Forget Reason: Self Defense is Simply Human Nature

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State Rep. Allen Fletcher speaking in favor of HB 972 in the Texas House
Courtesy of Austin American-Statesman

Danny Zeng | May 6, 2013

Washington Post did a followed-up story titled, “A clear case of self-defense rallies supporters of gun rights,” about an incidence that happened in January, when a Georgian Mother shot a burglar who broke into her house when both of her children were home. That’s the point that defenders of gun rights have been making time after time: it’s about self-defense; it always has been.

In the past few months, this debate was distorted in the public discourse to support a menu of “reasonable” measures. Whenever a piece of legislation is broken down into component parts, people are more likely to support individual parts than the legislation as a whole.  That’s the polling tactic used by gun-control advocates throughout this debate. It’s the same tactic used to push Obamacare through. An overwhelming majority, Republicans and Democrats, supported provisions such as a coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, tax credits for individuals and small businesses, and closing the Medicare “doughnut hole;” even though Obamacare overall remains divisive. The Texas Legislature is presently wrestling with campus carry bills. The argument for us is still the same: it’s about self-defense.

Though an important detail ignored – intentionally or otherwise – in the WaPo story is the burglar’s history of criminality. ABC reported in January, “Last year he [Paul Slater] served 6 months in jail for battery and has at least six other arrests on his record.” The story never even mentions this point. In fact, the lingering impression is almost sympathetic to Zakia Slater’s (wife of the burglar) predicament. Her role as a schoolteacher, a mother of six, and a depicted “victim” in the situation attempt to humanize the other side of the conflict. This distracts from the fact that her husband’s a criminal, an important fact that underlies the whole logic behind gun-rights advocates for self-defense.

Same rationale, rooted in human nature, applies to support for campus carry. Why should we as college students living in one of the most high-density areas in Austin deny possibilities of irrational violence and criminality  and deprive ourselves of effective means to self-defense? Simple faiths in the security of our campus and the professionalism of our police force have failed to prevent campus shootings and violent crimes in recent years. DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Education reports 649 burglaries, 124 motor vehicle theft, 66 aggravated assaults, and 51 forcible sex offense, and 33 robberies on Texas college campuses.  In this sense, to be against campus carry is to be for status quo, a situation that exposes us to dangerous and perhaps irrational minds in our society.

Melinda Herman did what any mother would do for her children. In moments of inexplicable chaos, I can’t imagine any self-preservative motive greater than one’s inherent instinct to protect people we love. I do realize that in the Hermans’ case, the gun is within the confines of her home, but the underlying logic is nonetheless the same: the possession of a firearm is the only effective mean to stop a violent perpetrator, as opposed to a slew of ridiculous guidelines offered by universities across the country:

  • Wichita State University counsels students in the following manner: “If the person(s) is causing death or serious physical injury to others and you are unable to run or hide you may choose to be compliant, play dead, or fight for your life.”
  • The University of Miami guidelines suggest that when all else fails, students should act “as aggressively as possible” against a shooter. The guidelines, taken from a Department of Homeland Security directive, also recommend “throwing items and improvising weapons,” as well as “yelling.”
  • Otterbein University, in Ohio, tells students to “breathe to manage your fear” and informs them, “You may have to take the offensive if the shooter(s) enter your area. Gather weapons (pens, pencils, books, chairs, etc.) and mentally prepare your attack.”
  • West Virginia University advises students that if the situation is dire, they should “act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.” These items could include “student desks, keys, shoes, belts, books, cell phones, iPods, book bags, laptops, pens, pencils, etc.”
  • The University of Colorado at Boulder’s guidelines state, “You and classmates or friends may find yourselves in a situation where the shooter will accost you. If such an event occurs, quickly develop a plan to attack the shooter … Consider a plan to tackle the shooter, take away his weapon, and hold him until police arrive.

The Texas House gave Rep. Fletcher’s campus carry bill, which includes an “opt out” provision allowing institutions to decide its own gun policy, a preliminary OK over the weekend. The eyes will now be on the Senate and the Lieutenant Governor who has the power to reassign Birdwell’s bill to another committee. The fight goes on. We are that much closer to a more sensible campus carry law that would contribute to the safety of our campuses throughout Texas.

CRUD Debate: References for Concealed Carry

As promised, here is a list of references we’ve used for the debate on the topic of concealed carry.

Facts & References 

57% of criminals in a DoJ sponsored study in 1981 say that they fear armed citizens more than armed police (Rossi & Wright 1986)

Convictions of CHL holders

Of 63,000 convictions in Texas in 2011, 120 CHL holders were convicted. Less than .2% of convictions in Texas were of CHL holders. (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/reports/convrates.htm)

Number of young people with CHLs

In 2011 6637 out of 143,725 total granted were granted to 24 and younger, that’s 4.6%. In 2011 3978 people in Travis County were granted CHLs. If 4.6% of those were granted to 24 and younger, we’re looking at 183 people, but UT only makes up 5% of Travis County’s population, thus only an estimated 9 students have CHL at UT. So it’s not like there are going to be vigilantes running through campus or that all of our students will be armed. (I know this number is speculation, but it’s food for thought. We can at least point out the fact that only 4.6% of people receiving CHLs are 24 or younger.) (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/reports/demoreportscy11.htm)

Murder rates in TX since CHL Law

Murder rate in Texas has decreased from 11.0 per 100,000 in 1994 to 4.2 per 100,000 in 2011 CHL law took effect in 1995. And rates were even higher prior to the CHL law.

(http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/administration/crime_records/pages/crimestatistics.htm)

Numbers at a glance (some nice charts included) http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp

In 2004, U.S. National Academy of Sciences released its evaluation from review of 253 articles, 99 books, and 43 government publications failed to identify any gun control measures that reduced violent crimes, suicide, and gun accidents

2003 Center for Disease and Control concluded similarly

Underlying socio-economic and social factors are at play, not the mechanism for murder; Russia, Belarus, and Luxembourg have banned gun ownership yet have higher murder rates (Don Kates & Gary Mauser)

Scholars like Gary Kleck (University of Florida, a registered Democrat, ACLU member), James Wright (University of Massachusetts), John Lott, David Mustard (University of Georgia), and Peter Rossi have all changed their opinions from being anti-gun to more pro-concealed carry over the last couple of decades as new empirical data overwhelmingly show that gun control do not work

Arguments that Danny Zeng has made before online, including citing Gary Kleck’s study on his personal blog that raised the point about simply switching guns for more rounds, if magazines were to be limited, provided that major shooters had multiple guns on them – which was mostly the case for mass shooters in the last two decades