Sitting in a lecture hall with a police-issued Glock handgun holstered on his hip and recent police gun training fresh in his head, Muhlenberg College student Joey Dolan is ambushed by an armed gunman and shot in the head and chest before he can even untangle his pistol from his shirt.
Though this particular situation is only part of an experiment conducted in Pennsylvania by ABC News several years ago that employed plastic bullets tipped with paint, it still holds relevance to a recent movement here at the UW. Students for Concealed Carry, a registered student organization, seeks to legalize carrying concealed weapons on the UW campus for “licensed individuals,” as it states on its Facebook page.
I have a problem with that.
Guns on college campuses, especially a public university where over 44,000 students are enrolled, are a really bad idea, and this ABC News experiment, titled “If I Only Had a Gun,” highlights that students carrying concealed weapons in active-shooter scenarios are incapable of defending themselves.
During the experiment, multiple trials were carried out with one armed student present in the classroom when the shooter enters. Each trial ended with the same result: The armed student is shot multiple times with the painted bullets and pronounced “dead,” along with multiple other students. Only one girl is able to fire back, hitting the shooter, but this occurs well after she has been shot multiple times.
One could argue that if every student was armed in the lecture hall, the shooter could have been stopped quicker, but ABC dismisses this notion as well, explaining in detail the biological processes that slow your body’s reflexes in high-stress situations.
The study corroborates the slow-reflexes analysis as the one student with the most gun training freezes at his desk and is shot a total of five times and at least two of the five hits are lethal.
This is the heart of the issue. If all 44,000 students on our campus carried a firearm, then, collectively, we would probably have a fairly good chance at eventually defending ourselves against an active shooter, if we were ever unfortunate enough to undergo a mass shooting on campus. But all students carrying a gun on campus is not only unrealistic, it is not safe.
Even Students for Concealed Carry concedes its movement would permit only “licensed individuals” to possess weapons on campus. But the state of Washington, requires only an individual be over the age of 21, have no record of mental illness, and no criminal record in order to get a concealed weapons permit. No classes or training are required to pack heat, and this could be a major issue if students with concealed weapons were ever confronted with the real danger of a shooter.
Anybody can fire a gun, but unless they have had crisis training and have been taught by professionals how to conduct themselves in a dangerous situation, such as a mass shooting on a college campus, it is unlikely that anyone with a concealed weapon could defend themselves and others in a safe and effective manner without endangering the lives and well-being of their fellow classmates.
Furthermore, if a shooter were to kill or incapacitate an armed student, who is to say the killer will not add the dropped weapon to his or her arsenal?
I know a lot of people take the Second Amendment seriously, and I understand why. The Constitution grants possession and ownership of a firearm as a legal right. But we have a fantastic police force on our campus, and I am willing to trust them with my life and personal safety over a student with a handgun, no matter how many hours of optional training or gun safety classes that student has taken.
Law enforcement professionals are trained to deal with a crisis, such as an active shooter, and human biology is not doing students with weapons any favors. If you have to carry a concealed weapon so that you feel safe in your day to day life, keep it outside our classrooms and lecture halls and trust our police department to do its job.
Reach contributing writer Robert Horton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @robert_e_horton