Clark: Elis safer when armed

As a graduate student, I take issue with the recent article concerning graduate students and our safety both on campus and outside the patrol area of the Yale Police Department. This is an issue of personal responsibility — the University and the YPD should not be criticized for events that occur outside their power of control. The Supreme Court, in DeShaney v. Winnebago County and again in Castle Rock v. Gonzales, declared that police forces have no duty to protect individuals against crime; for all of their individual professionalism and heroism, both the NHPD and the YPD as organizations are clean-up squads whose only true duty is to take a report and cart the victim off to the hospital or the morgue.

The University, however, is guilty on two major counts.

First, programs like the so-called safety orientation that Dean Butler touted do not reach a plurality of students, nor are they effective. Telling students to wait for the Yale Shuttle after the sun goes down isn’t a realistic solution to crime. Failing to distribute maps pin-pointing the exact locations and types of previously reported crimes is verging on the criminal.

The second failing of the University can’t be helped by a risk-averse academic institution: graduate students are left more vulnerable than undergrads. Far more graduate students live off-campus, in areas that are less secure than the heart of Yale’s patrolled residential areas. The University could increase graduate student safety, but they haven’t.

Why? Because that would require taking to heart the lessons of Virginia Tech and the Appalachian School of Law to heart , and permitting those off-campus students who have met all of the State of Connecticut’s requirements to carry concealed firearms on campus.

Of course, Yale isn’t a “flyover country” and I don’t expect many to sympathize or truly consider my suggestion. The counter-arguments will say we shouldn’t be “arming students” (as if the National Guard is going to start passing out M16’s) and that students and faculty wouldn’t feel “comfortable” (find the the Right to Comfort in the Bill of Rights). I posit that when you shop at IKEA, or Wal-Mart, or Stop-And-Shop, there are trained citizens there carrying their Glocks, Colts, and Smith & Wessons. Virtually every lawful handgun owner in Connecticut is both trained and entrusted to carry their handguns concealed in public by the State. You never see them, but they are there. That’s the point of proper training and a mandate to conceal the firearm…no one knows its there; not the criminal and not the passers-by.

For all of the talk about “the freedom to choose” and “reasonable” and “common sense” gun control, there is precious little choice, reason or common sense on the side of those who despise firearms.

The University, by fiat, takes away the choice of graduate students to defend themselves with the most effective lawful means possible.

It is reasonable to differentiate between those who may carry a firearm and those who are vetted and trained (which the State does). It is also reasonable to restrict on-campus and fraternity-house residents from storing firearms in their rooms due to concerns of underage access and alcohol consumption.

However, it is neither reasonable nor common sense to eliminate a powerful deterrent from the streets of New Haven and Yale University by universal disarmament of all students, no matter who they may be or how well-trained they are. If the criminal element knew that some minority of students were trained and armed, the spillover benefit to the rest of the University community would be immense.

Lastly, the YPD and NHPD will certainly complain that this isn’t a wise idea — officer safety and all that.

I propose that we ask them how many officers have been assaulted by lawful citizens carrying a concealed weapon with a State-issued permit. The solution to police and liability concerns is to simply register all students who wish to carry with the YPD. Then, the officers know who the “good guys” are, and the University has a mechanism to ensure compliance with all applicable State and Federal firearms laws.

The Yale community and the police have nothing to fear from armed students.


  • A grad

    It's not Yale's decision: take a look in the various handbooks Yale passes out and you'll find that it is (I believe) a Class D felony to have a firearm on school property--that's the law.

  • Off-Campus Undergrad

    Safety certainly is an appropriate concern. However, I fail to see how Yale bears much more responsibility than it already does.

    You claim that "Telling students to wait for the Yale Shuttle after the sun goes down isn’t a realistic solution to crime."

    No? Why not? We live in an urban city. It would wonderful if all crime were to disappear, but that's not likely to happen. If you care, enough, show up to the city hearings on public safety, add in your 2-cents.

    But Yale and the YPD is not a gang, and it has no authority to patrol random swaths of New Haven where many grad (and some undergrad!) students live. We must, as you said, take responsibility for our own security.

    However, that does not necessitate carrying a gun. Firstly, the chances that, having a gun, you will use it, are much higher. What might have been a robbery will now become a homicide. You pull out your gun, they, pull out theirs.

    Knowing that you have a gun makes me not "uncomfortable" but feel, rather, "unsafe." I want the police protecting me, not capricious individuals, who though they can shoot straight, are much more likely than police to open fire.

    Please, take the shuttle. Keep a $20 easily accessible in your front pocket. And if you don't like living in an urban city, you are free to go elsewhere.

  • Anonymous

    you know what?
    Waiting for the Yale shuttle IS a realistic option.

  • Ray

    I appreciate your comments and wish that Yale University would take them to heart. One does not need to wait until after dark for Yale's campus to be a dangerous place. Too bad that YPD is far more scared of the lawful carrying of firearms than the criminals that are already picking off students day by day.

  • Joe

    "It's not Yale's decision: take a look in the various handbooks Yale passes out and you'll find that it is (I believe) a Class D felony to have a firearm on school property--that's the law."

    Actually, the statuatory prohibition on carry on school grounds only applies to primary and secondary schools (CGS 53a-217b). That it applies to post-secondary institutions is a gross misconception. CT colleges and universities can prohibit carry under CGS 29-28, like any other business or entity. Each university has to make a policy (or opt not to make any policy) under its own volition.

    I would like to compliment Mr. Clark for his thoughtful words. While it is important to take many factors into consideration when considering your personal safety, not prohibiting duly licensed students from carrying as they would in the outside world is not an outrageous notion.

  • Former New Haven resident

    Kudos Mr. Clark for telling the truth about personal safety and responsibility, I fear your excellent commentary will fall on deaf ears.

    In response #1 By A grad wrote; “it is (I believe) a Class D felony to have a firearm on school property”. I sincerely hope you are not headed for the legal profession, because you are dead wrong. Firearms are only prohibited by state law from public or private elementary or secondary school property.

    In response #2 Off-Campus Undergrad wrote; “I want the police protecting me, not capricious individuals, who though they can shoot straight, are much more likely than police to open fire.” Perhaps you did not comprehend Mr. Clark’s letter. The police are not protecting you, nor do they have any responsibility to do so.

    Oh wait a minute, do you have a police officer as a shadow? Do you really think there will be an officer only minutes away, when you actually need one in seconds? Obviously not, because in your infinite wisdom you are carrying a readily accessible $20 bill to buy your way out of trouble. Sorry pal but my life is worth more than a measly 20 bucks.

    What ever happened to self reliance? There was a time in this great country when people actually took responsibility for protecting themselves. Now the vast majority has woefully chosen to let the government shoulder that burden. I respectfully submit that it is not working and it never will work. Stand up for yourself!

  • Harlen

    In reply to comment #1, there are no state laws in regards to carrying concealed weapons on college campuses, only k-12. It is a school policy, and violation would be a school issue, not a criminal one.

  • Police protection…..

    just so you know #2 Off-Campus Undergrad, I would be willing to bet that 90% of CCW(concealed carry) holders train more often than police officers do. I have witnessed some officers that look very uncomfortable around guns, and am willing to bet that they are helped though the qualifications they do bi-annually(or whatever they do for N.H. dept.

    Also you say quote "We must, as you said, take responsibility for our own security.", but don't offer any examples on how to protect ourselves.

    The bad people in this world will use whatever they can to get what they want, and every time we lay our arms down we let them get that much closer to what they want.

  • Samuel C.

    Very nice editorial. Well done. One question: What is the penalty for students who are found to be carrying on campus now?

  • UNH Student

    I'm a student at UNH, and we have similar issues with crime around our campus. The University's response to this seems to be sending out numerous e-mails telling us of the various crimnes committed against our students. That's great, but the only way that will protect anybody is if it scares them from leaving their residence. By prohibiting carry on campus, Universities are also prohibiting carry anywhere between one's residence and the campus, which they could otherwise do lawfully as a CT permit holder. Usually when an assailant spots a possible victim, they don't know whether they are armed or not. If an attacker sees a student walking to or from campus, they know that they are NOT armed, making them a better target than the average citizen walking down the street. It is reasonable to then say that the campus prohibitions on carry actually make students less safe than the other residents of New Haven.

    To #2: On what information are you basing your opinion that an armed citizen is more likely to shoot an attacker than a police officer? I must respectfully disagree. Someone who is licensed to carry a handgun in CT knows when it is justifiable to draw and use a weapon. Not to mention, who do you think has to be more worried about the ramifications of shooting someone - a police officer who responds to a report of a crime and ends up shooting the suspect, or an average citizen on the street standing next to a dead body with a story that the was defending himself? Don't think that police officers are experts in how to react to a threat and handle firearms either. I've met several officers at shooting ranges whose firearms skills(or lack thereof) were frightening.

  • Anonymous

    Waiting for the shuttle is *not* a reasonable option, unless you like sitting around for half an hour for it to (maybe) show up.

  • I am #2

    I'd actually like to respond to a few of you in turn. Bear in mind that while I strongly disagree with all of you that we would be safer with concealed weapons, it is an honest debate, and one that I am willing to have.

    To #6: You state: "Sorry pal but my life is worth more than a measly 20 bucks."

    That would be precisely my point. My life is valuable, and I am COMPLETELY willing to give up $20 (and my cellphone), if it comes to that, to avoid injury or death. You seem to think there is something shameful in that; no, I simply recognize the reality that theft is a possiblity in an urban area. And as far as I know, those who prey on students walking around late at night are not homicidal — they will all readily take your money and run.

    That said, the campus is incredibly safe around Yale during the day. We receive all Perotti's emails, and unsurprisinly, the occurances — during the school year, as summers tend to be slightly more dangerous — are all late, late at night.

    12:47, Sept 7
    3:26, Sept 26

    During the summer, any time after dusk there is a slight possibility of theft. I thik the earliest this summer (I was here) was a little after 8 p.m.

    I am disturbed at the audicity of students, undergraduate or graudate, to assume that in the downtown of an incredibl dense, urban city, there will not be some amount of crime. Unlike the rest of the city residents, though, we have the priviledge of the Yale Shuttle, which is even more active during the summer.

    I took the shuttle regularly this summer, as did many others. Yes, at times, the wait was perhaps 20 minutes; usually it was 5-10, and then 5-10 more to get to one's destination (towards campus) or 20-30 minutes (late at night, returning home into Newhallville or East Rock neighborhoods.

    I apologize for the inconvenience of waiting a few minutes to avoid crime. And while I feel bad where I here about these incidents, all of them (so far this semester) could have been avoided by calling the Shuttle.

    Finishing on the more philosophical note of what would happen if many or nearly everyone carried a concealed weapon:

    I have no evidence (but neither do you) but I think many of those involved in theft would carry a gun more often, and would be more willing to shoot and/or attack preemptively (the mythical jumped from behind an alley) in order to avoid a gun fight.

    So no, I would feel much less safe with grad and undergrad students carrying guns.

  • I work for a Police Dept.

    Guess what Police do…..

    Respond to crimes that have already been committed. How many times have you heard "Police arrest suspect before he shoots victim"?

    Criminals know where the "Gun free Zones" are and they prey on those areas because guess what ….they know law abiding citizens are not armed.

    NH police are already overwhelmed and Yale campus police can't be everywhere at once.

    And what happens when the criminal wants no witnesses?

    They got her $20 and then took her life.

    Show me someone innocent who has been killed by a law abiding citizen during a robbery?

  • Jon

    Waiting for the shuttle amounts to waiting to be mugged, statistically speaking more crimes are prevented by merely showing a firearm than using one. the notion that someone is going to just start randoming shooting crimals because they have a gun is not reasonably sound. You have been watching to many movies. Criminals are far more llikely to miss thrie intended targets when actively shooting a gun. simply because they do not care if they hit an unintended target. Lawful gun owners however have to take into account the legal ramifications of thier actions. therefore they must assess the situation and decide f the proper action is to use a gun or to simply comply with the criminal and be a good witness. This is not the wild wes and nobody uses a gun without thinking about the concequencesof their actions, unless you are a criminal who simply does not care about the consequences of their actions and take the lives of innocent people. While you are waiting for the police to get there remember, Warren vs. District of Columbia.

  • Concerned graduate student '10

    I second the comment that waiting for the shuttle is *not* an option when you are waiting in a dark, deserted area from 45 minutes, which has happened to me and several others I know, several times. There are numerous anecdotal stories from friends waiting for the shuttle. One time, a friend called from her lab at 1 a.m. when it was raining (she had had to finish a long-running experiment), and the shuttle operator hung up on her. She had to walk from Science Hill to HGS carrying her laptop and purse. And forget about catching the shuttle from Union station--one time, I waited for 2 hours, 45 minutes, in vain for a shuttle before finding other students to share a cab. I called the dispatched several times and they kept telling me that it was held up by the medical school. The system definitely needs to be revamped.

  • JE 2010

    I agree with everything in this column. Bravo, Mr. Clark.

  • JR

    The penalty for students who get caught carrying with a permit is expulsion. (This happens at most almost never; avoiding getting caught is easy.)

    Since I no longer live in New Haven and am not a student at Yale, I couldn't tell you if any are.

    But I'm sure that some are; somebody living on, say, Chapel Street (or worse) and going to Yale would be a fool not to.

    It is almost trivially easy to carry a concealed handgun without detection if you know a: have some minimal knowledge about pocket holsters and other easy concealment options b: how to keep your mouth shut about it, and c: avoid other complications that get you frisked by the NHPD or YPD.

    Yale doesn't get to decide if 21+ y/o students carry. Yale does get to decide if publicity about some unknown number of 21+ y/o students carrying might deter some perhaps small number of criminals who would perp on students coming or going from or on campus.

  • Stefan

    The Yale policy is: "The possession or use of explosive, incendiary materials or weapons (guns) on University property by students, employees, or visitors is prohibited except for University Police and other certified law enforcement officers." according to

  • Mike

    I carried for 4 years at my old school (UConn) without a single individual ever knowing. I continue to carry in and around Yale as I pursue my doctorate. I have had a permit to carry for a few years now and refuse to be disarmed by a bunch of academics pronouncing from on high that law abiding citizens are a threat to the safety or learning environment. If they will guarantee me round-the-clock protection I may consider relinquishing my permit.

    In all of the years of carrying I have only ever drawn once and that was during a mugging attempt in a student parking lot. As soon as the pistol came out of my laptop case the mugger took off running. NHPD/YPD were nowhere to be seen so- shockingly- my safety was in my own hands.