Reasonable minds may differ on many issues. Should taxes be raised or lowered? Are we winning the war on terror? Is the Patriot Act unpatriotic? Should Texas school districts be able to start the fall semester before September 1st each year? Are local zoning ordinances too restrictive or too lenient? There are opinions, often strongly held opinions, on both sides of all of these issues and that’s a good thing. It forces all of us to defend our respective positions and in so doing, we reevaluate our beliefs and the facts supporting those beliefs. But there are some disputes that defy logic and reason. Some of those groundless disputes have tragic consequences.
School shootings are rare, as are shootings in churches, malls and anywhere else would-be mass murderers can find a target-rich environment. However, extensive media coverage of these events is having an impact and it is not a beneficial one. The number of such shootings though small are increasing. Consider also that people who commit mass murders tend to be suicidal; as the military and police say, “they have no exit strategy.” That is a fancy way of saying they have come to kill and to die themselves. That is terrifying!
We can all scratch our collective heads and try to fathom why Charles Carl Roberts, IV would walk into an Amish girls school and start shooting innocent children killing five (Oct. 2, 2006); or why Seung-Hui Cho killed thirty-two people and wounded seventeen more at Virginia Tech (April 16, 2007); or why Stephen Kazmierczak, a twenty-seven year old “very good student” walked into Northern Illinois University and killed six students (Feb. 15, 2008)? The mystery behind these murderers’ motives probably will never be fully understood, but we know precisely why they selected their respective venues to do their random killing. Every one of these events took place in an allegedly “gun free zone.”
Many have stopped using the “gun free zone” euphemism choosing to more accurately label these areas “gun free victim zones.” This term is more than just a catchy phrase, or a great sound bite for those pushing to remove legal restrictions that make such mass murders possible. It is a supremely accurate description of the places where we send our children and college age sons and daughters to learn. We owe it to them, to their children and to ourselves to remove the human hunting grounds legislatures unwittingly created.
As any trial attorney knows, one element of a civil lawsuit that must be proven in court is “causation.” Often, this issue is far from clear and very difficult to prove. But the “causation” element in recent mass murders is as obvious as the proverbial “nose on your face.” Roberts, Cho, Kazmierczak and all of the other school shooters chose their locations for one reason and one reason only – they were “gun free victim zones.” One never hears of someone trying to do this at a police station, a military base, or perhaps a shooting range. It doesn’t take a doctorate in sociology or psychology to understand why these murderers choose schools; they are legislatively created killing fields. In each state where these tragedies occurred, state law prohibited citizens licensed to carry handguns from bringing those defensive firearms into the schools. They could carry them virtually everywhere else, except of course in Illinois, but not in schools. In their infinite wisdom, elected officials apparently determined that otherwise responsible, law-abiding citizens would be transformed into dangerous would-be murders. What lunacy!
Thankfully, there are dedicated elected officials who are working hard to bring an end to the easy target zone others have created and jealously maintain. Texas Governor Rick Perry announced shortly after the Virginia Tech tragedy that all Texans with Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHLs) should be able to carry their guns anywhere in Texas. Finally, a voice of reason; someone showing true compassion and concern for human life, rather than spouting a political mantra. Another state senator willing to take up the cause is Indiana State Senator Johnny Nugent who sponsored SB356 that would have allowed all Indiana CHLs to carry defensive handguns on any State property, including universities. This bill failed by one vote on February 7, 2008. In view of the Northern Illinois University shooting eight days later, one must wonder how many Indiana Senators would like to have that vote back? Senator Nugent’s words must still be ringing in their ears:
“Criminals love to operate in areas where guns are outlawed, because they know their victims are defenseless. This bill is about safety and restoring Hoosiers’ right to self-defense no matter where they are. It simply isn’t right that, as a lawmaker, I am permitted to carry a handgun at the Statehouse, but members of our staff or citizens with valid carry permits cannot. Prohibiting them from carrying a weapon for which they have a legal permit is not acceptable and the law needs to be changed.”
Thank you Senator Nugent.
Often debate on bills involves some speculation or prognostication as to the effect of a change in the law. In this instance, no speculation is required. People are dying in “gun free victim zones” and the media is unwittingly increasing the danger by giving attention-starved murderers their fifteen minutes of fame. Contrast these shootings with the events at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado where, on December 9, 2007, Matthew Murray walked into the church planning yet another mass murder. Fortunately for the congregation, Colorado CHL holder Jeanne Assam, a volunteer member of the Church’s security team, was present with her handgun. She shot Murray, limiting the death toll to two, with three wounded. Although the media tried to skew public opinion concerning Ms. Assam by referring to her as a former police officer, she had not worn a badge in over ten years. As she herself noted, she was an armed citizen doing what was right to save lives. And save lives she did. At the time of the shooting, there were about 7,000 people on the church grounds. Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers described Ms. Assam as, “a courageous security staff member who probably saved many lives.”
The issue is clear and there can be no intellectually honest debate. “Gun free school zones” are killing people in alarming numbers and we are long past the time when the law must be changed. This issue will come up in the Texas Legislature in the 2009 Legislative Session and our elected officials need to follow the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry and Indiana Senator Johnny Nugent. We trust CHLs to carry defensive handguns virtually everywhere else in the State; it’s time to say lives are just as valuable on university campuses as they are off campus.
To those who oppose this change I ask, how high must the body-count go, before you put politics and prejudice aside and vote to save lives?