Recent news accounts of the bittersweet commencement exercises at Virginia Tech University refueled debate in my university neighborhood and reinvigorated our search for the real cause of the threat to our safety. The debate centered on the need to mandate gun-free zones on college campuses.
Well, mandating college campuses be gun-free zones provides as much safety as holding your hands over your eyes. Danger is either there or it's not. Holding your hands over your eyes so you can't see danger has nothing to do with whether danger is approaching.
The tragedy at Virginia Tech-a trauma for the entire nation-forces us to ask how something like this could happen. How could a fatal shooting happen in a place where guns are not allowed? The answer: Gun-free zones don't make college students or their campuses safe.
Most people are rational and responsible. They are our neighbors, our friends, our parents. These folks don't use firearms to hurt people. They don't get angry and pull a gun on someone. They don't run someone over with a car just because they are upset.
The premise for gun-free zones is the product of wooden-headed thinking. Governing entities seem to think that without these zones, normal people like our neighbors would spontaneously shoot people. If our neighbors cannot be allowed to have firearms on state campuses because they might do something terrible, doesn't it follow that they might do something terrible in their homes? So why don't we outlaw guns from homes too?
The answer is because normal and decent people just don't do such things. They are not a safety risk in their homes or on campuses; and, they have rights guaranteed all citizens in our federal Constitution.
So, gun-free zones are not designed to stop normal, decent people. Instead, those who create gun-free zones claim they are established to stop criminals or unstable people from bringing firearms on campuses.
But the reality-painfully thrust on us with the tragic deaths of 32 innocent people-is gun-free zones don't stop mentally twisted criminals. The fact that carrying a firearm onto a gun-free campus is against the law or against school policy does not constrain the behavior of someone who has already decided to kill.
Seung-Hui Cho already decided to kill when he stepped onto campus that morning. He was ready to take innocent life, and end his own in the process. The fact it was against the rules didn't matter to him. If it meant anything, it meant he knew his victims and that they would not be able to stop him before the police arrived. Further abridging the rights of law-abiding citizens is not the answer.