Another mass shooting has taken place in the United States. As a result, the news media will intrude into the private hell of the victims and their families with mock solemnity, and elected officials will choke back tears and bellow for more gun control or more gun ownership. And, as always, some advocate will propose that armed teachers, students and/or professors would have averted the tragedy. Forty-eight hours later, Alan Caruba of the rightly named National Anxiety Center did just that in the Philadelphia Inquirer. In his op-ed piece, Caruba writes, “If just one member of the faculty or a student had the means to return fire” on that Monday morning, lives would have been saved. I submit that he is simply wrong.
Caruba says that he has been a gun owner for years and that he has pulled his gun on criminals to scare them off. Let me ask you, Caruba, how did you feel when you did this? Were you scared? I am willing to bet that you were, and who wouldn’t be? Now imagine if you actually had to fire your weapon, taking a life and defending your own. After all, leisurely shooting a paper target at a gun range is much different than doing it under field conditions, is it not? Fear alters the equation a little bit.
I do not profess to be an expert on armed confrontations; however, I have known several people who have had this unfortunate experience in their lifetimes, one of whom was a police officer. Imagine being forced to shoot at a moving target wielding a pistol aimed at you in less-than-optimal lighting conditions with adrenaline flowing and chaos around you? In situations like this, the officer told me, you have 30 seconds or less to act: pull your weapon, aim, shoot and hit your target without hurting any bystanders. Sounds difficult, does it not? And this officer had at least 40 hours of instruction on how to fire his weapon and had to requalify with it every six months. With all that training, facing down an armed assailant is still a difficult proposition for any policeman. This was painfully clear after the 1998 U.S. Capitol shooting incident in which two armed police officers lost their lives trying to stop an armed madman.
Caruba believes that an armed student or professor would have had a fighting chance against a crazed assailant with two pistols. He is clearly wrong. Even trained professionals have great difficulty subduing armed men; amateurs likely would not do any better. Does Caruba really think a student could stand up in a classroom fraught with pandemonium, take a combat stance, close one eye and shoot the assailant three times and hit center mass? For him to say that someone would have had a reasonable chance of stopping Cho Seung-Hui is misleading and plain wrong. If Caruba wants to argue that an armed society is a polite society, that’s fine. However, he should not use misleading arguments to prove his point.
Augustine Marinelli is a senior political science major from Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at [email protected]