Coastal Carolina dorm shooting raises question: Should coeds pack heat?
A shooting Tuesday at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., left one student dead. Although campus shootings are rare, the incident rekindles a debate on whether to permit guns on campus.
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Statistics on campus shootings are scarce and often conflicting, partly due to varying definitions of what constitutes a campus shooting. Some reports do not count shootings if there were no fatalities while others do not include incidents that occurred off-campus. However, most data suggest there are between one and three fatal campus shootings per year across the US.Skip to next paragraph
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An analysis by Slate and Jessie Klein, author of “The Bully Society,” found 39 college shootings between 1980 and 2012, in which at least one person other than the shooter died.
Campuses are relatively safe places, says Peter Langman, an expert on the psychology of school shooters and author of “Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters.” Grisly mass shootings, like those at Virginia Tech and the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., make campus shootings appear more prevalent than they actually are.
“Something like that, where you have a great magnitude [of fatalities] can skew people’s perceptions,” says Dr. Langman. “A lot of people seem to think there’s an epidemic of school violence that’s getting worse and worse ... and yet when you look at the data, school related homicide has gone consistently down over the last 20 years.”
What has changed is 24/7 media coverage and technology that allows witnesses to record shootings in real time, says Langman.
“When there is a large-scale incident, there’s such overwhelming attention, it dominates the national and international media,” he says. “Meanwhile, on a day-to-day basis at schools across the country, there’s actually less violence – that doesn’t make the news.”
Campus shootings like the fatal incident at Coastal Carolina University Tuesday, also serve to reignite the debate over whether to permit guns on campus, first unleashed after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. Proponents, including the advocacy group Students for Concealed Carry, argue that students, if armed, would be able to stop shooters or put forth some resistance.
“Allowing law-abiding adults to arm themselves – including faculty and staff – would provide some deterrent effect,” says Kurt Mueller, director of strategy at Students for Concealed Carry. “It would provide meaningful resistance in the moment of truth.”
"The only guarantee is that a bad guy with a gun has free reign for as long as the situation maintains itself,” Mr. Mueller adds. “That situation is intolerable. I’ll take my chances with [a concealed carry holder]. That may not save me, but it will improve my odds.”
Opponents say introducing guns on campus makes them more dangerous, not safer.
“It’s a bad idea,” says Dr. Fox of Northeastern University. “Because college campuses are not rampant with crime, but they are rampant with alcohol and depressed students. Alcohol and depressed students and guns don’t mix very well.”