A College Professor's Perspective on Campus Security Issues from VT Standpoint
By Christopher Westley
Special to The Anniston Star
Reprinted here in its entirety.
Sad Days in Blacksburg
My mind keeps going back to the students in those engineering
classrooms and the incredulousness mixed with fear that they must have
felt. And anger, based on the idea that some incredible and unknown
creep was in the process of cutting their lives short.
buddy (I'd think to myself), do you know how much I sacrificed to get
into this engineering program? And my parents? I was up all night
studying for a test! Please just go into the men's room and shoot
yourself now. I have too many plans for my life to allow this to happen.
police are getting much criticism, and I don't know how much of it is
warranted. They do seem to follow a predictable script when bad things
happen. Secure the perimeter. Don't let anyone in or out, and when the
victims finally do get out, make them hold their hands over their
heads. And while the preparations are taking place outside, the
shooter's rampage continues unabated. It isn't until he kills himself
that the police seem to decide on an entry plan. Just like Columbine.
Is there a better argument for private, decentralized security?
are questions that the police need to answer. They claim they had good
reason to believe that after the initial shootings that took two lives,
the gunman had left the campus and was leaving the state. I'd like to
know why they concluded that, and whether it was based on nothing more
than case studies. It sounds like a story that evolved after it was
clear that their treatment of the first crime scene as an isolated,
one-time event proved deadly.
But still. These are campus police
for whom an average busy night involves making sure drunk fraternity
members keep their parties inside. That's the way it should be.
Frankly, if my son was considering a school that I knew trained its
police to respond to mass murderers, I'd convince him to apply
elsewhere. There is a point at which a lack of preparation is a badge
of honor for civilization, simply because it reflects a lack of
miscreants that need addressing. So the deer-in-the-headlights response
we saw at the press conferences on the day of the shootings is (in some
ways) to be preferred.
I have less sympathy for Virginia Tech's
administration, which after all sets much of the rules and policy under
which the police and student body must comply. Not long after the
shootings were made public, a news story surfaced on the Internet about
how the Virginia Legislature recently killed a bill that would have
allowed university students and employees to carry concealed weapons on
The Roanoke Times' story included a quote from Virginia
Tech spokesman Larry Hinker saying that “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.” Why do I think that Hinker's 15 minutes of fame is not
going to be terribly enjoyable?
It shouldn't be. Gun control
policies violate our natural right to self-defense. Would the killer
have even ventured out of bed that morning had he thought that one or
two people in those engineering classes would have shot back? Still,
ABCNews.com posted a story on Monday afternoon asking whether stricter
gun-control laws should now be called for, thus trying to frame the
ensuing political debate and squelch criticism of existing gun control
laws at the same time. A re-evaluation of immigration controls seems
appropriate, but one doubts ABC News will devote resources to that
Besides, some perspective is in order. A recent Surgeon
General study showed school-related homicides are less than one percent
of all homicides involving students, and that the number of school
homicides has been falling. Kids are safer on college campuses than
they are at many other public venues. The political class (and the
political media) should refrain from using this event to bolster
It dishonors those students whose lives were lost
this week. It is to them, and their families, that my mind keeps
returning. Rest in peace.
Christopher Westley teaches economics at Jacksonville State University.
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com
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