Having guns on campus could have averted tragedy


An avoidable tragedy
On Oct. 1, a man named Christopher Harper-Mercer walked into a classroom at Umpqua Community College. Heavily armed, he shot and killed a professor and eight students and also wounded nine others before killing himself after a brief shootout with police.

Add Harper-Mercer to a list of active shooters, including Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children and six adults in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people and wounded 17 others during the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre, and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 12 students and a teacher, in addition to wounding 21 during the Columbine massacre. These gunmen all opened fire on unarmed people who had very little chance of being able to fight back, which is why the gunmen chose them as victims.

Why guns are needed on campus

Last year, I attended a seminar on active shooters, and the presenter noted that Cho, despite his lack of training with firearms, hit 80-percent of the people or things he shot at. By contrast, most police officers using a firearm during confrontations with armed opponents only hit their intended targets about 30-percent of the time. Why the disparity?

According to the presenter, the police officers have to take care not to get shot during the confrontations. Because there was no armed opponent to confront Cho, he was able to shoot as he pleased with no fear of being shot himself.

The situation with Cho shows how the above tragedies could have been prevented, or at least minimized had an armed individual been present to confront the shooters. All of the active shooters listed above committed suicide as police closed in on them, showing they were unwilling to fight with those who could return fire. If they knew they were going to face someone who was armed with a firearm, they might have thought twice before going through with the attacks.

If they did go through with it, a person armed with a gun might have at least minimized the tragedy by shooting back at them, forcing the gunmen to take cover and diminishing their ability to shoot at others.

Examples of guns used to defend others from dangerous individuals

It should be noted that armed individuals have managed to protect themselves and others from armed intruders. In 2010, Clay Allen Duke, angry that his wife had been fired from her teaching job, opened fire at members of the Panama City School Board with a pistol. Michael Jones, a retired police officer and a security guard for the district, shot Duke as he was shooting at the board members. Duke ultimately took his own life. None of the board members were injured.

In another case, Eve Martin and Dustin Stewart attempted to break into the home of Sarah McKinley in Blanchard, Okla. on New Year’s Eve in 2011. Martin, armed with a hunting knife, kicked in the door and came at McKinley. McKinley, armed with a 12-gauge and a pistol, shot Martin in the chest, killing him instantly. Stewart fled and later turned himself into the police.


Paramedics rush a wounded person to an ambulance following the shooting spree at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Ore. on Oct. 1. Nine people were killed and nine others injured before the gunman killed himself following a shootout with police. Photo by Reuters/Michael Sullivan/The News-Review

What to keep in mind

Now mind you, I am not saying every person on a school or college campus should be armed. Owning a gun is a serious responsibility, and any person who is going to use a firearm needs training and repeated practice. Not everybody is cut out to hold a gun during an active shooter situation.

The people who would be allowed to carry firearms on a campus would need to be trained, vetted, and experienced, preferably ex-military or police officers. They would also need to be those who would remain calm during a crisis and would only use their firearms for their intended purpose.

Of course, there are other steps that can be taken to help prevent tragedy during an active shooter situation. Students and teachers need to be trained on how to safely deal with active shooter situations, and classrooms should be designed to allow them to safely exit the building when an armed intruder is present. However, the only way to truly stop an active shooter is with a gun.