Above: A crate of Yugoslavian Tokarev M57 handguns for sale for $175 each at a gun show, June 23, 2012.
By Jonathan Foster
This is a paper I wrote last quarter for my Mass Communications class. I find many people have polarized opinions on gun control and the right to bear arms. It seems to be a common trend that opinions in the negative are unfounded. Most people that are opposed to gun ownership and shooting have themselves never fired a shot, live in cities, and are unaware of the statistics. I am an avid shooter and I feel my right to own and use a gun is something I need to defend. Guns don’t kill people. I am tired of the school shooting rhetoric. Taking guns out of the hands of gun owners and out of American homes will not stop the violence. Although it may help some people sleep at night, they sleep with a false sense of security where they are no longer responsible for their security.
Reference: first post on this blog
On the morning of July 26, 1764, a small band of Native Americans crept into the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania, just a few miles north of Greencastle, PA. They entered the classroom of Enoch Brown and quickly dispatched the schoolmaster and ten of his students, scalping them. There was one survivor—Archie McCullough—who hid in a fireplace. The scalping was dubbed, “an outrage unmatched in fiendish atrocity through all the annals of war,” by historian Francis Parkman. A granite marker stands in memory of what became the first act of schoolhouse violence in the Americas.
Around 10:30am on April 2, 2012 One L. Goh, 43, entered Oikos University in East Oakland, California. He opened fire with a handgun, killing five students, fatally wounding two, and injuring three others. Goh had been a nursing student at the Christian school, affiliated with the Korean-American Praise to God Church. He fled the scene in a car stolen from one of his victims and eventually turned himself in at a Safeway grocery store.
In the 247 years since the Enoch Brown Massacre, there has been a school shooting nearly every decade, if not every year, but surprisingly there is a prevailing culture of fear in the American mass media that is inhibiting first-line intervention in school shooting scenarios—the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms—from being put into practice. The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Strangely, American Culture emphasizes a fantasy world of violent video games, role-playing with “Airsoft”, and shooting at each other for sport in paintball, yet it fears guns because they have the capacity to permanently kill someone. The right to bear arms is under attack from this absurd, crippling fear—that arming citizens will not deter criminals but in fact raise crime and gun deaths.
On April 2, One Goh had already fled the scene when the SWAT team arrived less than ten minutes after receiving the call at 10:33am. On January 16, 2002 in Grundy, Virginia, the SWAT response time was almost irrelevant. Peter Odighizuwa, a Nigerian, had opened fire on fellow classmates at Appalachain School of Law. While other students ducked behind cars and ran through traffic to take cover, Mikael Gross and Tracy Bridges were moving into action. Bridges was in a classroom across the hall from Odighizuwa when the shooting began, Gross was 100 yards from his car. Both ran to their vehicles for their handguns. The two approached the gunman with Ted Besen, who was unarmed. Upon seeing the guns, Odighizuwa threw down his weapon. Besen approached him and was hit in the jaw before the three restrained him. In the end, three people were dead and three others were injured. Had Bridges been carrying his weapon, he could have possibly stopped the shooting even earlier, but the armed duo (plus one) is responsible for preventing the shooter from claiming more lives.
John Lott, a criminologist and scholar, ran a LexisNexis search on the news stories stemming from the shooting in Grundy. Of the 208 stories, four mentioned that Gross and Bridges were carrying guns. The initial Washington Post article likely perpetuated this, as it did not list that two students were themselves armed. This completely changes the context of the story, where the shooter was not over-powered, but actually out-gunned. Instead of reporting the story, the press reported a spectacle that only furthered the myths surrounding school shootings by victimizing the heroes.
This culture of fear permeates even RIT’s administration, student-body, and the surrounding community. There have been two incidents since the fall of 2009 involving reports of gunmen on campus. The most comprehensive version of the first story (un-substantiated) involved two ex-Marines. One supposedly mentioned his concealed carry weapon, which was not on him at the time, to someone at a party and explained how with post-traumatic stress disorder he could act irrationally. This “suicidal, armed person” was reported to the police via an out of state cellphone. The campus went into lockdown as law enforcement searched for a gunman. SWAT patrolled the tunnels, meanwhile families of students were receiving alarming texts across the country through the notification system. In the end, a belligerent friend tried to free the “gunman” (who had willingly offered to go to the station and sort out the matter) and was tazered behind the dormitories. The second episode involved an umbrella-wielding student who was seen by an RTS bus driver to have been carrying a rifle-shaped object. The student himself was unaware of the situation until law enforcement tracked him down through security camera footage and confiscated his samurai sword-handled umbrella.
The mention of guns on campus sounds absurd, and perhaps in such a fearful, trigger-happy culture—where someone can put 30,000 people in lockdown and terrify families in the middle of the night over the simple speculation of a weapon—it is. But, Goh’s rampage took place in one of the states with the toughest handgun laws in the country, yet they could not have stopped what happened. There is no archetype of a school shooter, they are often not clinically insane or disturbed individuals; in fact, school shootings are often pre-meditated with advanced warnings. In the midst of the gunfire, it is far easier to find peace in knowing that a select few citizens have taken it upon themselves to protect those around them.
In 2008, some 15,000 people were killed with firearms. That same year, as with most, roughly one third of those deaths were self-inflicted suicides and another third were gang or drug related homicides. There were just over five million violent crimes committed in 2008, and only eight percent of those were committed by someone visibly carrying a gun. Kennesaw, Georgia, a town of roughly 30,000 people, implemented an ordinance that required every home to have one firearm in it except for the homes of convicted criminals and religious objectors. That was 1982. Three decades later and burglaries are down by nearly 80% and there were no murders in 2001. In Washington D. C., after handguns were banned in 1976, murder rates rose 51 percent, while the national average dropped 36%. Given the numbers, firearms possession is a clear deterrent to would-be criminals. Sadly, schools like RIT are caught in the hysteria where violence is entertaining, but being prepared to defend your life by taking someone else’s is just too real.
“A gun in every home?”
“Enoch Brown: A massacre unmatched”
“Gunman Kills 7 in a Rampage at Northern California University”
“Gun Control” from Just Facts
“10 Myths about School Shootings”
“Appalachain Law School Shootings: Media Crushes the Truth”
“More Colleges Consider Allowing Students to Carry Weapons”