As we try to understand the motives of Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas massacre shooter, more than one commentator has brought up the 1966 bell tower shooting incident at the University of Texas.
Just as Paddock shot his victims from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Charles Whitman was high above his targets on the Austin campus.
For those who don’t recall the incident, Whitman was just 25 when he opened fire for 96 minutes, killing 15 and injuring 31 that day.
You can go into the personalities of both Whitman and Paddock, but that’s all speculative.
Like Paddock, Whitman was considered highly intelligent. The former Marine, who had been attending UT on scholarship, had gone into a tailspin from bad grades and gambling issues. Paddock too seems to have had a gambling habit. It’s just part of the puzzle for investigators.
What’s more instructive is how we as a society have reacted, especially when it comes to passing laws and regulations to make our campuses, and society in general, safer.
Politicians are rightfully focused on banning of “bump stocks,” which Paddock used to turn the recoil energy of a semi-automatic weapon into a de facto machine gun.
Even the NRA seems to be giving in on this one.
But we should be watching for other laws that pro-gun advocates are trying to sneak in, like proposals to make open carry laws reciprocal—even in states that don’t have open carry laws.
And of course, we should be rethinking campus carry laws.
Last year, 50 years after the Whitman incident, UT became part of the growing trend to allow for the open carry of firearms on campus.
So far, schools in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have allowed for the carrying of firearms to some degree on campus, classrooms, dorms and parking lots.
According to The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus website, the statistics prove there’s no need for guns on campus:
“The overwhelming majority of the 4,400 colleges and universities in the United States prohibit the carrying of firearms on their campuses. These gun-free policies have helped to make our post-secondary education institutions some of the safest places in the country. For example, a 2001 U.S. Department of Education study found that the overall homicide rate at post-secondary education institutions was 0.07 per 100,000 students in 1999. By comparison, the criminal homicide rate in the United States as a whole was 5.7 per 100,000 persons overall in 1999, and 14.1 per 100,000 for persons ages 17 to 29. A Department of Justice study found that 93 percent of violent crimes that victimize college students occur off campus.”
If the Vegas Massacre is yet another wakeup call for society, let’s make sure we don’t overlook the danger the spread of campus carry laws represent.
Campus carry laws only succeed in making already safe campuses, less safe and less secure.
Adding guns into an environment is no deterrent to crime. It only increases the potential for gun use and violence.
And please note: No one is advocating taking guns away from any law- abiding citizen.
But already safe and secure campuses are for nurturing, not combat. Go to class. Take what you need for learning. Leave the guns at home.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator who writes for the civil rights organization AALDEF at http://www.aaldef.org/blog
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