Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Thursday, April 19, 2007
Bitter prescience. This article was written by a Virginia Tech student in August 2006, after an earlier evacuation following the sighting of a gunman on campus.
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.

If that man and others had been armed there is no guarantee that it would have saved lives. For one thing, most of the students are too young for a concealed permit under Virgina's laws. Of those who are not, only a very low percentage would opt to be armed. Of those who were armed, random chance might easily mean that they just weren't in that part of the building when the shooter struck, or were killed before they realised what was happening, or shot and missed, or whatever. In my frenzy for honest speculation let me add that the defender could end up himself accidentally killing an innocent in crossfire - or her gun could end up being lifted from her dead hand by the murderer and used for yet more mayhem.

No guarantees. Ever. But I know of several killing sprees that were cut short by armed students or faculty - the one at the Appalachian School of Law is the most recent.

"If just one life is saved..." has been the rallying cry of several anti-gun campaigns. Though certainly a successful it has never been a rational slogan. The role of chance is too big for us to know what course of action will change the murder statistics by one.

I think arming the sane against the insane would save dozens of lives from spree killers over a period of years in the US. (Here in Britain the prospect is so remote that there is no point in even discussing it.) Beyond that, I think many more lives would be saved by guns being used to defend law-abiding citizens against ordinary crime, and more yet by the mere presence of guns acting as a deterrent.

As a slogan, that doesn't exactly make the heart thunder.

Apart from its necessarily statistical nature, another difficulty in getting this argument across to the wider public is that a massacre prevented or curtailed by an armed citizen is a massacre that gets bumped down the running order for the evening news. Here in Britain, what percentage of people have ever heard of Peter Odighizuwa's curtailed killing spree compared to the unimpeded efforts of Cho Seung-hui? Even in America, those making this argument are swimming against the tide. It does not help that the media, most of whom favour gun control, actively play down the use of guns to save lives. (Here's the CNN story from 2002 about the Appalachian killings. All sorts of details but it only speaks of students "grabbing" and "subduing" Odighizuwa. No mention that their actions, though most certainly brave, were renderered much less nearly suicidal by the fact that two of the three of them had guns.)

Banning Handguns Is Not a Panacea, says Pommygranate I would go further and say that it is not even a a good thing.