Concealed Carry, Texas Campuses and a History of Violence

“I was shot through the left thigh, both hips and right shoulder and I survived by playing dead,” said Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 who is now a student at the University of Texas in Austin.

He told his emotional story to try to sway Texas lawmakers to reject a coming bill in the 2011 legislative session that will add one more place that concealed handgun license holders aren’t allowed on while armed – college campuses.

“I was there that day. That was the craziest day of my life with one person with two guns. I can’t imagine what it would have been like with multiple students with multiple guns,” he said.

I can imagine it. And it’s not some Pollyanna scenario. It’s based on the facts on the ground at Virginia Tech in 2007 and in Texas in 1991 and 1966.

But before I get into that, I have to tell you this isn’t new territory for me. Nor is it for Texas. Texans have been fighting an incremental fight to expand gun rights that started with the massacre at a Luby’s in Killeen, Texas.

The massacre and its aftermath should be required reading for all sides in the gun debate. On one of Texas’ darker days, October 16, 1991, George Pierre Hennard crashed his truck into a Killeen Luby’s, got out, and proceeded to methodically shoot and kill 23 people in the restaurant. He had to stop to reload several times. Suzanna Hupp, who had a handgun in her car but had left it there because of the restriction on carrying a gun into a public restaurant, watched helplessly as Hennard gunned down her father and her mother. The killing only stopped when Hennard decided to kill himself. All the while Suzanna Hupp knew if only she had her gun with her, she could have ended the massacre right there.

Suzanna Hupp survived and vowed never again. She ran for state legislature in 1996 and wrote the Texas concealed handgun law.

Reading Suzanna Hupp’s story is why I became an avid concealed carry advocate. I was already a gun owner, but when I read her own words about how helpless she felt to protect her family – it was life changing. It’s rare to find me with only one gun on my person, much less none.

Flash forward almost 20 years from Killeen. The Texas legislature considered a bill to allow concealed carry on campus, but it was defeated.  This year advocates have a super majority in the Texas house, so it’s pretty much a sure thing to pass in 2011.

I wrote a column in support of CHL holders to carry on campus back in October 2010. It was right after a would-be gunman on the University of Texas killed himself before he had a chance to kill anyone else.

I pointed out that the kind of people like Virginia Tech’s Seung-Hui Cho or Fort Hood’s Major Nidal Hassan, who want to kill a lot of people for whatever reasons go on in their diseased minds, go where there are lots of people who won’t have guns. They rarely show up at police stations, gun stores or rifle ranges.

I got the usual “blood in the streets” hysteria, with a twist. “Children.” Yep. Apparently, college students who are 21 are still considered “children.” Or else the worry was drunken parties and guns getting thrown into a mixer. Because most 21-year-olds who are responsible enough to have a CHL are just as irresponsible as C minus communications majors, I suppose. (They are aware, I presume, that there are 18-year-old children in the Army responsible for tanks, much less handguns, right?)

Anyway, the number one protest I got was exactly what Mr. Goddard pleaded. They said more people carrying guns when a rogue murder starts shooting would make it worse. The most intelligent version of this protest was from a colleague.

“If other people are armed, how do you differentiate between your classmate who is armed and wanting to shoot the shooter, and your classmate that is armed and wanting to shoot people?”

People who don’t approve of guns approve of the stereotype of us as just itching for a fight so we can play John McClane. But that’s like saying someone with a fire extinguisher in their house is hoping for a fire. Gun owners actually understand the serious consequences of shooting, and terrible damage guns can do.

So I pointed out that a concealed handgun license is not a hunting license. I explained that when you have a CHL, your first responsibility when there is trouble is to get away from the confrontation. That’s part of the training. Walk (or run) away because haven’t been deputized, Dirty Harry.

If you can.

In the Virginia Tech massacre, students were locked in classrooms. They, like the customers at Luby’s in 1991, had no escape. Cho went from room to room, methodically executing people. If just one professor or student (21, again I remind the slow) with a CHL had been in one of those classrooms, Virginia Tech would not be one of the deadliest shooting sprees in American history.

There already has been a terrible shooting spree at the University of Texas in Austin where Mr. Goddard and other gun control folks will lobby to keep zoned “gun-free”. Those students should check it out. It was in 1966, when Charles Whitman climbed the campus clock tower and, using the skills he acquired as a Marine, killed more than a dozen and wounded more than 30 people.

Whitman was brought down when civilians using privately owned firearms and police who had borrowed privately owned firearms cornered and shot the sniper.

If that doesn’t raise at least a few questions they need to face, then how about these ones I raised in my initial column: Why is the Bill of Rights void on college campuses? What other Constitutional rights should responsible adults in college be denied?