Shooting at gun-free, campus-carry-free UCLA

What appears to have been a tragic murder-suicide took place yesterday at UCLA.  Terrible. I can particularly relate, as I myself am involved in academia, am a father, and am only a few years younger than the victim.

As you likely know, California has some of the strictest gun control in the nation, concealed carry permits are rarely issued in Los Angeles, campus carry is strictly forbidden, and UCLA is a gun-free zone. Once again, it turns out that declaring a place to be “gun-free” doesn’t accomplish anything, since bad people doing bad things will simply ignore those policies. Big surprise.

Instead, the whole campus goes into lockdown only to discover that many of the doors don’t actually lock from the inside. Worse, many of the doors open outwards, making it difficult for the students to barricade them: several news reports show students using electrical cords to tie doors to chairs and tables that are bolted to the floor, using belts to secure hydraulic door closers, etc.

While I applaud the ingenuity of the students solving a problem under pressure, the fact that the doors can’t be locked from the inside is absurd.

Next, some minor criticism of the cops and their response. I don’t mean to armchair quarterback, but, to use a biology reference, the response of the cops seems more along the lines of an allergic reaction rather than a beneficial immune system response. Tons of local and federal (federal agents as first responders at a state university? That seems a bit odd to me.) SWATed-up cops swarmed the campus. They did door-to-door checks of rooms on campus to ensure they were secure, but it seems that they failed to announce themselves as police first, to the terror of students and staff in the rooms who only saw unknown heavily-armed men jiggling door handles trying to get into room. When you have overwhelming force, it can’t hurt to be polite and at least announce yourself as police.

When the police make students line up on their knees with their hands on their heads before being searched and allowed to leave may be practical from a safety standpoint, but it presents a chilling, disturbing image that sits very poorly with me.

Anti-gun folks are already using this incident as an example of the risks of campus carry. On the contrary, this is an example of the folly of gun-free zones and the benefits of campus carry.

One of the commonly-expressed concerns about campus carry is that a student upset about a particular topic or grade will threaten or shoot a professor: it’s clear that this can happen regardless of state, local, or campus rules prohibiting guns on campus or in certain areas, let alone laws against assault, threats, murder, etc. It should be evident that such policies serve only to leave ordinary, non-criminal people defenseless in the face of violent criminals.

Still, carrying is not a panacea: it’s certainly possible for a bad guy with the element of surprise to get the drop on someone, but after that things become much harder for the bad guy if they are intent on causing mass casualties  — instead of potential victims hiding helplessly in rooms, they can arm themselves and present a much more effective defense in the event they’re attacked. Why anyone would be opposed to this is beyond me.

Lastly, anti-gun folks often say that “guns don’t belong on campus”, that somehow the presence of concealed firearms carried by “good guys with guns” will upset some campus-specific qi and make the campus more hostile, and that guns won’t solve anything. If guns in the hands of good guys aren’t a good thing or if guns don’t solve anything, why call for armed police in such a situation? Guns are already present on campus — whether lawfully carried by campus police officers for purposes of good, illegally carried by criminals for nefarious purposes, or by honest-but-technically-law-breaking people unwilling to risk their safety by going unarmed — and barring the occasional act of criminal violence, the academic environment seems to handle it just fine.

This incident should be a call for action in support of campus carry and the removal of useless, dangerous gun-free zones. Call your legislator today.

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