Grassroots Commentary

Guns on Campus: Far From Vigilante

John Longenecker · Feb. 22, 2011

Synopsis: Comparing the successes of armed students on campus to gun bans and vigilanteism is in order.

Texas is likely to approve guns on campus for college students. I encourage them to approve, because it is not about guns on campus, it is really about adults who can participate in safer campuses.

I’ve repeatedly made clear my position for armed students on campus. They are adult students who have the legal authority to stop a crime in progress, they are already affirmed by state law, they are in larger numbers than an armed faculty concept could amount to, and the concept of such armed students is much more in agreement with established public policy and interest than gun bans are.

One of the strongest arguments against arming faculty as an unwelcome alternative is that arming adult students instead begins to get away from further centralization and permits personal independence to shine as the premiere safeguard of the United States (and likely the college campus, too). Arming everyone but the target of violence is yet another poor substitute, and contributes to one of the biggest obstacles to safety: centralization and bureaucracy.

The greatest strength of the armed citizen is in an incident which occurs in the absence of first responders. Like Citizen CPR, the secret to the concept’s success is in willing adults in the immediate area who can act in the absence of the nearest EMS or police, and do so in authority and greater immediacy, or response time.

This is important when answering questions about Vigilanteism. Citizens who operate within public policy and interest are not vigilantes. Self-defense and defense of another is in the public interest and are mainstream values. Vigilantes operate outside the law; armed citizens operate quite inside the law also as a matter of immediate effectiveness, presence of mind in good personal judgment, values and personal integrity.

Vigilantes have other elements of their definition: they have operated without legal authority, they have operated conspiratorially en masse, they have operated as a somewhat organized terrorist movement for political purposes, and vigilantes generally murder as an element of their primary objective of political coercion.

Individuals who come to know that they are going to be on their own in the first moments of a violent act on campus or anywhere have taken the first step of public policy and interest, namely preparedness for an incident in the absence of professional first responders. For decades, I have compared the armed citizen to training in Citizen CPR when EMS is not likely to arrive soon. They are identical in purpose.

When it comes to assessing whether adult students can be safely armed while attending college, you can cross vigilanteism off your list of concerns. Adult college students operate on the very same authority all citizens have to stop a crime in progress and, if necessary, come to the aid of another. Gun bans have constituted more of an interference than anything else, and the cost of that interference, now recorded on the books, is unacceptable.

The fatal error of both students and faculty is much more in the area of denying armed students on the mistaken assumption that it is the job of campus police to protect the students. It is not. It never was. Gun owners and police both have repeatedly announced over the years that police have no affirmative duty to protect individuals from the criminal acts of others. Merely one case is Lynch v. NC DOJ. There are many others.

When it comes to whether someone will be mistakenly shot, either as a mistaken thug or accidental discharge from partying or drug use, this simply has not been the experience of colleges affirming the right to carry on campus.

In the final analysis, being armed is in the public interest. I call it the ubiquitous armed citizen. When citizens are in large enough numbers that thugs re-evaluate and scale down their attack plans, if they don’t abandon them altogether, then the system works as intended. Some may happily never know how well it works.

But one more thing is shown: how much time and how many lives were wasted on political policies of denying the concept of such personal independence and authority which are practical, functional and, indeed, successful.

One of the worst consequences of gun bans is dependency – utter dependency – on the bureaucracy, and if Texas should affirm the armed student on campus, it takes a major step in doing what Texas is known for: Independence, independence to the extent reasonably possible.

There can be no two sides to this. The debate is not legitimate. Gun owners are not vigilante, and they do not take the law into their own hands. Gun bans on campus are much more of a quarrel with the authority of the citizen to take the situation in hand as members of the community.

Look at the time, the money, and the lives wasted in the political quarrel year in and year out delaying safer streets.

John Longenecker is publisher of the Safer Streets Newsletter and Commentary, showing that the second amendment is a mainstream value for smaller government.

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