Jon Sanders

A Minnesota college student was suspended and ordered to undergo "mental health evaluation" for his response to campuswide e-mails from school officials concerning the Virginia Tech massacre.

The college, Hamline University, a private, liberal-arts institution affiliated with the Methodist Church, has a policy on "Freedom of Expression and Inquiry" that guarantees that Hamline students will be "free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them and to express opinions publicly or privately."

With such a strong guarantee on students' "freedom from censorship and control" by the university, student Troy Scheffler's e-mail must have been horrifically bad to warrant such a crackdown. Right?

Wrong. What Scheffler did was make a gun-rights case for concealed-carry permits on campus to help ward off potential Cho Seung-Huis before they strike Hamline. This was no monstrous act; in fact, it was in line with public debate across the nation following Cho's rampage, not to mention an issue of perennial debate in America. Many researchers, most notably John R. Lott Jr., have shown conclusively that gun ownership itself wards off crime while laws banning guns lead to increases in crimes. Criminals are less likely to strike if they have reason to believe their prospective victims could be armed.

Scheffler had written in his April 17 e-mail reply to David Stern, Hamline vice president of student affairs, that "Considering this university also pushes 'diversity' initiatives like VA Tech, maybe its 'leadership' will reconsider [Hamline's] ban on conceal carry law abiding gun owners... Ironically, according to a few VA Tech forums, there are plenty of students complaining that this wouldnt have happened if the school wouldnt have banned their permits a few months ago."

He added, "I just dont understand why leftists dont understand that criminals dont care about laws; that is why they’re criminals... Maybe this school will reconsider its repression of law abiding citizens rights."

Two days later, Hamline President Linda Hanson e-mailed the campus about Virginia Tech. Scheffler replied to that e-mail also, expanding upon his comments to Stern.

In both messages, Scheffler made it clear to all but the most hysterically inclined person that his advocacy of concealed-carry permits was to protect the students from criminals. Scheffler recognized that this protection would be afforded primarily by predators' foreknowledge that any one of the students at Hamline could shoot back, but also – given that the administrators had both brought up the VT massacre – by students being able to stop a killing rampage before it got started.


Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.