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Feeling safer vs. being safer

Posted by Richard on April 16, 2007

VT flag at half-mastVirginia blogger Doug Mataconis appropriately noted that "Today, We’re All Hokies." But in an update to his earlier post about the shootings, he linked to a Roanoke Times article from earlier this year about the death of a campus self-defense rights bill in the Virginia legislature (emphasis added):

A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly.

Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."

Apparently, a similar bill was defeated last year, too. Last August, the Student Center at VT was evacuated during a manhunt for a murderer. Dymphna at Gates of Vienna has excerpts from two contrasting commentaries in the wake of that incident. One was by Bradford B. Wiles, a graduate student who was evacuated. Wiles had a carry permit, but was unarmed while on campus because of the university's anti-gun policy (emphasis added):

Of all of the emotions and thoughts that were running through my head that morning, the most overwhelming one was of helplessness.

That feeling of helplessness has been difficult to reconcile because I knew I would have been safer with a proper means to defend myself.

I would also like to point out that when I mentioned to a professor that I would feel safer with my gun, this is what she said to me, "I would feel safer if you had your gun."

Commenter Amy Kovak rejected Wiles' argument (emphasis added):

At the risk of being accused of being a member of the liberal media, I'll put it out there that I don't particularly feel safe knowing that people can carry guns around me — even if those people have licenses to do so.

I suppose everyone wants to feel safer. Many people want to feel safer so badly that they fool themselves into believing the most nonsensical things. Apparently, Larry Hincker and Amy Kovak believed that prohibiting guns on campus would automatically prevent people from carrying guns on campus, thus making them safer.

Brad Wiles and his professor friend wanted to feel safer, too. Wiles didn't just want to feel safer, though — he wanted to be safer. Would being armed have made him so on that day? Maybe, maybe not. Guns aren't any more magical and foolproof than gun bans. But there's a lot more reason, logic, and evidence backing Wiles than there is behind the wishful thinking of Hincker and Kovak.

I wonder if Wiles was on the VT campus today, and if he was still disarmed and helpless. I wonder if Hincker and Kovak were on campus. If so, I wonder when exactly they stopped feeling safe in their gun-ban cocoon.

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One Response to “Feeling safer vs. being safer”

  1. Dana said

    I think you raise a very good issue, here. Guns don’t make me feel particularly safe…I even feel a little nervous around armed police officers. Not to mention how unsafe I felt walking through Heathrow airport escorted by a soldier with a sem-automatic weapon. Logic does not seem to help much. I think it is largely an issue of what I’m accustomed to. Shotguns don’t bother me because I grew up with one hanging in the garage, but I’ve had no experience with other types of firearms other than how they are portrayed in the media.

    Last year, however, when someone attempted to enter my home within minutes of me turning out the lights, the fact that a police officer responded within ten minutes gave me zero comfort. And I know his training and gun would not have kept me safe had the person succeeded in getting in. Our dog, who about tore through the front door, did a great deal to actually make us safer, and a gun in our home would have made us even safer, regardless of my discomfort.

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