Nathan Scott is a student at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He has a job working in the school library and is a member of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus at FSU. And he is a (barely) walking example of why his cause is so crucial, after being shot in the library recently and having no way to defend himself.
The group has been lobbying for several years to get the ban on lawful concealed carry of firearms on campus lifted. They argue that in a life-or-death crisis, when seconds count, police being just minutes away is not good enough. In the event of a violent criminal attack, they argue, a lot of damage can be done in the minutes – or seconds – before police can arrive. They say that a legally armed individual using a gun to save their own life could save many other lives as well. So far the collegians' efforts to restore the right to arms on campus have been thwarted, leaving older students like Nathan, who qualify for a Florida Concealed Weapon License, with a choice of being defenseless, or risking expulsion and criminal prosecution.
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The arguments in favor of banning all guns on campus generally revolve around "what if" scenarios: What if a licensee goes nuts? Or leaves a gun where someone irresponsible could get it? What if a licensee shoots at an attacker, but hits a bystander? What if police mistake the licensed student for the assailant and shot her? What if the licensee gets drunk or high on drugs (as, they remind us, so many college students do) and behaves irresponsibly with a gun? Opponents even reach for an "academic freedom" argument, claiming legal concealed guns on campus would "disrupt" the "safe learning environment" – even though the guns would be concealed so no one would know they were there except in an emergency. They ignore the fact that these same people, along with millions of others, routinely carry guns every day in offices, restaurants, grocery stores and libraries in cities and towns all around the state and across the country with vanishingly low rates of accident or abuse. They like to say that the odds of a concealed carry license holder being in the vicinity of a campus shooting are so low as to be negligible, and that the prohibition should stand because lifting it probably wouldn't help and might actually hurt.
Students for Concealed Carry on Campus point out the frequency of lawful concealed carry and the infrequency of legal weapon carriers committing crimes of any sort. They point to statistics showing that people with concealed-weapon licenses have, as a group, lower crime rates than sworn police officers, and that when they shoot, they typically fire fewer shots than police, have higher rates for hitting their targets and are less likely to hit innocent bystanders than police. They particularly point out that carrying a concealed weapon is a personal decision as a means of defense against immediate, personal threats. They say that recognizing and respecting the right to the means of effective defense creates no threat to others, but denying that right can have significant negative impacts. They also point out that, while most college students are too young to qualify for a Concealed Weapon License, many students today are military veterans, not only old enough to be licensed, but with experience in crisis situations.
Just after midnight on Nov. 20, 2014, Nathan Scott was shot while working at the FSU library. A disturbed former student with paranoid delusions opened fire with a pistol at the library's front door. Being unarmed, all Nathan could do was run – as best he could with a bullet wound in his leg – and warn other students. Another student, an Army combat infantry veteran, took cover when the shooting started, and though both he and Nathan Scott had the training, skill, and opportunity to end the attack almost as soon as it began, neither was armed because, being law-abiding citizens, they both were obeying Florida's law against having a gun on campus. Of course the man randomly shooting people was not impeded in any way by Florida's "No Guns on Campus" law.
It turns out that the man who attacked Nathan Scott and the others at the FSU library was an FSU graduate who had gone on to get a law degree and serve for a time as a federal prosecutor in New Mexico. While it is now clear that he was suffering from a serious mental illness, there is no indication that he ever sought treatment for the condition, and he certainly was never committed to a mental institution or adjudicated to be "mentally defective" or a threat to himself or others. Friends were unaware of his condition, and aside from a few odd comments on Facebook, there was no sign that he was on the brink of a breakdown.
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That means that there was nothing to prevent him from legally purchasing or possessing a firearm, and that only the most sweeping sort of total restriction on firearms – a total ban with confiscation – could have impeded him at all. Of course such a ban would be impossible under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the constitutions of all but a handful of states, and even that would not have prevented him from using a knife, a car, an improvised explosive, an illegally-acquired gun, or the weapon used in the most deadly, single-assailant mass murder in modern history, a container of gasoline.
Gun owners – particularly those licensed to carry concealed weapons – have proven that they are responsible, judicious and law-abiding. None of the "blood in the streets" warnings about expanding concealed carry has ever panned out, and there has never been a serious problem on campuses in states where carry is not prohibited. It's time to stop caving in to the irrational fears of hoplophobes and give those adult college students and staff who wish to take on the responsibility a fighting chance in a crisis. It's time to stop disarming the good guys.
Media wishing to interview Jeff Knox, please contact [email protected].