Tag Archives: arming students

“Fist fights could turn into shootouts”: Concerns about Concealed Carry on Campus

The last three blog posts detailed the reasons why concealed carry on campus might be perceived as the ‘solution’ to the threat of school shootings and other types of crime. Conversely, the quotation in the title evinces that there are those who are concerned that the presence of firearms might lead to further violence. One particular concern expressed by a number of YouTube users was that the young age of most students might hinder their ability to make rational decisions; hence, meaning that physical confrontations could be exacerbated by students carrying guns, perhaps even leading to serious injuries and deaths. Further to this, the presence of alcohol and drugs on campus — particularly in dorms where parties take place — was believed to impair the judgment of those carrying firearms. The idea of students as drunken, emotionally immature and irresponsible relies on stereotypical schemata: mentally stored ideas forming perceptions. (1) In contrast, there were YouTube users who challenged the claims, stating not all students use alcohol and drugs and it is hypocritical not to trust students since they are intelligent enough to be receiving a higher education.

On the other side of the argument, there were some YouTube commentators who supported concealed carry on campus in theory; yet, drawing from their own college and university experiences, maintained that certain students they knew could not be trusted to carry firearms. Other users argued that firearms on campus were quite a frightening prospect, so it removed the security and freedom of all students. This brings to mind a point made by about car park signs reserving spaces near the door for female drivers: this is meant to reassure them but could also serve to remind them there is a ‘threat’ in that environment. (2) A similar scenario could be applicable to concealed carry on campus where the presence of weapons or the knowledge that there was the possibility students have the potential to be legally armed could trigger more fear.

In a compromise of sorts, some users then were supportive of the idea but with general conditions: 1) not allowing students to carry whilst drinking alcohol; 2) requiring more training for permit holders to carry on campus, perhaps from law enforcement officials; 3) obtaining a full background check, perhaps even asking their professors for references; 4) carrying guns in a holster as ones in backpacks could be easily triggered or stolen. One user even suggested that it could be an impetus for students achieving a higher standard of grades, where they had to maintain their scores in order to be allowed to carry. It, therefore, seems that for concealed carry on campus to ever gain widespread support certain conditions will have to be met — the safety and security of students, staff and visitors has to be the first priority in any policies implemented.

[This blog post was put together using results from analysing comments from relevant YouTube videos and further reading in this area. This blog wraps up the topic of concealed carry on campus, which has been the focus of School Shooting Research for the past few months — the topic will be revisited in an upcoming blog, when the practicalities of translating concealed carry into successful self-defence against a school shooter are critiqued.]

  • For further details see: Entman R. M. (1993) ‘Framing: toward clarification of a fractured paradigm.’ Journal of Communication 43(4), 51-58.
  • An idea discussed in Gabriel, U. and W. Greve. (2003) ‘The Psychology of Fear of Crime: Conceptual and Methodological Perspectives.’ British Journal of Criminology 43(3), 600-614.

“You are responsible for protecting yourself”: Fear, Anxieties and Concealed Carry on Campus

The quote in the title exemplifies the feeling at the crux of the concealed carry on campus movement that individuals are responsible for defending themselves against threats like school shooters. The blogs posted throughout July and August 2015 detailed the contributory factors leading to this assumption. This post will summarise the various facets of these discussions.

To begin with, YouTube debates found that users commonly blamed the high death toll of thirty-two staff and students at Virginia Tech University in 2007 on the institution’s ban on concealed firearms. Since this school shooting is commonly referred to as the deadliest in U.S. history, it seems to epitomise what can transpire if students and staff are not armed at the time of a shooting. In a similar vein, commentators on YouTube drew upon their knowledge of other school shootings to make the case for arming students as a way to ‘take down’ the shooter before a high number of people are killed. Such sentiments have been translated into legislative proposals, with eighteen states debating whether to allow students to carry concealed firearms at colleges and universities in the year following the Virginia Tech shooting. Consequently, most of these did not pass and seven states currently allow concealed carry on campus; although it is probable that the number of states where it is legal may increase in future.

The next dimension to the argument is the anxiety around college and university campuses being targeted by shooters. The socially constructed term ‘gun free zone’ was utilised to describe a public location where citizens cannot legally carry firearms, with most educational institutions falling under that standard. Users discussing this on YouTube felt that these ‘gun free zones’ would be purposefully targeted by criminals because of the lack of armed defence. Such a perception disregards the role of law enforcement in dealing with active shooter scenarios; this, however, is explained by the lack of trust in the abilities of law enforcement displayed by YouTube users. Notably, the general feeling seemed to be that ‘law enforcement will not adequately protect citizens and are just there to clean up the crime scene.’ Users remarked that individuals are within the situation and police just respond to it, frequently quoting the notion that ‘when seconds matter, police are just minutes away.’ Previous school shootings with high death tolls have probably contributed to this perception, with people feeling that the police were not there in time to save the lives lost on those occasions.

Combining all these elements gives the following scenario forms the perception that: 1) ‘gun free zones’ will face threats from criminals; 2) without concealed carry on campus, potential victims will be unable to defend themselves; 3) law enforcement will not protect them and will just ‘clean up the crime scene.’ Extrapolating from this it is not a far stretch to see how this leads into the ‘solution’ of concealed carry permit holders taking firearms to class to avert and negate any potential threats of criminal activity and extreme violence — the next blog will outline the problems with this perceived solution.

[The blog was put together using the findings from posts published throughout July and August 2015, most of which utilized results from analyses of YouTube comments from relevant videos. The next post will detail challenges to the concealed carry on campus argument.]

“An armed student could have saved so many lives”: Blaming the Virginia Tech Shootings on the Concealed Carry Ban

The quote in the title exemplifies the idea circulating in online discourses[1] that the 32 tragic deaths at the Virginia Tech University shooting could have been prevented if students and staff had been permitted to carry concealed firearms on campus. This is explicated in statements such as these: “If only one person in that classroom had been armed, he might not have killed so many”; “One law-abiding armed citizen could have taken down the shooter after the first couple of shots.” Through speculative propositions with reference to the term ‘armed,’ it may be inferred that the circumstances shaping this are the lack of firearms. To some degree, online commentators blame ‘regulatory failures,’ where the ban in place is held accountable for students not being able to take the ‘appropriate precautions’[2] of carrying firearms to campus.

To take this argument further, for many users, the shooting at Virginia Tech represents an example of what can transpire when students are not allowed to carry weapons: “People thought Virginia Tech was safe, didn’t they?”; “Virginia Tech…enough said”; “Look at what happened at Virginia Tech.” The theorist Ferraro did say that fear of crime involves an “emotional response of dread or anxiety to crime or symbols a person associates with crime.”[3] It could be said that the shooting at Virginia Tech evokes images of horror and dread and is a ‘buzzword’ for the ‘worst gun massacre ever.’ Further to this, it appears that second-hand understandings of what took place at Virginia Tech — such as students hiding under desks waiting to be saved — are allowing for such perceptions to crystallise in a number of users.

In a similar vein, a video containing an interview with Virginia Tech survivor, Colin Goddard, who has worked with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, led to outrage and anger from a lot of online debaters. Some displayed incredulity that Colin was against concealed carry on campus, stating that it was these rules which prevented him and his peers from ‘defending themselves.’ Such a sentiment was echoed by the Gun Owners of America’s Executive Director, Larry Pratt, who stated in the immediate aftermath of the shooting: “All the school shootings that have ended abruptly in the last ten years were stopped because a law-abiding citizen — a potential victim — had a gun…”[4] The terminology used here is indicative of an idealistic stance that a ‘law-abiding citizen’ was able to prevent themselves from becoming a ‘victim.’ The ‘solution’ to the problem is deemed by some to be allowing for concealed carry on campus — this will discussed in the next blog post.

[This post was put together using the results from critical discourse analyses of comment threads in thirty-two YouTube videos relating to the Virginia Tech shooting and the concealed carry on campus movement. The blog posts over this and next month will further explore the discussions around this movement and school shootings.]

[1] These came in the form of comments on thirty-two YouTube videos filtered as the ‘most relevant’ to the terms ‘Virginia Tech shooting’ and ‘concealed carry on campus.’ Please refer to the blog posted on the 15th October 2014 regarding the usefulness of YouTube in research projects.

[2] This is discussed as a way to avert and negate crime in the following source: Elias, R. (1986) The Politics of Victimization: Victims, Victimology and Human Rights. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 72, 87.

[3] Ferraro, K. F. (1995) Fear of Crime: Interpreting Victimization Risk. New York: University of New York Press, 179.

[4] As quoted in the following press release: Gun Owners of America (GOA) (April 2007) ‘Virginia Tech Shooting — Gun Bans Are The Problem, Not The Solution.’ Available at: http://www.gunowners.org/pr0704.html.