A terroristic car and knife attack on Ohio State University’s campus raises again the debate over weapons policies on the grounds of our educational institutions and effective measures to protect students, faculty, and staff. The attacker, an immigrant from Somalia who had transferred to OSU this semester, developed frustrations over treatment of Muslims around the world and posted a statement about this on Facebook before driving a car into a group of people and then attacking anyone nearby with a knife. University police officer Alan Horujko brought the incident to a quick end by fatally shooting the attacker.
The attacker’s statement complained about America’s involvement in other nations, particularly Muslim countries, and declared, “By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday.” But in an earlier social-media post, he said that abuses of Muslims in Myanmar (formerly Burma) had pushed him to the “boiling point,” suggesting that his concerns were not exclusively aimed at this country’s actions.
Whatever his motivations, the university’s reaction in one sense was predictable: run, hide, fight. That was a tweet issued by the OSU Emergency Management office and is the advice offered by the campus’s Department of Public Safety for active shooter situations. The latter explains those three in more detail. Run includes leaving your belongings behind and keeping your hands visible—presumably to avoid being mistaken as the attacker by the police. Hiding should not be done in groups, and you should barricade the door. To fight, “find an object to use as a weapon such as a fire extinguisher or chair.”
I haven’t been to OSU, but my experience with college campuses is that the more modern the building, the more likely the rooms will be divided by half-inch drywall panels and surrounded by ordinary glass windows. The door locks can be defeated with a solid kick. In other words, the rooms aren’t shelter. They are, in the parlance of people who have studied the subject of gunfights, concealment, not cover. Anyone with a gun chambered in .22 Long Rifle can send rounds into the room, and anyone with a steak knife wouldn’t even have to use the door to enter.
If I’m being told that I must shelter in place, it’s reasonable for me to call for real shelter, a space that can be locked and that will stop attacks. If that’s too much to ask, then allow me to fight effectively. Except that’s something that OSU and many other colleges don’t allow. Possession of “deadly weapons” is forbidden to “faculty, staff, graduate associates, and student employees” on campus. Anyone under attack at OSU is told to find an object that works as a weapon, while being told not to bring things that are designed for exactly that purpose.
The excuse for banning guns in the hands of most people at the college is made that if people who aren’t cops are carrying, the cops will confuse them as the attacker. The recommendation that people keep their hands visible while running supports that, perhaps. Since we’re talking about educational institutions, that suggests to me that education—both for the police and for legally armed ordinary people—is a solution worth exploring here. But we do know what happens when the potential victims are unarmed and what happens when an armed good person, in this case the police officer, shows up.
As campus carry spreads, we will have more examples of people carrying legally to see how things turn out, and the evidence that we have regarding carry license holders suggests that we’re generally responsible. Again, we know what banning carry has accomplished. It’s worth considering a new approach.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.