Monthly Archives: October 2015

“It’s a fantasy”: Will Concealed Carry Guarantee Protection?

The quotation part of this title was said by one of the gun violence prevention (GVP) group representatives to whom I spoke, evincing that they perceived the concealed carry and protection linkage to be idealistic in nature. Another interviewee made a similar point that, unlike law enforcement, individual citizens are not specifically trained to respond to dangerous situations. The purpose of this blog is to challenge the ideas presented in the past couple of posts about concealed carry allowing for successful self-defence against a school shooter and other threats.

One GVP group representative pointed out that students might mistake concealed carry shooters for the school shooter’s accomplice. Similarly, debates became quite heated in the YouTube discussions with regards to whether students with concealed carry permits could viably defend against an armed attacker. One source of conflict centred on the ability of students to adequately defend without inadvertently hitting an innocent bystander. Other YouTube users rebuffed such concerns, stating that concealed carry permit holders were well-trained and thus would be able to shoot the school shooter without hitting any innocent bystanders.

Another dispute in YouTube discussions was how law enforcement would know whether the persons firing guns were attacking or defending. Several of my interviewees from GVP groups drew similar conclusions that a situation involving concealed carry holders firing back would likely create an ‘O.K. Corral situation,’ where law enforcement cannot distinguish between the two groups. Such sentiments take the form of an ‘anticipatory state’ where people are surmising about potential dangers which could arise in a certain scenario. (1) The YouTube commentators’ counter-responses to the concerns that law enforcement would not be able to distinguish between the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ relied on preconceptions held about the inadequacy of law enforcement. Further to this, the idea that the school shooter and concealed carry ‘protectors’ would be so easily distinguishable relates to what the theorist Robert Spitzer calls the ‘Good Guy-Bad Guy Myth’ where an imagined separation exists between the two and one can easily tell them apart. (2)

Perhaps an explanation for this idealistic separation lies in the dichotomy between ‘criminals’ and ‘law-abiding citizens’ terms also prolific throughout YouTube comments. In such discussions, the ‘Criminal Other’ is a ‘Boogeyman’ onto which anxieties can be projected (3). In this case, YouTube users emotively refer to those within that group as ‘psychopaths’ or ‘psychotic’ and have the preconceptions that criminals, especially school shooters, will be able to circumvent the law to obtain guns and will kill indiscriminately. This is where the ‘law-abiding citizen’ fantasy figure comes in: the ‘ideal’ gun owner who is responsible, controlled, well-trained and willing to protect others. Relating these findings to Walter Lippmann’s notion of the ‘stereotype,’ showing these good guy-bad guy perceptions are something people are told about and hence imagine before they actually experience it. (4) In reality, it seems that a concealed carry permit holder firing their gun would likely cause further problems, whether it be from inadvertently hitting an innocent bystander or being mistaken as an attacker by other concealed carry holders and/or law enforcement — considering all of this gives credence to the idea documented in the title’s quotation that successful self-defence from concealed carry is a fantasy.

[This blog is the final in a series of discussions about concealed carry on campus. It was formed using analyses from interviews with GVP group members and YouTube comments. The next post will move on to look at the role of law enforcement in schools in preventing and managing school shooting attacks.]

  1. Farrall, S. D., J. Jackson and E. Gray. (2009) Social Order and the Fear of Crime in Contemporary Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 155.
  2. Spitzer, R. J. (2012) The Politics of Gun Control (fifth edition). Boulder, Colorado; London: Paradigm Publishers, 176.
  3. Farrall, S. D., J. Jackson and E. Gray. (2009) Social Order and the Fear of Crime in Contemporary Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 151.
  4. Lippman, W. (1922) Public Opinion. Free Press: New York.

“Why does my right to defend myself end when I go to class?” The Individual Rights Paradigm and Concealed Carry on Campus

The question in the title relates to the idea raised by a number of YouTube users that campus gun bans violated their individual right to self-defence. The constitutional debate around the second amendment due to the Supreme Court’s ‘Heller’ case was briefly discussed in the post published on the 27th July 2015. This blog will return to this, advancing the argument about the ‘individual rights’ interpretation of the second amendment being entrenched in the notion of concealed carry on campus and self-defence.

To begin with, the Supreme Court ruling ‘Heller versus the District of Columbia’ passed in 2008 centred on an appeal by Dick Heller, a police officer who wanted to keep a handgun in his home for self-defence but was unable to do so due to a ban implemented in the District of Columbia following a sharp increase in gun crime in the 1970s. The Supreme Court narrowly ruled 5-4 that ‘the handgun ban violates the second amendment,’ with the five acceding judges maintaining it protected ‘an individual right to possess a firearm…for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defence within the home.’ The ruling, therefore, favours the ‘individual rights paradigm’ that the constitution circumscribes the rights of individual citizens to own firearms for self-defence; it has subsequently led to debates about whether other bans on owning and carrying guns ‘violate’ the second amendment. This then made its way into the concealed carry on campus debate, with the interest group Students for Concealed Carry maintaining that the concealed carry ban violated state-level legislation, the ‘Colorado Concealed Carry Act,’ and the state constitution’s right to self-defence. As it transpired, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in favour of Student for Concealed Carry and this led to universities in Colorado allowing concealed carry on campuses.

A number of commentators on YouTube drew upon similar lines of argument, claiming that firearm ban on college and university campuses violated their constitutional rights and were denying them a chance to defend themselves. One YouTube user compared carrying firearms to having fire extinguishers in classrooms: a safety precaution in case an emergency was to transpire. These are examples of ‘dogmatic thinking,’ seeking to reinforce current ideological stances that the purpose of the second amendment is to provide protection against threats. (1) To support their argument, a handful of users referred to the Supreme Court ‘Heller’ ruling. Missing from YouTube discussions, however, is the fact that the ruling mandated that bans in ‘sensitive places’ like educational institutions still apply. Further to this, as discussed in the last blog post, the idea of guns on campus is unsettling for a number of YouTube users — the right to be safe is also another aspect of the constitution and something which must also be considered in all debates around this topic.

[Results from YouTube analyses and further reading about the Supreme Court’s ruling on the ‘Heller’ case informed the writing of this post. The next blog will completely wrap up this topic by critically assessing the idea that carrying concealed firearms will allow individuals to defend themselves and others against school shooters and other threats.]

  1. Lane, R. E. (1966) ‘The Decline of Politics and Ideology in a Knowledgeable Society.’ American Sociological Review 31 (5), 649-662.