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Monday, March 03, 2008

An Open Letter to the College Students of America

Editor's note: This is no Smallest Minority uberpost, as Kevin calls his regular, doctoral level posts but it is a big post for me. I've had this on my mind ever since the shooting at Northern Illinois University. I've written this in all seriousness and not in jest, so I hope you will read it, consider it and share it with your friends.
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes...Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." -- Thomas Jefferson (1764) -- Quoting 18th Century criminologist Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment
College students throughout America’s history have taken it as a point of pride to be changers. I believe it is part of the collegiate experience as young people gather at universities and are exposed to new ideas and concepts, that they take their combined experiences and youthful exuberance and apply those attributes to current events to implement change, either in popular culture or politics or national attitude. It is pretty easy, even for me, to point out numerous examples of changes to the American experience that have been a direct result of upheaval and of university students acting together across many campuses throughout our history. One only has to consider the positive changes in America’s Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the demonstrations that helped bring an end to America’s participation in the Vietnam War and subsequently the end of the military draft and the incorporation of the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution that changed the voting age from 21 to 18 years of age to see the effect that students have on American policies. More recently, it is students carrying the banner of climate change seeking changes in their campus policies and general behavior. Now it is time, and I would like to recommend that young people on campuses everywhere consider a new issue that they might embrace and make their own to implement a change. The change I am recommending affects their well being directly, gives them control over a part of their life that most of them have depended upon others for and can have long lasting effect on the general American population for generations to come. It is time for college students everywhere to band together and demand the right of self-protection be the standard policy on every campus!

Certainly well publicized recent events prove beyond doubt that your campus administrators are not protecting you and are not capable of protecting you as individuals. In spite of their best efforts, their ineffective rules and laws and their protests that they are doing “all they can” to protect you, the mass shootings at Virginia Tech last year and more recently at Northern Illinois University must prove to you that you are not safe on your campuses. Less well publicized are the violent attacks that occur on every campus to you, our future leaders of America. Rape is widely recognized as prevalent but drastically under-reported and assaults of all types occur wherever students cross campus in the dark of night. My research is incomplete but it is apparent that violence does take place and no amount of parking lot flasher-warning stations or blanket email notifications can stop a single act of violence when a criminal sets their mind to doing harm. Ask among yourselves and see if I’m right. I’m certain that if you look, you can find someone close to you; on your campus; that has been a victim of a violent assault. Does your school have a violence reporting hotline or a support group for violence victims? If it does, that group exists for a reason and I encourage you to discover the reasons for their existence.

Self-protection is a basic human right and it has been recognized as such for centuries! It is not a privilege to be handed out by administration nor can it be doled out to a privileged few through legislation. In every case that you can name, violence happens to individuals or groups when they have surrendered their right of self-protection to some other entity besides themselves. It matters not if it is a community’s trust in its police force, a campus’s trust in the administration and security group or a civilian population disarmed by decree of the government, when you surrender the right of self-protection to another agency, you voluntarily place your life at risk. It should be obvious to anyone that it is not possible for the police to be in every single place where violence can occur and that at best, police officers are provided to maintain the appearance of law and order, yet in most cases of violence they can only write reports, investigate the behaviors of the law breakers and perhaps notify next-of-kin. You may believe that it is the obligation of your local law enforcement agency to protect you and seeing security guards on your campus may make you feel secure, but in fact the courts have proven time and again that there is no obligation by law enforcement to provide for an individual’s security. Note what Jeffrey R. Snyder wrote in his 1993 essay; A Nation of Cowards:
Is your life worth protecting? If so, whose responsibility is it to protect it? If you believe that it is the police's, not only are you wrong — since the courts universally rule that they have no legal obligation to do so — but you face some difficult moral quandaries. How can you rightfully ask another human being to risk his life to protect yours, when you will assume no responsibility yourself? Because that is his job and we pay him to do it? Because your life is of incalculable value, but his is only worth the $30,000 salary we pay him? If you believe it reprehensible to possess the means and will to use lethal force to repel a criminal assault, how can you call upon another to do so for you?

That is why self-protection is your responsibility! Notice that I highlighted the word, feel a few sentences back; it is important to start thinking about what is real compared to what you feel. You may feel safe because you signed up for your school’s automated text messaging warning system that is supposed to warn you of a campus danger, but if you don’t get the text message until 15 minutes after a crazed student commits mass murder, how safe are you really?

Have you heard the sentiment, “When seconds count, help is just minutes away”? Do you take any solace in knowing that the security chief at Northern Illinois University bragged that his officers responded to the death of 5 students and the injury of a couple dozen more in just 2 minutes after the report came in? Were the officers in any way able to respond to the criminal mayhem before the disturbed former student finished his gruesome task by killing himself? Of course they were not! Instead, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, they arrived in time to write reports, hold press conferences and notify next-of-kin. They obviously protected no one, yet their empty words of immediate response became the words we heard during the press conferences and we are supposed to believe that “everything possible” was done.

So, how can you, the college student, as an individual and as a group, change the circumstances of the violence you face on campus and in a bigger sense, citizens face everyday in their daily lives whether it be at the shopping mall or at lunch at Wendy's? You can accept that your protection is your responsibility and then you can choose to be prepared to face potential violence and prepared to stop the violence when it presents itself. In most cases you can do this through constant possession and training with a handgun.

You need to get past the idea that guns cause crime and that guns are “scary”. Guns are inanimate objects with no ability to operate on their own. Criminals perpetrate crime and guns, in the hands of citizens, prevent crimes. While it is possible to find published reports of citizens preventing or reducing criminal behavior, total numbers of crimes not committed because a citizen defended themselves aren’t really available- because a crime not committed is a crime not reported.

You need to arm yourself. As crucial to your young life as your laptop, cell phone or iPod might be, none of those will save you from a criminal intent to causing you harm. In 39 states, with proper training and accomplishment of a detailed background check, you can obtain a firearms carry permit and in spite of my personal belief, obtaining a firearms permit should be your first step in firearms ownership. Go to the local gun store and get educated on the types of handguns that are available. Take a training class, and learn how the different types of guns operate. Make a decision on the type and caliber of handgun that works best for you. Decide how you will keep this gun close to you and secure and buy the very best you can afford. Make regular training part of your weekly or monthly routine. And then make the mental adjustment that tells you that you are worth using lethal force against a criminal that would harm you.

That attitude adjustment and the decision to become an armed citizen will be a change for most of you. That’s the first change that I want you to implement throughout America. Read and understand the anti-gun rhetoric and apply those critical thinking skills you are learning in college to the slanted and inaccurate propaganda that you might have listened to before making this adjustment. Begin to understand how many thousands of citizens throughout America have become routine firearms carriers without open shootouts on the streets as the anti-gun crowd would have you believe. Take note of the pittance of license revocations by licensed firearms carriers and see for yourself that the simple carrying of a firearm does not make a person a danger to society.

The next step is for you as a group to demand change in the rules that govern your universities. Demand that your college administrators accept that there are no such things as “Gun Free Zones” and to drop the ban on firearms on campus carried by licensed, trained firearms permit holders. Use your power as a group, stage sit-ins, organize, use the power of the press and vote with your pocket books until you are successful changing the anti-gun, irrational fear of the administrators of your colleges and universities. Join organizations like Students for Concealed Carry, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) or Mother’s Arms to gain strength and support for your rights as a citizen.

Tell your college administrators that you will no longer tolerate their empty words and useless efforts or accept their worthless rules. Tell them that if they want to really protect students, that they build and staff with qualified instructors, proper firearms training ranges. Vote with your feet and your tuition dollars by transferring to universities that do recognize your right to self-protection. If you really want your school to change, make it clear that your continued attendance is predicated upon this simple and basic change by university management.

It is time to face facts and implement change in America’s attitudes about self-protection. Its time to place blame on the heads of criminals for their actions and recognize that adult citizens have a right to themselves and their loved ones to live, work, study and grow without fear of violence from criminals that are determined to break the law. Do not allow yourself to be one of the cowardly sheep that cower under their classroom desk and wait to die at the hands of a criminal as happened at Virginia Tech or Elizabeth City State University during a stupidly executed emergency drill. It is time to remove the stigma of citizen-carried firearms in our communities, campuses and cities and recognize that sometimes a firearm is exactly the right tool to assure personal protection. It is time for you, the college students in America to demand this right be recognized, accepted and be made the normal, not the unusual behavior.

Change this attitude with yourselves first and then your colleges and universities. Find out how successful you can be, just as your alumni did when they marched in civil rights movements, sat at segregated lunch counters and gave women the protection of reproductive rights. Be as successful as the generation that changed the Constitution to allow 18 year olds the right to vote. Take your success and build upon it as you enter the business world and as you become the next generation of elected officials in our country. Ensure through your actions that the citizens of Washington D.C. and Chicago, Illinois have the same rights of self-protection as the citizens in the rest of this country by changing the undefendable, unworkable and illegal laws imposed upon them. Ask the politicians that are already seeking your votes for change that will put them into power, what their position is on personal safety and the human right of self-protection.

Finally, as a personal favor to me, work to change the concealed carry firearms laws to simply firearms carry laws. Let’s work to make open carry as normal and unremarkable as openly carrying an iPod or a book bag. Doing so simplifies the rules, makes open or concealed carry a personal choice, expands handgun carry possibilities and further removes the stigma of a gun in public. The choice should be made by the carrier and a gun that slips and shows when it is supposed to be concealed would cease to be a scary circumstance or reason to panic by the less informed population. You can make those changes happen, can’t you?

First Million Mom March
Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs
Concealed Carry in Wikipedia
Just Dial 911? The Myth of Police Protection
A Nation of Cowards
Fighting Back: Crime, Self-Defense, and the Right to Carry a Handgun

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