Armed Professors and Mass Killings: Eugene suggests that we should allow professors to carry guns on campus to reduce the carnage in the event of an armed "mad killer" who comes to campus and tries to kill as many people as he can. If professors are armed, Eugene reasons, perhaps the professor can shoot the "mad killer" after he has killed only a few people. That way, fewer people will die.

  This strikes me as a really really bad idea for a lot of different reasons. Eugene suggests one obvious objection to this proposal: Such killings are so extraordinarily rare that it's unwise to craft wideranging social policy in response to them. But let me offer another reason why it's a bad idea. On most college campuses, campus police officers already perform the role Eugene would want professors to perform.

  In my experience, at least, most college campuses are crawling with officers from campus police departments. Campus police officers already carry guns, and they are trained in how to use them. On most campuses they respond to campus incidents anywhere on campus in minutes or even seconds. And unlike professors, they're around on nights and weekends. Given that, it seems that the perceived benefit of having armed professors is something we already have, more professionally and completely, with the current system of armed police officers.

  UPDATE: Thanks for the helpful comments. If my experience is different from others, that is good to know; we always face the problem of trying to generalize from our experience, so I'm certainly open to hearing other views on this. At the same time, it seems that a lot of commenters have an unrealistic sense of how many professors would actually chose to arm, and how much a difference it would make. I suspect that very very few professors would actually decide to carry guns on their person if they were allowed to do so. Further, the specific facts of Virginia Tech or Columbine aren't the issue; the issue, as framed by Eugene, is what might reduce the carnage in a future attack -- not what might have done so in the past.
Armed Police Officers at Universities:

I appreciate Orin's response to my post. If university police officers were indeed always or generally available within "even seconds," we'd have less need for others to be armed. But I don't share his perception of campuses being "crawling with officers from campus police departments"; it doubtless varies from campus to campus, but I almost never see UCLA police officers right around the law school. Perhaps they can come within "even seconds," or at least "minutes," but I rarely see them physically at the law school, whereas there are almost sure to be other university employees much closer.

This does raise the question, though, of what happened at Virginia Tech. Can anyone speak to how long it took for the police to be called, how long it took for them to arrive, and how quickly did they go in after the shooter when they arrived? (I should note that Virginia Tech is a large campus, much larger than UCLA, which I believe is in turn somewhat larger than George Washington University, where Orin teaches.)

My Favorite Comment, from the Armed Professors Thread:

Posted by commenter Hoosier:

In order to reflect the hierarchy of faculty, there would have to be stratification:
Assistant Professors get muzzle-loaders
Associate Professors get semi-automatics
Full Professors get automatics
Adjuncts get a sharp letter-opener
Chaired Professors are irrelevant, since they never come to campus

UPDATE: Commenter The Hobbesian Father (Greg for short) follows up:

I'm sympathetic to the plan, but I can't see how it would possibly work unless the changes to campus policy allowed grad students to shoot the bad guys for the professors.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. My Favorite Comment, from the Armed Professors Thread:
  2. Armed Police Officers at Universities:
  3. Armed Professors and Mass Killings: