I was alarmed by Andrew P. Clark’s column on the subject of allowing students to carry concealed weapons (“Elis safer when armed,” 9/19) — not alarmed that students might be carrying guns, but rather that the column could pass for rigorous thought.
As a graduate student myself, I understand the strenuous demands on one’s time, but writing this piece, I truly had to be certain and spent almost 40 grueling minutes obtaining historical data on Connecticut’s crime rates from the Department of Justice’s Web site. Perhaps there is something superfluous about using data to check the validity of the completely hypothetical statement, “If the criminal element knew that some minority of students were trained and armed, the spillover benefit to the University would be immense.”
But, as criminals often act despite the presence of police, armed guards or even armed rivals, one might begin to suspect that the introduction of a concealed-carry policy might have a muted effect on crime rates. Clark didn’t seem to know — or perhaps didn’t care — that this state’s shall-issue concealed-carry policy has been in effect since 1969. Surely, we should expect to see a huge drop in state-level crime rates when criminals were suddenly faced with possibly armed victims, no?
No. Not at all.
From 1970 until 1981 the robbery rate in Connecticut more than tripled. It declined for five years, rebounded to the same level by 1990 and then precipitously dropped off. The murder and manslaughter rate doubled from 1970 to 1990, and then dived. Burglaries peaked in 1981, declined and then really started to fall after 1991, reaching a 40-year low in 2006. Almost all rates for all types of crime followed the same pattern. If the concealed-carry law had any effect on crime at all, it took a damn long time to do it. Otherwise, something else must have been the cause of the crime spike.
That fantasy, in fact, totally disregards strategy. Robbers tend not to strike in large superstores filled with bright lights and large crowds or in front of security cameras. Any entry-level criminal who has played Grand Theft Auto knows that it is much easier to attack isolated individuals or small groups at night. Muggers, or at least the successful ones, don’t usually walk facing their victims while flashing a piece from a block away. They attack from behind, from the side or in groups large enough to overwhelm. They’re smart enough to not produce a weapon until they are in close range and the victim has no time to react. Clark seems to think that a robber might be scared of his concealed gun, but I invite him to explain how to unholster, unlock, cock and aim when a thief already has a knife pressed against your belly or a pistol pointed at your heart. The only way for armed students to stop potential assailants would be preemptively. Here we encounter a problem.
To be shockingly frank, how many Yale grad students, be they from Clark’s “fly-over” or any liberal enclave, are able to instantly tell who is a young black male robber and who is a young, law-abiding black male? I doubt that the police are afraid of armed students, but everyone should be very afraid of a Yale student accidentally starting what is politely termed an “incident” in a city full of decades-long racial tensions.
To speak of other uncomfortable things, the horrific Virginia Tech massacre had nothing to do with robbery, but everything to do with insanity. I won’t disagree that sane armed students might have stopped a psychotic armed student and prevented much carnage. But how many students would it have taken? How could any students have reached their hypothetical guns while being fired upon? In too many grim scenarios, innocent people are still killed long before they have time to react. The grim lesson of Virginia Tech is not that armed students will prevent violence; it is that society law enforcement, lawmakers, gun dealers, the bureaucracy and pro-gun organizations collectively failed to keep a semi-automatic Glock 19 and Walther P22, as well about a dozen recently-legalized extended 15-round 9 mm clips, away from a deranged young man.
Clark’s argument lacks what we liberal types call “reason” and “facts.” I challenge him, then, to show some sort of proof for his idea. He might start by looking at recent history, when the states and then the federal government began aggressively passing and tightening gun control laws.
That began, by the way, in about 1990.