Pharyngula

The Nevada System of Higher Education wants to arm their faculty. That’s insane. We have rare instances of students going on a shooting spree; I don’t see how turning the classroom into a firefight is going to stop that, and I also have a suspicion that any homicidal maniacs will henceforth simply put “shoot the professor” first on their to-do list. The other concern: how often has this happened at your university?

  • Dishevelled, out-of-breath student bursts into the room in the middle of class — he overslept.
  • Angry student storms into your office, red in the face and furious about his exam.
  • Walking across the campus late at night, a dark figure steps out from behind a building and raises his hand … to say hello.

Those kinds of events are routine, and don’t bother me at all. But let’s foster a climate of fear of our murderous students, slip a firearm into our pockets, and wait. It won’t happen often, but all it will take is one jittery professor and one deadly incident, and try to imagine your university dealing with the parents. And that kind of hasty stupidity is going to be more common than the “vicious gunman foiled by hail of professorial bullets” story, I’m sure. It’s trading one unlikely danger for a more common one, and it isn’t even going to stop the problem — lone gunmen violating a school must expect to end up dead, and if it’s in a gunfight, all the greater the glory.

At the very least, it’s going to send the message to our students that they’d better not make any sudden moves around their lethal professors. It’s a violation of the trust they should have in us, so no, rather than arming myself, I think I’d rather call the police if there is a violent threat … that’s better than becoming a klutzy threat all on my own. My job is to teach, not play Bruce Willis.

Comments

  1. #1 Brian W.
    June 29, 2007

    I think we’re over due for a teacher going to school and shooting a bunch of people. Bound to happen sooner or later.

  2. #2 delagar
    June 29, 2007

    Or this: student has been riding professor’s chaps all semester long — that student, you know him, the whiny brat in the back row who thinks he knows everything and is actually dumb as a rock? Professor’s having the worst semester of his life? Didn’t get a pay raise either? Or didn’t get tenure? Student appears on the worst day of that worst semester to gripe about his grade and how if he fails, daddy’s taking his Lexus away? (Which I had a student TELL me once!)

    And the professor is armed?

    I’m just thinking it’s not such a fine plan.

  3. #3 Brian W.
    June 29, 2007

    Not to mention the possibility of a student getting the gun away from the professor.

  4. #4 mjfgates
    June 29, 2007

    This was mentioned as a theoretical possibility in another forum I read, right after the Virginia Tech shootings. At least three different college instructors popped up to say that if somebody tried to make them carry a gun on campus, they’d quit.

  5. #5 David Wilford
    June 29, 2007

    IMO, absent-minded professors and guns just don’t mix.

  6. #6 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 29, 2007

    Bloody typical authoritarian response to a threat. What, people are coming in with guns and causing trouble? Well, give more power to the authority figures on the scene!

  7. #7 snex
    June 29, 2007

    if the professors are properly trained and officially deputized (and cannot carry the gun without these criteria), and the guns and ammo are school property and must be accounted for on a regular basis, then the problems most of you bring up are unlikely to happen. campus security is a joke (and they carry guns on campus but nobody seems to rail against this), and by the time real cops arrive, the deed is already done.

    if youre perfectly fine with incompetents who couldnt pass the police exam wielding guns and calling themselves “campus security,” then whats wrong with competent professors who do the same?

  8. #8 plunge
    June 29, 2007

    You should get a squirt gun that shoots ink. That would rule.

  9. #9 Galbinus_Caeli
    June 29, 2007

    And who is going to handle the protocols and privileges? I mean if an armed student bursts into a classroom, who shoots first? Associate or Tenured Professors? Or is this a job for Grad students? What about undergrad T/As? I can just picture large parts of the faculty standing around, guns in hand trying to figure out whose right and responsibility it is to fire the first shot.

  10. #10 CalGeorge
    June 29, 2007

    PZ calmly walks into noisy lecture hall, unholsters magnum 44 (stylishly holstered to his underarm), lays weapon on lecture table and says:

    “Listen up, people! Today, we’re talking cephalopods. Pay attention, OR ELSE!”

    Ooooh, yeah!

  11. #11 llewelly
    June 29, 2007

    Pistols can be heavy, and professors are not known for their willingness to carry heavy objects they may not need to the classroom. The weapon would typically be left in the office, where it would soon be buried beneath piles of books and papers.
    The first accident, rather than a case of mistaken identity in a dark evening, would probably be a clumsy student knocking a pile of books, papers, and a pistol off the professors desk, causing the pistol to go off, and shoot a different student in the office one floor up.
    Recall that a large proportion of firearm accidents are due to slips and stumbles.

  12. #12 Doug
    June 29, 2007

    Sounds like an especially bad idea for physics class. My physics professors were prone to answering student questions with entertaining ad hoc physical demonstrations. I can just imagine one whipping out a gun to show how something worked.

  13. #13 Tex
    June 29, 2007

    Well, if Ted Nugent is right that ‘An armed society is a polite society,’ then our faculty meetings should become a good deal more civil. Of course, if he’s wrong …

  14. #14 snex
    June 29, 2007

    wow, these scenarios just get more and more off the wall as the comments section grows.

    “well, what if PZ is showing the class a new cephalopod and the squid reaches its tentacle into his breast pocket, pulls the gun out, and starts firing? WHAT THEN YOU CRAZY GUN-NUTS?”

    gimmie a break.

  15. #15 PZ Myers
    June 29, 2007

    No, except for yours, the likely scenarios are all about the likelihood of stupid and accidental misuses. They’ll happen.

    Really, university faculty do not represent a population with a high incidence of familiarity or training with guns. It’s not like saying you were going to give guns to a union of Texas cattle ranchers — it’s putting deadly weapons in the hands of a group of people who will mostly be utterly moronic as far as gun use goes.

  16. #16 Zeteo Eurisko
    June 29, 2007

    >>PZ>> I also have a suspicion that any homicidal maniacs will henceforth simply put “shoot the professor” first on their to-do list

    Which is exactly what Cho did here at Virginia Tech. He killed the professors first with head shots before moving on to the students. We have to remember that these persons deranged enough to go on a shooting spree are still quite intelligent and capable of circumventing superficial solutions. If the professors were armed at Virginia Tech, Cho could have simply gone to a large classroom where there was one professor and 600 students instead of multiple classrooms. He still would have the element of surprise on his hands, and he would only need to surprise one person.

  17. #17 cm
    June 29, 2007

    When I taught I would fairly often forget things (like overheads or coffee) in my office and have to dash right before lecture and grab it. It is fun to imagine that as, “Just sit tight a moment students and review the last lecture, I just need to run back and fetch my gun.”

  18. #18 jackd
    June 29, 2007

    if youre perfectly fine with incompetents who couldnt pass the police exam wielding guns and calling themselves “campus security,” then whats wrong with competent professors who do the same?

    Are you really saying that until we address a problem, we’re not allowed to object to a plan that will immediately and obviously make the problem worse?

    Or are you saying that you trust the process to vet and manage college instructors carrying deadly weapons will be handled better than the similar process for campus security?

  19. #19 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 29, 2007

    Doug (#12):

    Sounds like an especially bad idea for physics class. My physics professors were prone to answering student questions with entertaining ad hoc physical demonstrations. I can just imagine one whipping out a gun to show how something worked.

    Suddenly I find myself warming to the idea!

    (-;

  20. #20 Heather
    June 29, 2007

    OHhh, can I have a gun? There are some history teachers at my school who love to bash the French as people who love to surrender and let someone else defend them. So if the French teacher were the one who was armed, I could defend them! Now wouldn’t THAT be ironic.

    You notice that these school shootings don’t general take place in inner-city schools (like the one I teach at). I guess everyone realizes that the minute someone comes in with a weapon, all the kids will pull their own weapons out of the backpacks, and the homicidal maniac won’t have a chance.

  21. #21 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 29, 2007

    Back in the Olde Days of my childhood, some teachers could silence a smartass by throwing a piece of chalk with deadly accuracy. With this tradition in mind, I think that making profs carry small grenades would be much more appropriate.

  22. #22 snex
    June 29, 2007

    Really, university faculty do not represent a population with a high incidence of familiarity or training with guns. It’s not like saying you were going to give guns to a union of Texas cattle ranchers — it’s putting deadly weapons in the hands of a group of people who will mostly be utterly moronic as far as gun use goes.

    that is why they must pass a training course, be officially deputized, and be able to account for their gun and ammo regularly.

    Which is exactly what Cho did here at Virginia Tech. He killed the professors first with head shots before moving on to the students.

    this happening would not preclude other professors from hearing the gunshots and doing something about them.

    Or are you saying that you trust the process to vet and manage college instructors carrying deadly weapons will be handled better than the similar process for campus security?

    campus security tends to be made up of uneducated people who live nearby. have you ever heard of gun accidents by campus security? have you ever heard of them going crazy and shooting people? if the shlubs who make up campus security can be trusted to carry guns, why cant professors be?

  23. #23 Kseniya
    June 29, 2007

    “An armed society is a polite society” is one of the greatest lies ever told.

  24. #24 Jim A.
    June 29, 2007

    Well having a holster on your hip might cut down on the level of grade grubbing that goes on…”You got a C. End of discussion.” But the main question is, “How would you add your firing range score to your citation count in tenure decisions?”

  25. #25 D
    June 29, 2007

    I’m sure there are colleges and universities that have uncertified security personnel carrying guns. I have to wonder how frequent that is however, as every campus I’ve ever been on, the only armed people were the state licensed cops.

  26. #26 Milo Johnson
    June 29, 2007

    Anybody that looks to Ted Nugent as a socio-cultural expert gets the results they deserve. Personally, as a professor in Kansas, if I am told that I am either required to carry a weapon in class or to teach any non-existent scientific “controversies,” I will pack my stuff and walk out forever that very moment.

  27. #27 Damon B.
    June 29, 2007

    “The Professorial Bullets” is perhaps the greatest name for a punk-rock band I have ever heard.

  28. #28 Sceptical Chymist
    June 29, 2007

    I can see it now! A new phrase will creep into the lexicon: “Going Professorial”!

  29. #29 doug
    June 29, 2007

    Re: #22, “why can’t professor’s be?”

    I think the point is why should they be? Is arming teachers and researchers really a rational response to this problem? I realize that people who really like guns a lot seem to believe that if everyone were armed, violent crime would be drastically reduced, but those of us who choose not to pack heat find that claim rather implausible and need some decent evidence to be convinced otherwise.

    The faculty has enough to do without being deputized into some kind of collegiate militia and adding “use deadly force to defend the students body from violent lunatics” to their job descriptions.

  30. #30 mojojojo
    June 29, 2007

    Good morning class! I’m Professor Sam, but y’all are welome to call me Yosemite! I’m the rootin-est tootin-est PhD ever to slap iron! And if that terroristic rabbit shows up…BLAMMO! Right butween the eyebulbs.

  31. #31 Bob L
    June 29, 2007

    Wouldn’t this be a heck of the lot easier if they made it illegal to sell guns to court certified lunatics? Cho was declared mentally incompetent by a judge, wasn’t he? I suppose that’s just a radical, hard left, freedom hating idea. Just because he was voted “most likely to go on a shooting rampage” three years in a row before he did doesn’t mean there is any reason to restrict his right to firearms.

  32. #32 commissarjs
    June 29, 2007

    Nothing saves lives like a crossfire. Perhaps we should do the shooters one better and teachers and professors can lecture from a pillbox.

  33. #33 Carlie
    June 29, 2007

    Forget the student interaction – can you imagine how lively this would make faculty department meetings?

  34. #34 Firemancarl
    June 29, 2007

    Perhaps the biggest thing overlooked here is this, Unless you have served in the military or police and come under enemy fire and have been trained how to respond to enemy fire, the only thing that is going to happen is a lot of bullets (maybe) flying. You do not know how you will or even IF you will react to such a situation. Leave the guns to the professionals-just make sure they come up with a plan and enter to kill the bad guy post haste. Once a terrorist ( or gunman) has shot and killed someone, he/she has been justifiably been “bought and paid for” to think different one is naieve about terrorists and their ilk.

  35. #35 Mr. Mark
    June 29, 2007

    Might make for a useful teaching tool.

    Scene: crowded Bio 101 lecture hall.

    Enter Mild-Mannered, Unassuming professor with satchel, papers, books, and, of course, his trusty .357.

    Prof: “Welcome to Biology 101. Is there anyone here who believes in either of the following: irreducible complexity or the literal truth of the Book of Genesis?”

    Students mutter nervously. A few raise their hands.

    BANG!

    Prof: “OK. That was an example of selecting against an expressed trait: insanity, in this case. Let me repeat the question. Is there anyone here …”

  36. #36 Hypocee
    June 29, 2007

    “I think we’re over due for a teacher going to school and shooting a bunch of people. Bound to happen sooner or later.”

    Well, the worst school attack in American history was a school board member and custodian…not shooting though.

  37. #37 Steverino
    June 29, 2007

    I support the Right to Arm Bears!…oh wait….

  38. #38 David
    June 29, 2007

    campus security tends to be made up of uneducated people who live nearby.

    Here at the University of Washington, campus police are an actual police force. And at the University of Chicago, they’re a branch of the Chicago police.

    Really, you think professors are going to take the time to train to accurately hit a moving target? That’s not just a couple times at the firing range. It’s a crazy idea.

    And unfortunately, classrooms are too small to do good physics demonstrations with guns. Damn bullets travel too fast for clear projectile motion. Though maybe I could do conservation of momentum…

  39. #39 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    “The Professorial Bullets” is perhaps the greatest name for a punk-rock band I have ever heard.

    On the other hand, after comment #30, the Rootinest Tootinest Lutenists is the best name ever for a Renaissance music ensemble.

  40. #40 Troublesome Frog
    June 29, 2007

    Given the types of people we issue weapons to on a regular basis, I really think that just about all of the arguments people are presenting against here are serious stretches. The simplest reason not to do this is not that professors are somehow unable to handle a gun without killing innocent people. The simplest reason is that it’s a stupid idea. Really stupid. Like, “having the taxpayers pay for meteor strike insurance” stupid.

  41. #41 snex
    June 29, 2007

    Perhaps the biggest thing overlooked here is this, Unless you have served in the military or police and come under enemy fire and have been trained how to respond to enemy fire, the only thing that is going to happen is a lot of bullets (maybe) flying.

    do you really think campus security, or even regular beat cops in small college towns have firearms training beyond going to the range every so often? cops in most college towns are no more equipped to handle these types of situations than anybody else with a gun – except for the fact that they need to be called and then respond to the call. somebody already there can respond immediately.

    but here is the real issue. no matter what we do, no matter what restrictions we place on gun sales, people will slip through the cracks and massacres will happen. just what is the proposed solution that anti-gun people have? all you do is poo-poo the ideas of people trying to propose solutions, you never have any solutions of your own – and this is strikingly similar to how “intelligent design theorists” attack evolution. we all want massacres like this to have as little lives lost as possible. so just how do you plan to do this? the only “solution” i can infer from the anti-gun people is to just let it happen and wait for the cops to bumble out of the donut shop just in time to clean up the bodies. im sorry, but that is just not acceptable.

  42. #42 PZ Myers
    June 29, 2007

    I do too have a solution! Call the police. Let the people who have had training in firearms and handling criminals take care of the job.

    I know, you’ve got the handy stereotype of the Keystone Kops waddling out of the donut shop, but really — the worst police force in the world is going to be better equipped to handle this kind of problem than the best college faculty.

  43. #43 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    Snex, so the solution to having a force allegedly ignorant of how to handle themselves in enemy fire situations is to hand out guns to even more people who are ignorant of how to handle themselves in enemy fire situations, and somehow this will not result in preventable deaths and maimings by “friendly fire” in any case where a school shooting event occurs?

    If you believe that, I have some beautiful oceanfront property outside of Omaha to sell you.

  44. #44 Galbinus_Caeli
    June 29, 2007

    In addition to guns the professors should be issued with Scapels and emergency angioplasty kits in case someone stumbles in while having a heart attack.

    Oh, and be sure to include cranial drills in case of stroke.

    And maybe some ointment for when someone runs into the classroom after being struck by lightning.

  45. #45 Brian W.
    June 29, 2007

    The best trained gunman in the world still can’t see through the walls. Bullets however have no problem ripping through them.

  46. #46 snex
    June 29, 2007

    I do too have a solution! Call the police. Let the people who have had training in firearms and handling criminals take care of the job.

    exactly how did this help in VTech? the police were called.

    Snex, so the solution to having a force allegedly ignorant of how to handle themselves in enemy fire situations is to hand out guns to even more people who are ignorant of how to handle themselves in enemy fire situations, and somehow this will not result in preventable deaths and maimings by “friendly fire” in any case where a school shooting event occurs?

    perhaps you should actually read my posts, or even the original article from PZ’s post. they would be required to go through the same training that any other member of the campus security must go through. unless you honestly believe that campus security should not have guns either, you are being completely inconsistent to say that professors should not.

  47. #47 Sonja
    June 29, 2007

    I made this suggestion the last time you had a similar thread: a lot of lives could be saved if, after a shooter enters a building, the teachers had the ability to lock their classrooms. If the school does not want permanent locks on doors because of other safety concerns, they could come up with a special key or bolt teachers bring to class with them in case of an emergency.

    Deaths from school shootings I think are now exceeding deaths from school fires, yet all schools have fire drills. This should be treated like a similar public safety issue with prevention and safety training as the best way to save lives.

  48. #48 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    By the way, snex, just because people do not agree with handing out guns with the same careless abandon as handing out dental floss does not make us “anti-gun”. I know at least one person here has firearms experience–me–and I doubt I’m the only one.

    What I do know is that nothing in my experience with firearms teaches me how to defend a panicked group of people running chaotically against a moving target with his or her own firearm. I’m a pretty good shot, but even I might inadvertantly hit and perhaps even kill people who would not have suffered but for one of my bullets going astray.

  49. #49 snex
    June 29, 2007

    The best trained gunman in the world still can’t see through the walls. Bullets however have no problem ripping through them.

    and this applies equally well to police and campus security bullets. if you trust them with guns, you should trust anybody else with the same training.

  50. #50 snex
    June 29, 2007

    What I do know is that nothing in my experience with firearms teaches me how to defend a panicked group of people running chaotically against a moving target with his or her own firearm. I’m a pretty good shot, but even I might inadvertantly hit and perhaps even kill people who would not have suffered but for one of my bullets going astray.

    once again, this argument applies equally well to small town police forces and campus security officers with guns. why are you not demanding that they lose the ability to have guns?

    does anybody have an argument against professors who are properly trained carrying guns that would not also apply to campus security and/or the police?

    does anybody have an actual solution on what to do if some crazy kid comes into the classroom and starts shooting? seriously, i want to hear an answer to this. how do you save as many lives as possible?

  51. #51 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    perhaps you should actually read my posts, or even the original article from PZ’s post. they would be required to go through the same training that any other member of the campus security must go through. unless you honestly believe that campus security should not have guns either, you are being completely inconsistent to say that professors should not.

    Since you’re the one who’s telling us how bad the training of campus cops is, it still doesn’t answer my question. Or perhaps it does, and you’re indicating that yes, somehow no deaths or maimings by friendly fire will occur when you give ignorant people guns.

    In which case, you’re quite insane.

    Furthermore, even if I accept your characterization of campus cops as a bunch of idiots not fit to be let off the lead, the fact is that if you limit the ones with guns to a smaller number of ignorant people, then you will have less of a chance of stray bullets wounding someone than if you had more ignorant people shooting guns. Therefore there is no inconsistency. Got it?

  52. #52 snex
    June 29, 2007

    Since you’re the one who’s telling us how bad the training of campus cops is, it still doesn’t answer my question. Or perhaps it does, and you’re indicating that yes, somehow no deaths or maimings by friendly fire will occur when you give ignorant people guns.

    as incompetent as campus security is, can you name any instances where anybody died from friendly fire by campus security? can you name any instances where a campus security officer himself was the murderer? if you cant, why do you think professors would be more likely to fall prey to these problems?

    Furthermore, even if I accept your characterization of campus cops as a bunch of idiots not fit to be let off the lead, the fact is that if you limit the ones with guns to a smaller number of ignorant people, then you will have less of a chance of stray bullets wounding someone than if you had more ignorant people shooting guns. Therefore there is no inconsistency. Got it?

    im not arguing for arming everybody, but i certainly think the option should be available to anybody that wants it (and passes the relevant training, of course).

  53. #53 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    once again, this argument applies equally well to small town police forces and campus security officers with guns. why are you not demanding that they lose the ability to have guns?

    According to you. However, you have provided no evidence that what you claim is accurate, and, as I have previously pointed out, even if it is accurate there is something to be said for having less ignorant people running around firing off weapons.

    does anybody have an argument against professors who are properly trained carrying guns that would not also apply to campus security and/or the police?

    Does this mean an argument against professors carrying guns that does not apply to police, or an argument that you will accept does not apply to police? Those two things do not map 1:1 onto each other.

    does anybody have an actual solution on what to do if some crazy kid comes into the classroom and starts shooting? seriously, i want to hear an answer to this. how do you save as many lives as possible?

    It’s been reiterated in these comments multiple times: call the police. In addition, one can direct students away from the shooter, and perhaps if one is daring enough even use the confusion to try to disarm the shooter.

    Perhaps you could explain to us how creating a multi-front firefight in the middle of a campus is a superior solution?

  54. #54 snex
    June 29, 2007

    According to you. However, you have provided no evidence that what you claim is accurate, and, as I have previously pointed out, even if it is accurate there is something to be said for having less ignorant people running around firing off weapons.

    the evidence is in the fact that these people are not regularly engaged in combat with live targets. most small town cops will never fire their gun off the range – that is a fact that is trivially verifiable. they are not superhumans with some kind of magical training that makes them invulnerable in school shootings. they will be just as nervous and just as likely to cause accidental deaths as anybody else who goes to the range regularly.

    Does this mean an argument against professors carrying guns that does not apply to police…

    of course thats what it means. now do you have one, or do you only have evasions to the question?

    It’s been reiterated in these comments multiple times: call the police. In addition, one can direct students away from the shooter, and perhaps if one is daring enough even use the confusion to try to disarm the shooter.

    both of these “solutions” were tried at VATech. are you saying that the number of deaths at VATech was the minimum that could have possibly happened?

    Perhaps you could explain to us how creating a multi-front firefight in the middle of a campus is a superior solution?

    there is no “multi-front firefight.” this is just rhetorical game playing on your part. it only takes one shot to disarm a single gunman. every 5 seconds in between the time he starts shooting and the time he gets shot, he can kill another person. even if the chances of accidental death by friendly fire increases, the total body count will be much lower that it would be if you simply call the cops and wait.

  55. #55 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    as incompetent as campus security is, can you name any instances where anybody died from friendly fire by campus security? can you name any instances where a campus security officer himself was the murderer? if you cant, why do you think professors would be more likely to fall prey to these problems?

    More likely? We haven’t established a baseline for how often friendly fire incidents occur with police or campus security. Or do you think that the fallacious argument from ignorance is a substitute for data?

    im not arguing for arming everybody, but i certainly think the option should be available to anybody that wants it (and passes the relevant training, of course).

    I never said you were arguing for arming everybody. I am saying, however, that what you are arguing for would lead to a larger pool of people firing guns. This is not a hard concept to grasp. With the larger pool of people firing guns, the likelihood of a friendly fire wounding or killing increases. This is not a hard concept to grasp either. I know you have the peculiarly American fetishism for guns as the invariable solution for every problem, but please try to let those synapses fire a few times before spouting off, please?

  56. #56 snex
    June 29, 2007

    More likely? We haven’t established a baseline for how often friendly fire incidents occur with police or campus security. Or do you think that the fallacious argument from ignorance is a substitute for data?

    then by all means, show us the data. you claim that a good reason for not letting people have guns is the accidental death factor. one would think that you actually measured this factor before making it a key point of your argument.

    I never said you were arguing for arming everybody. I am saying, however, that what you are arguing for would lead to a larger pool of people firing guns. This is not a hard concept to grasp. With the larger pool of people firing guns, the likelihood of a friendly fire wounding or killing increases.

    the likelihood of friendly fire wounding or killing may indeed increase, but that is not the relevant measure. i want to have the lowest body count possible.

  57. #57 Leon
    June 29, 2007

    I’m a gunowner myself, and I have to say this is a first-rate bad idea. These people aren’t trained in the use of firearms, and if they’re trained most of them won’t keep up their training. Most of them probably aren’t even interested. Why would you issue deadly weapons to a group of people who are (by and large) uninterested and none too competent with weapons, for a situation so rare that accidents are likely to cause more deaths than the sort of thing you’re hoping to prevent?

    Now, one sensible idea might be to make it easier for professors to acquire concealed-carry permits. That way, those who want to carry, and know what they’re doing, can do so. Also snex (#7) had a reasonable suggestion. But a general-issue thing? I don’t think so.

  58. #58 Leon
    June 29, 2007

    The simplest reason not to do this is not that professors are somehow unable to handle a gun without killing innocent people. The simplest reason is that it’s a stupid idea. Really stupid. Like, “having the taxpayers pay for meteor strike insurance” stupid.

    Well put, Troublesome Frog. I second that.

  59. #59 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    the evidence is in the fact that these people are not regularly engaged in combat with live targets. most small town cops will never fire their gun off the range – that is a fact that is trivially verifiable. they are not superhumans with some kind of magical training that makes them invulnerable in school shootings. they will be just as nervous and just as likely to cause accidental deaths as anybody else who goes to the range regularly.

    Okay, so we have established that going to the range regularly will not magically convey in inability to kill or wound someone in a friendly fire situation. I’m glad we got past the point that I’m not arguing, and perhaps we can use it as a jumping-off point for the argument I am making.

    If the foregoing premise is true, then we can infer that anyone who goes to the range regularly will not get this same magical property.

    All you are advocating is that professors receive the same gun training as cops (actually less, because cops in certain areas have on-the-job training that professors are less likely to have). This amounts to a few qualifying runs at the range.

    Therefore, given the fact that we have not trained people to the extent that they will not cause friendly fire deaths and maimings, and probably never can, arming professors will simply increase the likelihood of friendly fire maimings and deaths because there will be more people shooting.

    I still don’t get what’s difficult to understand about this point.

    of course thats what it means. now do you have one, or do you only have evasions to the question?

    Of course I do. It’s the one I’ve been making all the time: if you arm more people, more mistakes will be made even if your training is so perfect that the odds of any individual person making a mistake are the same for the professors as for the cops.

    both of these “solutions” were tried at VATech. are you saying that the number of deaths at VATech was the minimum that could have possibly happened?

    How do you know that your untested solution of giving professors guns will result in the minimum number of deaths that could have possibly happened?

    there is no “multi-front firefight.”

    Let’s see:

    Shooter alone: one-front firefight
    Shooter and cops: minimally, a two-front firefight.
    Shooter, cops, and professors swarming from all around the campus to take a shot at the shooter: multi-front firefight.

    Denying the obvious doesn’t make you credible.

    this is just rhetorical game playing on your part. it only takes one shot to disarm a single gunman.

    Correct. However, the likelihood of that shot actually hitting its mark is rather low. Even for the highest trained shooters in the world, US military snipers, the average rounds per kill is 1.3, and what you are suggesting is nowhere near as rigorous as the training they get.

    So would you care to do the math on the likelihood of hitting the moving target vs. hitting innocent bystanders given the fact that a) there may be one shooter compared to several hundred students, b) many people will be firing, and c) these many people will be firing multiple rounds all around the area hoping that one of them will happen to be the fatal or at least incapacitating shot.

    every 5 seconds in between the time he starts shooting and the time he gets shot, he can kill another person.

    Every 5 seconds? It doesn’t take nearly that long for a semiautomatic weapon to chamber the next cartridge, or indeed for a fully automatic weapon to fire. Where do you get the 5 seconds figure?

    even if the chances of accidental death by friendly fire increases, the total body count will be much lower that it would be if you simply call the cops and wait.

    And here’s the big question: HOW DO YOU KNOW?

  60. #60 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    then by all means, show us the data. you claim that a good reason for not letting people have guns is the accidental death factor. one would think that you actually measured this factor before making it a key point of your argument.

    You’re the one who’s making quantification the basis for your argument, so you show the data. I am simply relying on general principles: the number of potential events in a probabilistic model increases with more runs (in this case, more people firing weapons), however low the probability in any case.

    It’s your argument that giving more people guns will result in less woundings and fatalities overall. In order to show this, you must establish a baseline for how likely a friendly fire wounding is to occur in a school situation, then estimate up based on how many professors would be carrying weapons overall. And you have to weigh the possibility of accidental or deliberate shootings, and weigh all those factors in light of the rarity of school shooting situations and come up with an average death toll for a school shooting situation where your plan would be instantiated.

    So far, I’ve seen nothing of the sort from you.

  61. #61 Leon
    June 29, 2007

    You know, it seems to me the most sensible reaction to this might be to install a panic button in each classroom. Having the ability to immediately call for help would shorten response times a bit.

    Maybe something like this: pushing the button once alerts the main office (good for not-quite-emergency situations), pushing three or more times calls 911. Pushing twice, or holding down the button, would cancel the last signal.

  62. #62 cbutterb
    June 29, 2007

    snex, here’s the main difference between an actual police officer and a faculty member who’s been issued a firearm: It’s the cop’s job to protect the safety of the people around him. Being aware of threats in their surroundings is, or should be, at the fore of his consciousness at all times. Being vigilant is what he does.

    Faculty, by contrast, do not, and cannot be expected to, place that kind of constant attention on tactics and combat preparedness–because they have a damn job to do. There’s a reason we have a division of labor between cops and not-cops in the first place.

  63. #63 snex
    June 29, 2007

    i dont understand why you are all attempting to place the emphasis on accidental deaths or injury due to friendly fire. this is NOT the relevant measure!

    the relevant measure is how many innocent people will die or be injured. when you only have one person intending to harm innocents, and it only takes one successful hit to take him out, the potential for accidents far outweighs the potential for innocent deaths if NOTHING AT ALL IS DONE TO STOP THE MURDERER!

    it is complete reality-denial to think that having armed and trained professors right there immediately in case of a problem could possibly lead to more deaths than having nobody at all who has any chance whatsoever to stop a gunman. when only the gunman has a gun, he can kill as many people as he wants, and that is the issue you all seem to be ignoring.

  64. #64 Stephen Wells
    June 29, 2007

    Speaking as an academic who’s about to take up a teaching position: you cannot possibly tell me that, as part of my duties, I may be required to SHOOT PEOPLE. snex’s position appears to be predicated on the idea that faculty will be overjoyed at the opportunity to be given weapons.

    Fortunately I’ll be in the U.K., where gun ownership is much rarer and, mirabile dictu, so are shooting deaths.

    Reminds me a little of one of the Onion’s “Voices” snippets re. sending more troops to Iraq: “We’re going to keep sending heavily armed teenagers until the violence lessens.”

  65. #65 snex
    June 29, 2007

    the potential for accidents far outweighs the potential for innocent deaths

    obviously that should be reversed…

  66. #66 snex
    June 29, 2007

    you cannot possibly tell me that, as part of my duties, I may be required to SHOOT PEOPLE.

    oh brother.. if you dont want to do it, dont opt to take the course. can anybody at least try to be sensible in this thread?

  67. i dont understand why you are all attempting to place the emphasis on accidental deaths or injury due to friendly fire.

    Nullifidian already told you in comments 59 and 60. More people with guns = more accidental shootings, even if everyone gets perfect training. School shootings, thankfully, are pretty rare. I’d bet that nobody here (especially including you, snex) has done even the most cursory math for the situation, but it seems pretty evident to me that drastically increasing the number of professors with guns in the anticipation of an exceedingly rare school shooting is a terrible idea.

  68. #68 snex
    June 29, 2007

    Nullifidian already told you in comments 59 and 60. More people with guns = more accidental shootings

    and as i already told you, this is irrelevant. a few accidental shootings is far less than the number of intentional shootings that will happen when nobody has the ability to stop a gunman.

    a crazed gunman can kill as many people as bullets he can carry. if nobody is able to stop him, this is exactly what he will do. accidental deaths are indeed tragic, but they are not an argument against disarmament.

  69. #69 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    the relevant measure is how many innocent people will die or be injured. when you only have one person intending to harm innocents, and it only takes one successful hit to take him out, the potential for accidents far outweighs the potential for innocent deaths if NOTHING AT ALL IS DONE TO STOP THE MURDERER!

    a) Nobody is talking about not doing anything, except you.

    b) It’s revealing how you draw a distinction between innocent people and those who are hit accidentally. Apparently they’re to be considered guilty for having the coarse manners to step in front of the professor’s bullet.

    Now for those of us who are not insane, innocent people include those who are shot accidentally, and since your proposal increases the possibility of more accidental woundings and deaths, they increase the likelihood that more innocent people will be shot.

  70. a few accidental shootings is far less than the number of intentional shootings that will happen when nobody has the ability to stop a gunman.

    But how do you know? School shootings are exceedingly rare, and even more rare on university campuses. Before Cho at VT, it was…what, the University of Texas one with the sniper? That was in 1966. If you were serious about stopping school shootings through arming instructors, you’d be talking about high school teachers and even junior high teachers. Is that what you’re suggesting? How about elementary school? Where exactly does this stop – who in our society should not be armed?

    I understand that school shootings are a very intense situation, and they cause some very visceral reactions. I just think that, considering their rarity, policymakers should take a few deep breaths before radically altering the educational system to prevent school massacres.

  71. #71 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    and as i already told you, this is irrelevant. a few accidental shootings is far less than the number of intentional shootings that will happen when nobody has the ability to stop a gunman.

    Here is something to ponder: YOU…DO…NOT…KNOW…THIS!

    The majority of comments here flow out of the fact that you cannot comprehend this basic concept, and the rest of us trying to explain it to you.

    a crazed gunman can kill as many people as bullets he can carry.

    “Can” perhaps. Is likely to? No way. A crazed gunman is not, by the nature of his pathology, a better shot than a US military sniper.

    if nobody is able to stop him, this is exactly what he will do.

    It is not the case that a crazed shooter, or a crazed anyone, will manage a 1:1 kill ratio. He won’t even manage a 1:1 hit ratio. Furthermore, it is not the case that nobody will be able to stop him if professors are not armed. Unarmed people can disarm armed assailants, and the cops responding to the scene will not be unarmed.

    accidental deaths are indeed tragic, but they are not an argument against disarmament.

    This is not an argument for disarmament, it is an argument against arming currently unarmed professors. Get a grip.

  72. #72 Stephen Wells
    June 29, 2007

    Firstly, the whole proposal is based on the idea that it’s a good thing for faculty to be armed, which I profoundly disagree with to begin with, much as I wouldn’t suggest routinely arming doctors.

    Secondly, if it’s known that faculty are armed, then if someone wants to get hold a gun their first action will be to jump a member of faculty! Do you want us to go around like ninjas, constantly alert for surprise attacks, or do you want us to teach and research- you know, our jobs?

    Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, if the problem is unstable people getting their hands on guns, then adding MORE GUNS is not a solution. You can reduce the risks of a school shooting by making it much more difficult than it currently is for people to get guns.

    Fourthly, even the voluntary sign-up aspect is still based on the idea that it’s a good thing to put guns in the hands of those members of faculty who really want to carry guns. I am even more nervous of guns in the hands of the enthusiastic than I am of guns in the hands of the unwilling.

    Sensible enough for you?

  73. #73 snex
    June 29, 2007

    who in our society should not be armed?

    anybody who does not want to be armed or cannot pass whatever strict standards are required for being armed.

    a) Nobody is talking about not doing anything, except you.

    doing nothing is exactly what your solution is. by the time the cops arrive, the killer has already run out of ammo and blown his own head off. im sorry, but “call the cops” is not a viable solution. cops can only prevent a crime if they can be there before it is over, and with school shootings, this does not happen.

    b) It’s revealing how you draw a distinction between innocent people and those who are hit accidentally. Apparently they’re to be considered guilty for having the coarse manners to step in front of the professor’s bullet.

    whats revealing is your willingness to resort to stupid ad hominems. really, this is just pathetic, and if you cannot debate respectfully then i see no reason to further respond to you.

  74. #74 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    doing nothing is exactly what your solution is. by the time the cops arrive, the killer has already run out of ammo and blown his own head off. im sorry, but “call the cops” is not a viable solution. cops can only prevent a crime if they can be there before it is over, and with school shootings, this does not happen.

    I’m glad to see that the police are so useless. One wonders why we have them around at all, beyond assassinating Black Panther leaders and fitting up or clubbing political dissidents.

    Besides, call the cops was not my lone suggestion. I also made the point that one can direct students and others away from the shooter and, perhaps, disarm the gunman. If I’m in close enough quarters where I stand a better than evens chance of hitting him and not hitting another student, then I’m close enough to reach out and take the bastard’s gun.

    whats revealing is your willingness to resort to stupid ad hominems. really, this is just pathetic, and if you cannot debate respectfully then i see no reason to further respond to you.

    Hey, you have only yourself to blame for drawing a distinction between the innocent and the accidentally hit.

    Besides, I’m not really interested in cries of “ad hominem” in this case. It’s the shout of someone who yearns for the halcyon days of his high school debate society. However, in this case, though it has no fancy Latin name, there is also the fallacy of giving credence to the totally deranged, which one might argue is a far larger source of avoidable error in the world.

  75. #75 snex
    June 29, 2007

    Here is something to ponder: YOU…DO…NOT…KNOW…THIS!

    The majority of comments here flow out of the fact that you cannot comprehend this basic concept, and the rest of us trying to explain it to you.

    of course i know this! it is based on the fact that it only takes ONE shot to disable the gunman. the worst case scenario is that the number of deaths is exactly the same as it would have been had nobody else been armed. the best case scenario is that there are fewer deaths. it is simply not going to be the case that there will be more deaths than would otherwise happen.

    just what part of this do you fail to understand? the very reason we arm police officers is because an armed police force reduces the total number of deaths. yes, even cops sometimes shoot people accidentally. but the number of accidental deaths by cops plus the number of intentional deaths by criminals is STILL less than the number of deaths we would have with an unarmed police force.

  76. #76 Robert
    June 29, 2007

    Increasing the pool of qualified armed people might raise the chances of friendly fire but it would also raise the chances of stopping an attack sooner.

    Anyway, it’s up to the local University to decide this issue. Of course the college officials can allow qualified faculty and students to carry tazers. That would of increased the chances of stopping Cho sooner.

    Keep in mind that such attacks are rare though.

  77. #77 snex
    June 29, 2007

    Hey, you have only yourself to blame for drawing a distinction between the innocent and the accidentally hit.

    no, what i have to blame is the fact that you pay more attention to sentence structure and which words are used than to the actual content of the argument.

    you might as well declare that im wrong because i dont capitalize words.

  78. #78 commissarjs
    June 29, 2007

    Why do the gun nuts want to arm everyone? Poorly trained people throwing bullets willy-nilly is never a good idea.

    Besides I can’t go a week without hearing how morally repugnant those mean old liberal college professors are from some right-wing nut case. I find it odd that a group of people that doesn’t trust professors enough to have them teach class does trust them enough to have them carry a weapon to protect that class.

  79. it is simply not going to be the case that there will be more deaths than would otherwise happen.

    During the shooting event this is correct. During the vast majority of the time when a school shooting event is not occurring, this is wrong. The likelihood of any kind of accidental shooting occurring when there’s a gun in the classroom is infinitely greater than it is when nobody has a gun.

    the very reason we arm police officers is because an armed police force reduces the total number of deaths. yes, even cops sometimes shoot people accidentally. but the number of accidental deaths by cops plus the number of intentional deaths by criminals is STILL less than the number of deaths we would have with an unarmed police force.

    This doesn’t even approach comparing apples and oranges; it’s more like apples and Shakespeare. You’re purposefully overlooking the fact that shootings in university settings are incredibly rare; you’re loudly defending your solution to a problem that by and large does not exist.

  80. #80 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    of course i know this! it is based on the fact that it only takes ONE shot to disable the gunman.

    I see. So the way that you “know” this is based on the completely pie in the sky scenario where everyone has a 1:1 bullet to kill ratio (including the shooter, an assumption which you’ve previously used to argue the dread consequences of not arming everybody in sight).

    the worst case scenario is that the number of deaths is exactly the same as it would have been had nobody else been armed.

    No, the worst case scenario is that more people are killed or wounded than had only the cops been armed.

    the best case scenario is that there are fewer deaths.

    And yet you’ve never provided a single scrap of evidence that what you call the “best case scenario” would obtain enough to make it worth the risk.

    it is simply not going to be the case that there will be more deaths than would otherwise happen.

    No, it is the case that there will be more deaths than would otherwise happen. I can do unsfounded assertions too, and they’re just as illegitimate.

    just what part of this do you fail to understand?

    Apparently I fail to understand when you’re going to come up with evidence to support your contentions.

    the very reason we arm police officers is because an armed police force reduces the total number of deaths. yes, even cops sometimes shoot people accidentally. but the number of accidental deaths by cops plus the number of intentional deaths by criminals is STILL less than the number of deaths we would have with an unarmed police force.

    Since you seem to have problems with comprehending the arguments on offer, I’ll give you this very easy guide to go by:

    I AM NOT ARGUING FOR DISARMING THE POLICE!

  81. #81 Josh
    June 29, 2007

    Easy access to guns has fatal results, therefore we need more armed citizens.

    Campus cops are insufficiently trained, therefore we need to train and arm private citizens.

    K – 12 schools are unable to live up to testable standards, so threaten them with defunding or closings.

    It’s the old liberatarian privatization argument that we’ve recently seen applied to FEMA and VA hospitals: deal with the inadequacy of public services/state regulations by any means other than improving them.

  82. #82 snex
    June 29, 2007

    You’re purposefully overlooking the fact that shootings in university settings are incredibly rare; you’re loudly defending your solution to a problem that by and large does not exist.

    by all means feel free to offer a solution. i realize that school shootings are rare, but that is no excuse to not be adequately prepared for them. if you have a better way to do it, now is the time to elaborate.

    i hear that KT-event-sized meteors hitting the earth are rather rare as well, but we would be stupid to not prepare for one.

  83. by all means feel free to offer a solution.

    Off the top of my head? I kind of like the one that my university has implemented, where students can sign up to receive text alerts on their cell phones when a campus emergency happens. Also, training for campus police on emergency response seems like a good idea. I like the “panic button” idea mentioned upthread, too.

    Guns in classrooms is a drastic measure. The only way it would be a reasonable response is if there were school shootings occurring on university campuses yearly, instead of once every four decades. Regular law enforcement methods, combined with increased notification procedures, seems to me to be an adequate response to such a “threat”. Arming faculty is just a dangerous jerking of the knee.

  84. #84 snex
    June 29, 2007

    Since you seem to have problems with comprehending the arguments on offer, I’ll give you this very easy guide to go by:

    I AM NOT ARGUING FOR DISARMING THE POLICE!

    why not? your arguments all apply equally well to the police. the police arent perfect shots, and they do sometimes kill or injure innocents accidentally. this is the very reason you dont want professors to be armed. why is it an appropriate argument for professors but not for the police?

  85. #85 Robert
    June 29, 2007

    Personally, if I was a professor at some university, I would want to carry a gun (or a taser) with some training. I do not trust strangers. Why? Because I know the true nature of “Homo sapiens”. We are not created in “God’s Image”. We are not noble and “a little lower than the Angels”. There is no such thing as “civilized humanity”. We are flesh-eating great apes with superwammydyne ape brains. One could easily see this on the school playground or in a daycare center. Just as a chimp ape must be wary of another stranger chimp that might rip its balls off, so must the human ape.

  86. #86 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    why not? your arguments all apply equally well to the police. the police arent perfect shots, and they do sometimes kill or injure innocents accidentally. this is the very reason you dont want professors to be armed. why is it an appropriate argument for professors but not for the police?

    Hey kids! Do you know what time it is?!

    Kids: It’s time to repeat what has already been said way upthread!

    That’s right!

    From comment #62 by cbutterb:

    snex, here’s the main difference between an actual police officer and a faculty member who’s been issued a firearm: It’s the cop’s job to protect the safety of the people around him. Being aware of threats in their surroundings is, or should be, at the fore of his consciousness at all times. Being vigilant is what he does.

    Faculty, by contrast, do not, and cannot be expected to, place that kind of constant attention on tactics and combat preparedness–because they have a damn job to do. There’s a reason we have a division of labor between cops and not-cops in the first place.

    And from comment #59 by me:

    Okay, so we have established that going to the range regularly will not magically convey in inability to kill or wound someone in a friendly fire situation. I’m glad we got past the point that I’m not arguing, and perhaps we can use it as a jumping-off point for the argument I am making.

    If the foregoing premise is true, then we can infer that anyone who goes to the range regularly will not get this same magical property.

    All you are advocating is that professors receive the same gun training as cops (actually less, because cops in certain areas have on-the-job training that professors are less likely to have). This amounts to a few qualifying runs at the range.

    Therefore, given the fact that we have not trained people to the extent that they will not cause friendly fire deaths and maimings, and probably never can, arming professors will simply increase the likelihood of friendly fire maimings and deaths because there will be more people shooting.

    I still don’t get what’s difficult to understand about this point.

    Hey, children, perhaps it’ll sink in this time.

    [cue children’s disbelieving laughter]

    Well, we’ll see after this short advertising break!

  87. #87 snex
    June 29, 2007

    repeating what has already been said is somewhat pointless when a) it was also refuted upthread, and b) it doesnt support your argument.

    the proposal in the OP is to arm professors. being armed causes accidental deaths. therefore, professors should not be armed.

    this argument is IDENTICAL in form to the below.

    cops are armed. being armed causes accidental deaths. therefore, cops should not be armed.

    you cannot support one and not the other without being inconsistent.

  88. #88 PZ Myers
    June 29, 2007

    Let’s add the facts that professors outnumber the police on campus, that professors are relatively more poorly trained and far less interested in guns, and that police are hired specifically to manage dangerous and criminal situations, while professors are hired to teach. You’re glossing over some rather important differences.

  89. the proposal in the OP is to arm professors. being armed causes accidental deaths. therefore, professors should not be armed.

    Except nobody is making that argument. What we’re saying is that arming professors would cause more accidental deaths than the lives it would save during school shootings. This is analogous to the following:

    Cops are armed. Having armed cops causes more accidental deaths than the deaths that armed cops can prevent. Therefore, cops should not be armed.

    This is most definitely not what Nullifidian (or anyone else) is saying, but it’s what you’re saying he’s (or she’s) saying.

    You’re tilting at windmills, snex.

  90. And yeah, what PZ just said.

  91. #91 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    Okay, moron, let’s take it from the top:

    repeating what has already been said is somewhat pointless when a) it was also refuted upthread, and b) it doesnt support your argument.

    You never refuted it, nor can you without some rather strange math since what I am arguing is basic probabilistic principles. Furthermore, since what I repeated is my argument, how can it not support it?

    the proposal in the OP is to arm professors. being armed causes accidental deaths. therefore, professors should not be armed.

    Oh, I see. That’s because you’re creating a strawman of my argument. Let’s try another formulation on for size (the one that was provided in comment #59, for example, and every other one).

    Even trained people shoot other people accidentally. Professors, by definition of their job, are going to lack the sort of on-the-job training that some cops get in terms of handling shootouts. At best, they can just train at the range.

    So, you’re taking a not-quite-as-trained group as the cops and giving them guns, and, since even the cops’ shootouts sometimes lead to accidents, arming professors is going to lead to even more accidents in a shootout situation.

    Furthermore, you have not taken account of the accidental and even deliberate shootings by professors or unauthorized people who have taken the prof’s gun that would happen the rest of the time.

    this argument is IDENTICAL in form to the below.

    cops are armed. being armed causes accidental deaths. therefore, cops should not be armed.

    you cannot support one and not the other without being inconsistent.

    Since I do not support either of the strawmen constructed, the question is moot.

  92. Bah! I wrote “tilting at windmills”, but I meant “tilting at strawmen”, which may not make much more sense, but does fit a little better.

    Goddamn lit review. All these papers are killing both my soul and my ability to focus on things that aren’t heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry. And, apparently, my ability to use the preview button.

  93. #93 snex
    June 29, 2007

    Except nobody is making that argument. What we’re saying is that arming professors would cause more accidental deaths than the lives it would save during school shootings.

    and this has absolutely no basis in reality. it ignores every single instance where an armed citizen has prevented a crime. it ignores the unbelievable numbers of innocent people that actually die in mass murders. it is simply not a debatable point that mass murders would be less harmful if more people were armed. the only sensible argument one can make is that the accidental deaths during normal peace-time would outweigh the number of lives saved during a school massacre. and since 1) there is virtually no data on this matter, and 2) we do not see any unacceptable numbers of accidental deaths from armed campus security, i do not see any good reason to deny the right for professors with proper training to carry weapons.

  94. #94 W. Kevin Vicklund
    June 29, 2007

    In the past 11 1/2 years, there have been a total of 4 college shootings worldwide. Two of those were targeted shootings (meaning that the shooter was only killing specific people), and there was only one death in the other non-VT shooting (18 wounded). (This stat obviously excludes in-dorm domestic shootings)

    It simply makes no sense to raise the background risk (ie, heat-of-the-moment crimes)by arming professors, who generally have high stress jobs filled with confrontations and very little time to train (and note that most *armed* campus security departments are actually fully trained police officers), for an event that occurs once or twice a decade – worldwide.

  95. #95 PZ Myers
    June 29, 2007

    OK, tell me. What are the unbelievable numbers of innocent people that actually die in mass murders in university classrooms per year? On average, say, over the last ten years.

    Then calculate how many guns will be placed in classrooms to correct this terrible problem.

    Come on, I want specific numbers. Do some research.

  96. #96 snex
    June 29, 2007

    nullifidian, can you name any instances where armed campus security has caused unacceptable numbers of accidental deaths?

    can you name any instances where an armed campus security officer was the crazed gunman himself?

    can you explain why professors would be any different?

    i didnt think so.

  97. #97 snex
    June 29, 2007

    OK, tell me. What are the unbelievable numbers of innocent people that actually die in mass murders in university classrooms per year? On average, say, over the last ten years.

    you tell me something PZ. if an armed professor took cho out before he had the chance to kill anybody, what would you think? i would call that man a hero, but apparently you would prefer the way it actually went down – and i find that both sad and disturbing.

    we are never going to eliminate violent crime, and the police will never be able to fully protect us from it. if you want to sit there and be a potential victim, then that is your choice and you are entitled to it. but dont pretend you have the right to tell others that they must do the same.

    you have absolutely no evidence that trained and armed civilians pose an extra danger than what already exists. there is plenty of evidence that armed civilians actually prevent danger that would have otherwise gone unchecked.

  98. #98 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    nullifidian, can you name any instances where armed campus security has caused unacceptable numbers of accidental deaths?

    can you name any instances where an armed campus security officer was the crazed gunman himself?

    can you explain why professors would be any different?

    i didnt think so.

    Does huffing the chemical cocktail of fired gunpowder cause irreversable stupidity?

    I have never argued that professors are somehow worse than campus security or cops, or that professors are more likely to develop into crazed gunmen. All I am saying, for what seems like the thousandth time, is that if one wants to minimize accidental woundings and deaths in a firefight, then one had better not give firearms to an additional group of people. It doesn’t matter if you’re advocating arming the professors, the janitors, or the university rugby team. In any case where you have non-professional people shooting off guns in addition to the professional people, you are likely to have more accidental deaths and woundings, particularly in a chaotic context where there’s a school shooter and everyone’s running for their lives.

  99. #99 Tex
    June 29, 2007

    you have absolutely no evidence that trained and armed civilians pose an extra danger than what already exists.

    Does this count?

    Kent State University, May 4, 1970:

    Killed (and approximate distance from the National Guard):

    Allison Krause 343 ft. (105 m); fatal left chest wound

    Jeffrey Glen Miller 265 ft. (81 m); shot through the mouth – killed instantly

    Sandra Lee Scheuer 390 ft. (119 m); fatal neck wound

    William Knox Schroeder 382 ft. (116 m); fatal chest wound

    Wounded (and approximate distance from the National Guard):

    Thomas Mark Grace 225 ft. (69 m); struck in left ankle

    Joseph Lewis Jr. 71 ft. (22 m); hit twice in the right abdomen and left lower leg

    John R. Cleary 110 ft. (34 m); upper left chest wound

    Alan Canfora 225 ft. (69 m); hit in his right wrist

    Dean Kahler 300 ft. (91 m); back wound fracturing the vertebrae – permanently paralyzed from the chest down

    Douglas Wrentmore 329 ft. (100 m); hit in his right knee

    James Dennis Russell 375 ft. (114 m); hit in his right thigh from a bullet and in the right forehead by birdshot – both wounds minor

    Robert Stamps 495 ft. (151 m); hit in his right buttock

    Donald Scott MacKenzie 750 ft. (229 m); neck wound

  100. #100 Chris
    June 29, 2007

    this argument is IDENTICAL in form to the below.

    True. Therefore, if there are no significant differences between the category of “cops” and the category of “professors”, then the same conclusions would indeed apply.

    If, in fact, there are no significant differences between those groups, one or the other (possibly both) needs different hiring and training standards. Because they are supposed to be, as pointed out upthread, trained and specialized to do different things, and therefore cannot simply be substituted one for the other. If you’re not going to ask cops to teach nuclear physics, don’t ask professors to subdue violent deranged people. It’s not in their job description.

    Arming the very few professors who are also fully trained as cops (or maybe military personnel) and complete an appropriate recertificiation program regularly would probably not be a disaster – they know how to handle their firearm safely, how to keep it away from people who shouldn’t have it, etc. There are so few of them that the chance that one will be nearer to the site of the shooting than the police is virtually nil, of course – and if one is, they’ll still have to find and take down the shooter without hitting innocents and without being shot themselves first. So I doubt that any shootings would actually be materially affected by such a policy. But if it makes people feel that something useful is being done, it might be OK as a placebo.

    Based on your inability to distinguish between a shot, a hit and an incapacitating hit, I kind of doubt you have much experience handling firearms in combat. (Not that I do either, but at least I know more than *that*.) What qualifies you to second-guess the actions of the people who actually *did* respond to the VT shooting? Simple armchair quarterbacking?

  101. #101 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    you tell me something PZ. if an armed professor took cho out before he had the chance to kill anybody, what would you think? i would call that man a hero….

    So, in other words, you’re not going to provide us with the number of deaths in university shootings on a yearly average compared to the number of guns required to arm all the professors.

    How bloody typical.

  102. #102 Bryson Brown
    June 29, 2007

    I’m at a loss to understand why some support the idea of Profs ‘packing heat’ to class. There’s plenty of evidence for PZ’s point, that tragic accidents and mistakes will outweigh the once-in-a-decade chance that a crazed shooter will be stopped. Similarly, there’s plenty of evidence that I would be more likely to accidentally shoot a family member than to shoot an intruder. After all, family members are around all the time, while–at least to date, and knocking on wood–we haven’t yet had an intruder in the house. Worse, of course, is the fact that sometimes I’m tired, or cranky, or just clumsy… guns are inherently dangerous objects, and they aren’t very forgiving of mistakes. I sometimes think the problem is a confusion between moral questions of intent and actual outcomes. To some people, the accidents and ‘acts of passion’ don’t matter: They aren’t intentional, and don’t count against the proposal to have more guns around. The one-in-a-million chance that we just might prevent a crime and even save a life matters far more, since that’s a deliberate choice (and represents a kind of heroic violence that has strong visceral appeal). To my way of thinking, this is a very muddled approach to public policy, which should be based on evidence about best overall outcomes, not this sort of ‘moral’ weighing that discounts the unintentional and conversely exalts intentional/heroic actions out of all proportion to their likelihood or the price we pay in trying to make them possible.

  103. #103 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    What qualifies you to second-guess the actions of the people who actually *did* respond to the VT shooting? Simple armchair quarterbacking?

    Oh no, it’s much more impressive: the basis for arming professors is his fantasy image of a heroic gun toting academic. And if you fail to be overwhelmed by that tearjerking image, then you’re just a cold-hearted bastard who wanted those students at Virginia Tech to die.

  104. #104 JJR
    June 29, 2007

    Why do the gun nuts want to arm everyone?

    We don’t. That’s not what the proposal said, or suggested. Go back and re-read it. And nobody is asking PZ to step up and be Bruce Willis, either. If you don’t feel comfortable carrying, then don’t.

    That said, I would probably oppose the proposal as written, because it seems like a luxurious subsidy and a waste of educational funding that could be better spent elsewhere.

    Simply remove the legal campus restrictions on already state-regulated CHL holders and be done with it. Let those who’ve invested the time, money, and effort to train and qualify to carry concealed continue to do so ON as well as OFF of campus. Those who don’t care to carry, fine. Nobody is suggesting any compulsion in this area.

    Serious gun owners who shoot/train regularly take gun safety VERY seriously, and they do NOT take lightly the awesome responsibility that carrying concealed places upon them. I’m not a professor, I’m a librarian (though currently not employed in a library). All things being equal, I’d just as soon concealed-carry to work (maybe a Bersa 380 in an ankle holster, or a Ruger SP101 similarly concealed) than not do so…or at the very least legally keep a pistol in the glove compartment of my car parked on campus, and a shotgun in the trunk. I would, purely out of personal interest (i.e. as a hobby) not only visit the shooting range regularly but also pay for classes on “combat shooting” and the like, because I find it interesting. I would hope that I could work a lifetime and never have to pull out a firearm or fire a shot in anger. Many cops are lucky enough to retire without ever having to do so. But there’s nothing wrong per se with simply being vigilant & prepared.

    Yes, accidents do happen with firearms, sometimes, but as Gary Kleck and Don B. Kates (both professors, btw) have argued persuasively, these are statistically insignificant compared to other accidental injuries and accidental deaths in the grand scheme of things.

    Australia and Britain have largely outlawed guns, and yet crime rates have gone UP, not down, and gun violence hasn’t gone away as a result of disarming legal gun owners.

    I do not advocate “arming everyone”, merely in granting the fullest freedom to those citizens who understand the awesome responsibility that gun ownership & legal carry entail and are willing, out of their own pockets, to pay for the requisite training & certification, so long as the fee is not excessive and within reach of those of even modest income, perhaps on a sliding scale. I’m all for keeping around armed Cops, too. I worry about the “militarization” of modern police forces, and the worrisome blurring of lines between “national defense” and “criminal justice” roles, i.e. between military and police…these should be more separate and distinct than they currently are–but that’s another kettle of fish.

    one last aside, someone wrote:
    it is based on the fact that it only takes ONE shot to disable the gunman.

    Depends on the size of the round and the placement of the shot. If you’re talking .45 ACP or .44 or .357 magnum, that’s probably correct…one of those rounds striking the human body pretty much anywhere will be devastating. If you’re talking .22 LR, .380, even some 9mm & .40 S&W, etc—then not necessarily so. I don’t know–haven’t researched it–but I suspect gunman Cho probably used the Glock 9mm for most of his kills, with the Walther .22LR pistol merely to “cover” himself while he reloaded the Glock.

    Anyway, shame on PZ for distorting what the original article/proposal said, and shame on the rest of you for running with it thus.

  105. #105 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    The other concern: how often has this happened at your university?
    […]
    Angry student storms into your office, red in the face and furious about his exam.

    Not a single time. Never. Completely unthinkable. Because in Austria, you see, professors (tenured ones anyway) are almighty. Mwahah. If you’ve flunked, you’ve flunked. If you’ve flunked because they wanted half of the class to flunk*, you’ve still flunked. If you’ve flunked because they’ve seen from your ID number that you’ve only enrolled this year, so they deem you unworthy of their course which isn’t meant for lowly beginners**, you’ve still flunked. Theoretically you might sue, but a) good luck with that, and b) Europeans don’t sue. (Interestingly, we also don’t make jokes about how greedy lawyers are — though I don’t think ours are any less greedy than US ones.)

    That said, you can take every exam 3 times the normal way in Austria, and if you’ve flunked all 3 times (which hardly ever happens), you can take it a 4th time in front of a commission. That’s the other side of the Grand Coalition.

    * Usually marks follow a bell curve, and usually it’s centered on the equivalent of an Anglo-American C. I know a professor who shifts the scale so that the bell curve centers on the D. Funny thing is, said professor is an otherwise nice guy and a great scientist.
    ** I’ve been told one such professor teaches in Vienna.

  106. #106 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    The other concern: how often has this happened at your university?
    […]
    Angry student storms into your office, red in the face and furious about his exam.

    Not a single time. Never. Completely unthinkable. Because in Austria, you see, professors (tenured ones anyway) are almighty. Mwahah. If you’ve flunked, you’ve flunked. If you’ve flunked because they wanted half of the class to flunk*, you’ve still flunked. If you’ve flunked because they’ve seen from your ID number that you’ve only enrolled this year, so they deem you unworthy of their course which isn’t meant for lowly beginners**, you’ve still flunked. Theoretically you might sue, but a) good luck with that, and b) Europeans don’t sue. (Interestingly, we also don’t make jokes about how greedy lawyers are — though I don’t think ours are any less greedy than US ones.)

    That said, you can take every exam 3 times the normal way in Austria, and if you’ve flunked all 3 times (which hardly ever happens), you can take it a 4th time in front of a commission. That’s the other side of the Grand Coalition.

    * Usually marks follow a bell curve, and usually it’s centered on the equivalent of an Anglo-American C. I know a professor who shifts the scale so that the bell curve centers on the D. Funny thing is, said professor is an otherwise nice guy and a great scientist.
    ** I’ve been told one such professor teaches in Vienna.

  107. #107 Laura
    June 29, 2007

    Why arm the professors? This is obviously a job for departmental secretaries. If anyone knows who needs shooting, it is they.

  108. #108 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    Australia and Britain have largely outlawed guns, and yet crime rates have gone UP, not down, and gun violence hasn’t gone away as a result of disarming legal gun owners.

    Oh dear, oh dear. When may we lay down our burdens?

    John Lott, from whom this inaccurate factoid probably originated, simply lies by omission.

  109. #109 PZ Myers
    June 29, 2007

    So you aren’t even willing to try and look up the numbers?

    There are 1.6 million college faculty in the US.

    There have been 50 college students killed in school massacres in the last 10 years, or on average, 5 per year. (The total number of murders on campuses is estimated at 10-20 per year).

    Here’s another consideration.

    The Rushforth group studied the occurrence of accidental firearm deaths in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland, Ohio, and suburbs) from 1958 to 1973. During that period, there were 148 accidental firearm deaths, of which 123 (83%) were caused by handguns. Over three-quarters of the fatalities occurred in the home. During the same time period studied, twenty-three burglars, robbers or intruders who were not relatives or acquaintances were shot and killed by persons protecting their homes. Thus, six times as many fatal firearm accidents occurred in the home as did deaths of intruders. The authors’ balancing of the risk and benefit drew them to conclude that “a loaded firearm in the home is more likely to cause an accidental death than to be used as a lethal weapon against an intruder.”

    I couldn’t find numbers for the likelihood of accidental gun death per gun, which would be the useful statistic. Here’s one measure of accidental gun fatalities per 100,000 total population: in the last year mentioned, it’s 0.576 per 100,000. If we assume equivalence between that population and our gun-totin’ professoriate (which is not actually valid, since not every home in that population has a gun, professor-student contact hours are lower than family contact hours, most professors aren’t going to be especially gun competent, etc.) and do a back of the envelope guesstimate of one accidental shooting per 200,000 professors per year, that would be about 8 unintended tragedies per year. So let’s just say it’s within an order of magnitude equivalence. So basically your plan would have to be a perfect deterrent to homicidal maniacs in order to break even.

    And knowing academics, it would not be a perfect deterrent — some of them are crazy. So, basically, you’d be arming some maniacs while maybe deterring some, and at the same time increasing the accidental death rate.

    Do I have to say again that your scheme is insane?

  110. #110 Anonomouse
    June 29, 2007

    Sounds like old time christian fear-mongering. Except you replace the words “Satan” or “Hell” with “Gun”.

  111. #111 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    Wouldn’t this be a heck of the lot easier if they made it illegal to sell guns to court certified lunatics? Cho was declared mentally incompetent by a judge, wasn’t he?

    GAH!

  112. #112 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    Wouldn’t this be a heck of the lot easier if they made it illegal to sell guns to court certified lunatics? Cho was declared mentally incompetent by a judge, wasn’t he?

    GAH!

  113. #113 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    Sounds like old time christian fear-mongering. Except you replace the words “Satan” or “Hell” with “Gun”.

    Sounds like old-time American Christianist fearmongering. Except you replace “they’ll take God out of school” with “they’ll take the guns from our hands”.

    See? I can make up silly metaphors, too.

  114. #114 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    Sounds like old time christian fear-mongering. Except you replace the words “Satan” or “Hell” with “Gun”.

    Sounds like old-time American Christianist fearmongering. Except you replace “they’ll take God out of school” with “they’ll take the guns from our hands”.

    See? I can make up silly metaphors, too.

  115. #115 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    but here is the real issue. no matter what we do, no matter what restrictions we place on gun sales, people will slip through the cracks and massacres will happen.

    Then why do they happen so often in the USA, and so rarely elsewhere?

    My friend, you’re trying to do statistics with a sample of 1.

  116. #116 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    but here is the real issue. no matter what we do, no matter what restrictions we place on gun sales, people will slip through the cracks and massacres will happen.

    Then why do they happen so often in the USA, and so rarely elsewhere?

    My friend, you’re trying to do statistics with a sample of 1.

  117. #117 snex
    June 29, 2007

    PZ, regarding your studies – where is the mention of the training these gun owners had? if youd notice, ive been advocating proper training throughout the entire thread. not only that, but making it a REQUIREMENT to own a gun. if you feel comfortable around any trained professional who is already licensed to carry a gun, you should be just as comfortable around anybody else with the same exact certification.

    none of the studies that calculate accidental gun deaths ever go into detail about the level of training their owners have/had.

    And knowing academics, it would not be a perfect deterrent — some of them are crazy. So, basically, you’d be arming some maniacs while maybe deterring some, and at the same time increasing the accidental death rate.

    why would we arm the maniac ones? where has anybody ever proposed such a thing?

  118. #118 snex
    June 29, 2007

    Then why do they happen so often in the USA, and so rarely elsewhere?

    because human brains were formed by evolution, a necessarily haphazard process, rather than by a benevolent designer with foresight.

  119. #119 Nullifidian
    June 29, 2007

    because human brains were formed by evolution, a necessarily haphazard process, rather than by a benevolent designer with foresight.

    So there you have it, David. Americans’ brains are just more haphazard than most. (In the case of snex, I do in part believe it.)

  120. #120 CalGeorge
    June 29, 2007
  121. #121 Spooky
    June 29, 2007

    Something else being overlooked (unless it’s in the snex-inspired rantings, but I doubt it) …

    OK, you have a school shooter. He starts shooting the place up. So the professor (and whatever students remembered to bring their guns this morning) starts to shoot back.

    The professor and students in the class next door hear the gunshots and run into the room ready to bring down the shooter.

    How many people in the room are pointing guns? Which one is the shooter? For the people in the original classroom – is the guy(s) coming through the door another shooter?

    What happens when campus security turns up? What happens when the cops arrive?

    This isn’t like a FPS game. You don’t get a green target box around the good guys and a red one around the bad guys.

    How do you know that it’s a professor up there in front of the class? They all wear tweed or labcoats right?

    How do you know the shooter was acting alone? They all have a t-shirt that says ‘Campus Shooter’ right?

    No, this is a monumentally bad idea!

  122. #122 D
    June 29, 2007

    Taking a quick gander and the Wiki that PZ found, one can easily determine that armed profs would have done little to nothing to reduce the casualties in almost all of the cases (I counted 4 that appeared to have even a remote chance of such). The VT is a stand alone case that doesn’t resemble any of the other shootings. It alone accounts for over half the deaths from university shootings. All the other cases involved very small casualties and/or attacks that are beyond prevention of random prof with a gun.

    If we really want to reduce gun attack casualties, there seems to really only be one option that could hope to help, prevention.

  123. #123 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    we are never going to eliminate violent crime

    Amok runs are a very special case of violent crime. To prevent them, you can do two things:

    – Prevent people from becoming stark raving mad.
    – Prevent people from getting a gun.

    Hm. It appears, then, that the rest of the world is doing something better than the US in these respects.

    snex, have you watched Bowling for Columbine? To my surprise, it showed that a heavily-armed society — such as Canada — does not automatically have US-style rates of death by gun. To get that, fear is necessary. Irrational, insane fear like that of Robert (# 85) or, it appears, you. Fear that leads people to carry guns around where everyone can steal them. Fear that leads them to shooting first & asking questions later, and even to legalize this insane behavior in southern Florida. In Latin, terror.

    Robert, if you go around assuming that everyone is an asshole until proven innocent, people will start treating you that way.

  124. #124 David Marjanovi?
    June 29, 2007

    we are never going to eliminate violent crime

    Amok runs are a very special case of violent crime. To prevent them, you can do two things:

    – Prevent people from becoming stark raving mad.
    – Prevent people from getting a gun.

    Hm. It appears, then, that the rest of the world is doing something better than the US in these respects.

    snex, have you watched Bowling for Columbine? To my surprise, it showed that a heavily-armed society — such as Canada — does not automatically have US-style rates of death by gun. To get that, fear is necessary. Irrational, insane fear like that of Robert (# 85) or, it appears, you. Fear that leads people to carry guns around where everyone can steal them. Fear that leads them to shooting first & asking questions later, and even to legalize this insane behavior in southern Florida. In Latin, terror.

    Robert, if you go around assuming that everyone is an asshole until proven innocent, people will start treating you that way.

  125. #125 Robert
    June 29, 2007

    David Marjanovi?, I certainly know my friends aren’t assholes but unlike you, I KNOW the real nature of “Homo sapiens”. In the countries of the real world (the third world) it is quite apparent (it is also apparent in the playground, whether it is in the sheltered world of the West and the Far East or the real world of the Third World). Once again, I state that the human is not an angel or a divine creature, it is an ape.

    This fact is probably the main motivational factor for spending $27 million on a stupid “Creation Museum”. The creationists WANT to believe that human decency is actually real and divine, not a tribal instinct of a vicious predatory ape. Look at the “decency” shown towards those within your clique and than see the behavior of those outside your clique (example: many of the posters here show hostility toward the creationists, including me).

  126. #126 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    June 29, 2007

    You know, they give uniforms to cops and the military for a couple of reasons. One of the more important ones is to reduce friendly fire incidents.

    This concept really shouldn’t be adopted unless all potentially armed staff are issued distinctive apparel. How about caped gowns? Simply rip of the cape to expose the reflective letters PROF on the back.

    Gun worshippers are dangerous. Their ability to rationalise their desires is equal to that of God worshippers.

  127. #127 Bart Mitchell
    June 29, 2007

    Well said JJR. I was going to post somthing very similar, but you said it far better than I could.

  128. #128 Robert
    June 29, 2007

    JohnnieCanuck, the purpose of the uniforms can be easily defeated by having the terrorist don the same uniforms as the army and police, like it was successfully done in Iraq by various militiamen against the U.S. military.

  129. #129 Graculus
    June 29, 2007

    I question exactly how vicious an ape we are, given that our species is actually not extinct. On the other hand, the Levantine religions claim that we are all really really bad from birth. I sense some projecting.

  130. #130 Carlie
    June 29, 2007

    If the goal is to reduce school shootings (rare though they are), wouldn’t it make more sense to have metal detectors at all the entrances? Cameras in all the hallways? Bullet-proof glass on all classroom doors? Panic buttons that can not only summon the police, but put all the rooms on that floor into automatic lockdown? I fail to see how “give more people guns to shoot back with” is somehow a better deterrent to injury than “keep it from happening in the first place”.

  131. #131 Caledonian
    June 29, 2007

    Or we could do something sensible, like try to reduce much more common threats, like car accidents. School shootings are dramatic and memorable, but statistically speaking they’re not worth worrying about.

    Not that I expect anyone to act rationally.

  132. #132 RoperB
    June 29, 2007

    As a student of Virginia Tech, I find this idea incredibly stupid.

    I lost one of the best professors at Tech, and arming professors probably wouldn’t have helped considering how armed he was.

    If anything, outlawing guns would have been the right thing to do. If not guns, at least handguns.

  133. #133 Samnell
    June 29, 2007

    “because human brains were formed by evolution, a necessarily haphazard process, rather than by a benevolent designer with foresight.”

    So are you saying that non-Americans don’t have human brains? Where did they get their’s, then?

  134. #134 Brachychiton
    June 30, 2007

    To add to the confusion: Who knows all the academic staff on campus? Who knows whether the loutish-looking fellow with the semi-automatic is a would-be mass murderer or an associate lecturer in Sociology? (I acknowledge that the two are not mutually exclusive.)

    And you really, really wouldn’t want to give me a firearm. Especially not at this time of year when I’m marking exams.

  135. #135 blf
    June 30, 2007

    It is appalling that “snex” thinks accidental deaths are acceptable, with or without caveats. That is, it does not matter whether or not the shooter is trained, or whether or not there are fewer accidental shootings than actual murders; an accidental death (or even an accidental non-fatal shooting) is simply not acceptable. So, of course, is murder. But an accident does not cancel a murder; neither is acceptable. At. All.

  136. #136 Sean
    June 30, 2007

    What specific quality about an accidental firearm death moves that death into the simply not acceptable category? Our society accepts an innumerous quantity of accidental deaths from all manner of inanimate objects. Why do firearms provoke such deep emotions while other objects are just objects?

  137. #137 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    Sean, suggest outlawing certain types of speech that are “unacceptable” to the political classes (such as “hate speech” or “blasphemy”), then you will see some emotion. Some people, such as I, do not want their right to self-defense be denied them by moronic bureaucrats(slow moving as well). Nor do want the same bureaucrats dictating “speech codes” to us either.

    Graculus, evolution by natural selection doesn’t select for how “enlightened” we are, nor does it select how “advanced” or “complex” we are. It selects traits that favor SURVIVAL of the individual and its offspring. Vicious violence toward an attacker that results in greater chances of SURVIVAL for the individual will most likely be favored by natural selection as well as “niciness” towards ones allies or potential allies.

  138. #138 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    This will be the 133rd comment. Wow, that’s alot! As for people who want to outlaw guns and self-defense, you are not prepared for the reality of the twenty-first century. The trends in technology doesn’t favor you, for examples see: Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11 attacks, the defeat of CBS by networks of bloggers, and future scenarios of superempowered individuals defeating the old bureaucracies of the previous twentieth century; situations where small networked groups of individuals are defeating large ponderous bureaucracies.

  139. #139 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    For those of you who just worship the idea of “state monopoly on force” and “gun control”, here are the twenty-first century uniforms that will just warm your hearts.

    Twenty-first century uniform

    Twenty-first century uniform

    Twenty-first century uniform

    Twenty-first century uniform

    Why, with the “Uniform of the twenty-first century” any networked group of warriors can wage war while ignoring pieces of paper such as Geneva Conventions and Marques of Queensbury. While some poor shmuck is wearing the uniform of the previous century (clearly marking him as a target) and waiting for permission from each of the 683 bureaucrat lawyers before taking any action, our futuristic warrior is free to do anything he wants that is within the realm of physics. He can also ignore other pieces of paper such as gun control laws, missile technology laws, bans on landmines, bans on microbial weapons, and coming soon, paper treaties against nanotech weapons as well.

    Our twenty-first century fighter sure is versatile!

  140. #140 D
    June 30, 2007

    How does one get from “professors shouldn’t be encouraged/allowed to pack guns” to “all guns should be outlawed in the US”? And also Robert, the US isn’t Afghanistan or Iraq.

  141. #141 Nick
    June 30, 2007

    Robert:
    “Look! Terrorists!” isn’t an argument against gun control. It’s fearmongering. Ignoring that, what makes you think John and Jane Doe in the middle of the Midwest US with their handguns are a realistic defense against guerilla forces and tactics? News flash: suicide bombers and gunmen don’t walk around with bandanas over their heads; your 21st century uniform doesn’t apply. Blending in and camouflage go much further.

    This is why we have *professional* intelligence bureaus, police departments, emergency response teams and militaries: to do the work civilians aren’t trained to do.

    Let’s say that the 1-in-a-million happens and some random man off the street sees a situation and decides to intervene.
    First: what are the odds he will correctly assess who’s the good guy and who’s the bad? Friendly fire is a concern for the professionals. Civilians will only do worse.
    Second: I don’t trust any civilian to have the level of CQB training necessary to shoot safely and effectively in any sort of high-pressure situation. Why do you think police forces train SWAT teams? It’s hard enough to shoot a target without considering what else your bullets may do; I think this point has been lost on snex.
    Third: PZ gave statistics about accidental gunfire. Address that — I don’t care if bloggers can embarass CBS, it’s irrelevant.

  142. #142 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    Nick, you completely missed my point. Here is an earlier example from an earlier era where a paradigm shift in warfare occurred, WWI. You had soldiers wearing colorful uniforms and horse cavalry fit for Napoleonic warfare entering the war, at the war’s end you had helmeted soldiers fighting behind and alongside tanks while fighterplanes flew overhead. I was saying that the typical twenty-first century warrior will be a masked man that is “super-empowered”, paradigm shift from the use of large professional armies run by a strong central authority. A masked man with no distinction between private and public, a “global guerrilla”. Anybody can be a “global guerrilla”. Seeing such networks of individuals gradually being more capable of defeating slow and ponderous bureaucracies as time goes on (networks of bloggers defeating a slow CBS bureaucracies). Even “Jane” and “John Doe” can become “global guerrillas”. Its networked amateurs defeating slow moving bureaucratic professionals because distributed technology had empowered them. Such technology as the Internet and cellphones (amateur masked men defeating military professionals by using the Internet and cellphone detonated IED’s) is empowering individuals/small groups today. Tommorrow it will be desktop fablabs empowering the networks of amateurs( need a gun? push “print”, need a guided missile? push “print”, how about a tiny remote control gnat drone armed with hundreds of tiny poison darts? Push “print” to print it out!), thus causing the central authority to weaken and the periphery to slowly break away. This basically makes gun control more and more useless. Today, black market flows of guns negates its usefullness. Tommorrow, the home manufacture of missile technology, nanotech weapons, and microbial weapons will make it irrelavent. Who wants to obey a central authority if its enforcers keep getting killed? You’re still stuck on Westphalia.

  143. #143 Robert
    June 30, 2007
  144. #144 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    By the way Nick, pretending to be a civilian walking amongst children while detonating an IED via a cellphone seems to work better than military fatigues in “blending in”. Iraq and Afghanistan is proving it as well as Somalia.

  145. #145 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    John Robb at GlobalGuerrillas goes into alot of detail on fast moving networks of amateurs defeating slow-moving professional bureaucracies. So does Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.com (Glenn explores the sunny side of this twenty-first century phenomenon, John explores the dark side).

    If the amateur’s knowledge on a specific problem isn’t deep enough like a professional to solve it, he can reach out across his network to fill in the gap. This is what happened with the CBS professional journalists being defeated by networks of amateur journalists (bloggers). Professional document examiners in CBS saw that the documents were unreliable but professionals above them failed to heed their advice (just like Bush ignoring Gen. Shinseki’s advice). But a blogger saw something fishy about the document and reached across the network of other bloggers to find someone with the skill to dig deeper. The rest is history.

  146. #146 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    The network of amateurs is like an ant colony. The individual ant is quite stupid, but the colony as a whole (as a network of workers) is smarter than the sum of its parts due to emergent intelligence. Another example is the emergent intelligence arising from a network of relatively dumb neurons in a relatively smart brain.

    Thus the network of masked twenty-first century amateur warriors is smarter than the sum of its parts due to emergent intelligence (even if the masked men are relatively stupid) while the professional battalion is only as smart as the single human commander barking out orders to his underlings (even if that commander is smart).

    If you don’t think so, then is the U.S. Military winning in Iraq?

  147. #147 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    The masked men shown are examples of warriors engaged in open source warfare, the warfare that will dominate the twenty-first century. It essentially causes centralized Nation-state concepts such as “gun control” to become obsolete.

  148. #148 D
    June 30, 2007

    So Robert, do any of your statistics address how many of these roving bands of amateurs are in the US, threatening its citizens?

  149. #149 Nick
    June 30, 2007

    1) “Camouflage” doesn’t automatically mean “fatigues.”
    2) You’re arguing that gun control is pointless because it will be defeated by 3D printers creating superweapons and by nanorobots with poison darts? I understand hyperbole, but that’s a little too over the top, don’t you think?
    3) The solution to distributed guerilla warfare isn’t going to be distributed defense. Any distributed system is still going to need hubs and communication channels that organize the nodes. If I don’t know how to get information, I can’t act on it. Saying “The internet knows” will only take you so far. This is why there are international data-mining efforts.
    4) The next generation of global warfare still doesn’t address professors with guns.

  150. #150 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    D, you missed my point. Sigh.

  151. #151 D
    June 30, 2007

    No, it just doesn’t have anything to do with gun control in the US what so ever, and even less with the actual topic of the OP.

  152. #152 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    The black market has already made a joke out of gun control. The 3d printer simply kills it dead.
    So did the U.S. professionals destroy the communication nodes and channels of Iraq’s networked insurgency? Did any of the data mining by bureaucrats stopped the insurgency? The data mining won’t do shit if the bureaucrat isn’t authorized to act on it by a higher bureaucrat.

    A distributed defense is much faster than a bureaucratic defense although a bureaucratic defense can concentrate alot of resources on a focused problem. Once again you’re still stuck on Westphalia, it isn’t the twentieth century anymore. Don’t even bother with gun control, you will just create enemies (and once again “Homo sapiens” shows its true nature, we are not divine, we are not in “God’s Image”, we are flesh-eating apes).

    As for allowing trained professors to arm themselves on campus grounds, that’s up to the University to decide on the costs and benefits of such an action. After all, school shootings are very rare and such an action might not be necessary.

  153. #153 xebecs
    June 30, 2007

    I find it odd that a group of people that doesn’t trust professors enough to have them teach class does trust them enough to have them carry a weapon to protect that class.

    Bravo. I was thinking exactly the same thing.

    Is it really surprising that muddled thinkers pile muddled inconsistency on top of muddled inanity?

  154. #154 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    Depending solely on top-down bureaucracies to fight a fast moving networked opponent is liking trying to destroy a swarm of stinging insects with a sledgehammer.

  155. #155 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    Here is a quote from Joshua (a commentator on the GlobalGuerrillas blog). I don’t agree with all of it, but I find interesting in regards to the near future.

    “As I mentioned in a previous thread, I recently purchased and read your book. As the interview is also about your book, this thread seems like a good place to get in my (first) two cents on it.

    Like many other Americans, over the past few years I’ve sensed that the U.S. is headed for big trouble ahead, and that we may not even survive it as a nation in our present form. However unlike most other Americans, I find the fault mainly lies not in present-day Washington – although the cluelessness of both Congress and the White House certainly hasn’t helped – but at a much more fundamental level. Other bloggers have noted this too, but this blog and your book are the first I’ve seen that really nails it.

    As I see it, there are at least three major, chronic dilemmas threatening the continued viability of the American nation-state (some of which, as you will see, lie beyond the scope of your book, yet still relate to its themes) – and indeed, the entire Westphalian world order:

    1) National governments, especially representative democracies and even more so ones governing large populations, by their very nature work at a snail’s pace, putting them at a major, immutable disadvantage against much more nimble and amorphous challengers, be they terrorists, transnational gangs, “flash mobs,” or what have you. And this doesn’t even factor in the numerous constraints of international relations. If this trend continues – and I see nothing on the horizon that might reverse or even deflect it – even the most seemingly stable of states will eventually be made mockeries, if not destroyed outright.

    2) Globalization, and particularly pervasive global media like the Internet, not only acts as an accelerant and force-multiplier for (1) above, but is also acting to slowly decouple nations from states. Your book discusses how globalization has undermined the effectiveness of states, but I would add that it has also undermined the traditional concept of a nation: a people with a shared culture living in a discrete, shared territory. While state sovereignty, by necessity, remains delimited by geographic borders, this is no longer true of national cultures (to the extent that it ever was), which have now been set free to commingle and blend seamlessly into one another as never before. But those national cultures, while they were distinct, once functioned as the glue that held states together. When that glue is dissolved away by cultural globalization, it makes the global guerrillas’ job that much easier.

    3) By now it’s safe to say we’ve long since passed the “tipping point” where globalization is not only widely taken for granted, but can be abandoned only at devastating economic cost to nations, corporations and other private entities that have embraced it. America in particular, which for all intents and purposes invented globalization, is “addicted” to it in the same sense, and to at least the same degree, that it is “addicted” to oil. This is why I’m skeptical that the new way of war will actually spell the end of globalization, as you argue in your book. More to my point though, if we can’t shake this addiction then we’re also stuck with the drug’s aforementioned toxic side effects.

    None of this can be blamed upon George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton, or any previous administration. This is simply what happens when political entities designed to function independently of one another cannot adapt to a new environment of ever more pervasive connectivity and interdependence, and the stateless predators who flourish in that new environment. The multicultural Left may well get the functionally borderless world they desire, but if so it will have little to do with their efforts, and certainly won’t turn out quite the way they’d envisioned or hoped.”

  156. #156 Nullifidian
    June 30, 2007

    Robert,

    Please go find a psychiatrist to diagnose you. The technical term for what you’re putting out here is “disorganized speech” and it’s a key diagnostic criterion for certain mental illnesses.

  157. #157 Keith Douglas
    June 30, 2007

    I happen to know one armed faculty of higher education member: Preston Covey at CMU. He’s a good guy (and certainly well trained), but …

  158. #158 Dahan
    June 30, 2007

    It’s really very simple, If you want lots and lots of gun related killings, have lots and lots of guns. For an example, look to Iraq, where almost every family has at least one AK-47 and often much more, and has astronomical gun related homicide rates. Then look to Japan, where I lived while in the Marines, where guns are banned for almost all intents and purposes, they have almost no deaths by guns. Less per year than we have in America per day. It’s a very simple equation. There’s no way around it.

  159. #159 Sean
    June 30, 2007

    It is only really very simple if one accepts a prepackaged point of view and cherry picks data points.

    Iraq vs Japan. Yes, let us take a nation that has recently been invaded, is undergoing civil war and is the focal point of a religiously themed terrorist network. Now compare that nation with a first world nation with over sixty years of stability. Uh huh.

    If you want lots and lots of gun related killings, have lots and lots of guns. … There’s no way around it.

    Switzerland. Appears to be at least one way around it.

  160. #160 Ole
    June 30, 2007

    Snex (no 113): Between 2001 and 2005 the median number of US police officers that died of accidental gunfire in the line of duty was 4 (extremes: 2 and 7) according to http://www.odmp.org/. The total number of employees in US police agencies is roughly 1,000,000 (http://faculty.ncwc.edu/TOCONNOR/polstruct.htm).

    This means that the accidental gun fatalities per 100,000 police agency employees is roughly 0.4.

    The 1,000,000 employees covers everything from officers to secretaries, as far as I can see from the website (http://faculty.ncwc.edu/TOCONNOR/polstruct.htm), so the 0.4 accidental gun fatality per 100,000 is most certainly underestimated with respect to officers in the line of duty. Consequently, PZ’s use of 0.576 per 100,000 seems justifiable and his conclusions sound.

  161. #161 Nullifidian
    June 30, 2007

    If you want lots and lots of gun related killings, have lots and lots of guns. … There’s no way around it.

    Switzerland. Appears to be at least one way around it.

    You’re not reading this with the principle of charity. It is possible to read this as having lots and lots of guns is a necessary precondition to having lots and lots of gun crimes without assuming that it meant that having lots and lots of guns is a sufficient precondition for gun crimes.

  162. #162 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    “It’s really very simple, If you want lots and lots of gun related killings, have lots and lots of guns. For an example, look to Iraq, where almost every family has at least one AK-47 and often much more, and has astronomical gun related homicide rates. Then look to Japan, where I lived while in the Marines, where guns are banned for almost all intents and purposes, they have almost no deaths by guns. Less per year than we have in America per day. It’s a very simple equation. There’s no way around it.”

    The Yakuza seem to have no problem getting their guns, they just happen to be more discreet about violence than the Bloods and Crips are.
    Also Japan is a culturally homogenous nation where people share the same values. The U.S. is certainly not. A gun ban in the U.S. will just create more enemies and expand the size of the black market much like the drug prohibition has.

  163. #163 DingoDave
    June 30, 2007

    The physics professors could use the firearms as a teaching aid.

    The the rap singer and undisputed king of theoretical gangsta-astrophysics MC Hawking, has a line in one of the songs from his CD ‘E = MC Hawking’

    “Time to give a Newtonian demonstration,
    of a bullet its mass and its acceleration.”

    Now that would make for an interesting classroom demonstration.
    It would be up to the professor to call for a volunteer from the class to assist him with the demo.

  164. #164 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    Another example is Isreal and Palestine. Both nations are awash in guns but it is Palestine that is stricken with rampant gun violence. Could it be that Palestine is awash with gangs?

  165. #165 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    The shared values of the Japanese is much more important in preserving the integrity of Japan than its police and army beating people into line (although that is still important too).

    Nullifidian said:

    “Please go find a psychiatrist to diagnose you. The technical term for what you’re putting out here is “disorganized speech” and it’s a key diagnostic criterion for certain mental illnesses.”

    I have a diagnosis for you, I had a few beers when I made some of those posts.

  166. #166 Chris
    June 30, 2007

    It is possible to read this as having lots and lots of guns is a necessary precondition to having lots and lots of gun crimes without assuming that it meant that having lots and lots of guns is a sufficient precondition for gun crimes.

    Well, obviously having guns is a precondition to having gun crimes. That’s why there was so little gun crime before the Renaissance. But there was an awful lot of assault and murder with other weapons.

    There’s nothing magic about guns; they simply happen to be a popular choice of weapon when they’re available, in many situations. As long as people want to kill each other, they will find illegal weapons or use whatever objects are handy and many of them will succeed in killing someone. Identifying and dealing with the people who want to kill someone seems far more useful than treating only the symptom by trying (not very effectively) to reduce the availability of one specific group of weapons.

    The U.S. is an outlier among industrialized nations in gun ownership and gun murders. And a couple dozen other variables, including several indicators of social breakdown. Maybe the fact that the U.S. is one of the most dysfunctional of all high-tech societies has something to do with our high murder rate, too? Ya think?

  167. #167 Sean
    June 30, 2007

    You’re not reading this with the principle of charity. It is possible to read this as having lots and lots of guns is a necessary precondition to having lots and lots of gun crimes without assuming that it meant that having lots and lots of guns is a sufficient precondition for gun crimes.

    Considered it and said, naaah. I would be willing to bet a bottle of fine single malt scotch that the intent of that poster was to imply cultures with guns are violent and those without are not. I may be wrong in this particular case, but would have a goodly supply of liquor after a few dozen of similar bets.

    I will completely agree, though, with the veracity of the charitable interpretation. A society with absolutely no guns will have absolutely no gun deaths.

  168. #168 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    Chris said:

    “Well, obviously having guns is a precondition to having gun crimes. That’s why there was so little gun crime before the Renaissance. But there was an awful lot of assault and murder with other weapons.
    There’s nothing magic about guns; they simply happen to be a popular choice of weapon when they’re available, in many situations. As long as people want to kill each other, they will find illegal weapons or use whatever objects are handy and many of them will succeed in killing someone. Identifying and dealing with the people who want to kill someone seems far more useful than treating only the symptom by trying (not very effectively) to reduce the availability of one specific group of weapons.

    The U.S. is an outlier among industrialized nations in gun ownership and gun murders. And a couple dozen other variables, including several indicators of social breakdown. Maybe the fact that the U.S. is one of the most dysfunctional of all high-tech societies has something to do with our high murder rate, too? Ya think?”

    I second that motion. I ask, is it the gangs or is it the guns?

  169. #169 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    Sean said:

    “A society with absolutely no guns will have absolutely no gun deaths.”

    I agree, after all, there was no gun deaths in Ancient Egypt. Of course today’s world isn’t Ancient Egypt and a society with absolutely no guns is impossible.

  170. #170 Heterocronie
    June 30, 2007

    As was discussed in an earlier post, the solution if for us to stop arguing about gun control and develop a non-lethal alternative to guns that a peaceful citizen can carry without the stigma and risk (albeit very minor) of gun possession, and that has a reasonable chance of stopping a gun-wielding assailant. Come on engineers – step up!

  171. #171 DingoDave
    June 30, 2007

    Snex wrote in comment #113:
    “PZ, regarding your studies – where is the mention of the training these gun owners had? if youd notice, ive been advocating proper training throughout the entire thread. not only that, but making it a REQUIREMENT to own a gun. if you feel comfortable around any trained professional who is already licensed to carry a gun, you should be just as comfortable around anybody else with the same exact certification.”

    If you think that training in firearms use will eliminate accidental shootings, watch this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeGD7r6s-zU

    DEA agent shoots himself in the foot (in a classroom full of people)

  172. #172 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    Heterocronie said:

    “As was discussed in an earlier post, the solution if for us to stop arguing about gun control and develop a non-lethal alternative to guns that a peaceful citizen can carry without the stigma and risk (albeit very minor) of gun possession, and that has a reasonable chance of stopping a gun-wielding assailant. Come on engineers – step up!”

    I mentioned earlier that a University can allow tazers to be carried by trained/qualified faculty and students for protection. That way in a crowded and confusing environment such as an attack on campus, the tazers can raise the chances of stopping the attack sooner while minimizing the negative consequences of friendly fire.

  173. #173 Graculus
    June 30, 2007

    I second that motion. I ask, is it the gangs or is it the guns?

    It’s the fear. You folks are jumpy.

  174. #174 Dahan
    June 30, 2007

    sean,

    I used exaggerated instances to make a point, surely, but one need not cherry pick to come to the conclusion that more guns equals more gun violence. You DO need to cherry pick your evidence to come to the conclusion that more guns leads to less violence. I’m not some anti-gun nut. I used to belong to the NRA, and have owned guns in the past, might again in the future, I taought on the Rifle range in the Marines. A facts a fact though. More guns, more gun related deaths. Proper education and properly enforced gun laws can mitigate this to some point, but not entirely.

    Also, although I am willing to give you a point as far as Iraq being an extreme case, if you don’t think that all the violence there isn’t exacerbated by the huge numbers of weapons the area is flooded with, you’re very, very sadly mistaken.

  175. #175 Heterocronie
    June 30, 2007

    Graculus,

    Yeah, well you would be too if you’d been within earshot of two mass shootings like I have. Some folks are too jumpy, others are too passive. I assume the latter is from being too sheltered and the former, not sheltered enough.

  176. #176 Robert
    June 30, 2007

    Graculus said:

    “It’s the fear. You folks are jumpy.”

    This could be true. Americans might be “more jumpy” than others. But shouldn’t the Isrealis be more jumpy than Americans? I know I would be if I were in their shoes, but then, I’m American.

  177. #177 kai
    July 1, 2007

    it ignores every single instance where an armed citizen has prevented a crime.

    Actually, now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any such instance. Do you know any examples–“friend-of-a-friend” excluded?

  178. #178 Robert
    July 1, 2007

    If you want some anecdotes of armed citizens stopping a crime or attack, search thru these blogs:

    http://www.theothersideofkim.com/

    http://alphecca.com/

    If you search thru them, you’ll find some anecdotes.

  179. #179 Stephen Wells
    July 2, 2007

    For the record, the point when I gave up on any hope that snex had a serious point to make, was the point when he said that “it only takes one shot to disarm a single gunman”. For James Bond, maybe.

  180. #180 Craig
    July 2, 2007

    All you who say the campus wiil become a shooting gallery need only look at the states recently approving concealed carry. Where are all the good citizens who suddenly decide it would be a great idea to start a life of crime? And what’s to stop a professor from going off the deep end now? Campus security? The restrictive gun laws that obviously worked so well at VT?

  181. #181 Tom
    July 3, 2007

    I weep for the future.

  182. #182 RickR
    January 14, 2010

    pusatbelanja, will you stop spamming old threads, please?

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