought I’d be graduating and still having to fight for it because it is a very controversial policy and not a lot of schools are willing to take the risk. It makes me feel secure knowing I would be able to defend myself if something does happen, like Virginia Tech, or if I get stopped on the street for a mugging or something like that.
The president of Liberty University’s Student Government Association, Cody May, called the new policy “a balanced approach to such a controversial topic,” adding,”The new concealed carry policy is an important milestone at Liberty University…I think it allows students who are trained and licensed to carry a concealed weapon the freedom to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Not everyone was as excited as Storrs or May about the new policy, including Col. Richard Hinkley, Liberty’s chief of police. With more guns on campus he thinks the chances of an accident occurring are higher than before. And in the event of an “incident” like Virginia Tech, he asked: “If we get an active shooter situation, there may be other people with guns. That will be a concern of the officers responding: Which one is really the bad guy?”
Hinkley is also concerned that the students will become “desensitized” to seeing guns on campus and might fail to report suspicious behavior: “My biggest fear is that kids get used to guns being here, see one on somebody and not call and that [could] be the person that was walking in to shoot someone or do harm to someone else.”
Huffington Post wasn’t all that excited about the policy change either. Mollie Reilly, writing for HuffPo, asked Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence what he thought of the change in policy: “Any time you have loaded guns carried on campus, it could be a very dangerous situation. With Virginia’s lax standards for getting a concealed carry permit, expecting someone on campus in a very tense situation to make the right decision is a fallacy.”
The seeds for the change in policy were sown not only by the efforts of Students for Concealed Carry but by a recent ruling by Virginia’s Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, who concluded that “policies set in place by the University of Virginia ‘may not be used to prohibit a person with such a permit from carrying a concealed firearm into [UVA’s] buildings.’” He added:
It certainly can be argued that [gun ban] policies are ineffectual because persons who wish to perpetrate violence will ignore them, and that the net effect of such policies is to leave defenseless the law-abiding citizens who follow these policies.
On the Students for Concealed Carry’s website can be found responses to numerous arguments raised against Liberty’s change in policy. One argument in particular is pertinent:
Argument: In an active shooter scenario like the one that occurred at Virginia Tech, a student or faculty member with a gun would only make things worse.
Response: What is worse than allowing an execution-style massacre to continue uncontested? How could any action with the potential to stop or slow a deranged killer intent on slaughtering victim after victim be considered “worse” than allowing that killer to continue undeterred? Contrary to what the movies might have us believe, most real-world shoot outs last less than ten seconds. Even the real Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, a shootout involving nine armed participants and a number of bystanders, lasted only about thirty seconds and resulted in only three fatalities. It is unlikely that an exchange of gunfire between an armed assailant and an armed citizen would last more than a couple of seconds before one or both parties were disabled. How could a couple of seconds of exchanged gunfire possibly be worse than a ten-minute, execution-style massacre?
It is helpful to remember that Seung-Hui Cho, the perpetrator in the Virginia Tech massacre, took his time to kill 32 students and teachers while wounding 17 others. The attack lasted for two hours, at two different locations on campus. Cho even had time to return to his room between attacks to change clothes before continuing his rampage. At Norris Hall, Cho went deliberately from room to room, killing the professor and nine students in Room 206, then going across the hall to Room 207 where he killed the professor and four more students. He then moved on to Rooms 211 and 204 where he finished his attack by ending his own life. Cho took advantage of the “gun-free” zone created by law, knowing that he would likely meet little if any resistance.
Although the change at Liberty University is a welcome return to sanity in a world gone mad, more changes are still needed, according to Godfather columnist Bojidar Marinov:
This is good news but it is not enough. Many of the massacres happen within the buildings and especially classrooms. Not much will be achieved by disarming students and professors where guns are most [likely to be] needed.