Reply to Joe Henderson’s October 16, 2015 column: Let gun ban on campuses stand. Reply submitted to the Tampa Tribune on October 20, 2015.
As a supporter of HB 4001 and SB 68 I will tell you that there are no assurances that a well-armed student would have dealt with either dangerous situations Mr. Henderson used in his column. The incident on the USF Tampa campus where Benjamin Knox is accused of firing shots at 4 a.m. shows no indication that the shots were fired at an individual. Benjamin Knox’s actions were irresponsible and potentially deadly. The difference between Benjamin Knox and Oregon’s Chris Harper-Mercer is one of intent. Harper-Mercer intended to murder and he chose a time and location where he would be able to carry that out.
Putting an armed concealed carry student in any of these situations is an exercise in speculation. We can speculate that an armed student being lined up to be executed by Harper-Mercer may have been able to deploy his/her firearm and stop the threat. In Florida, as long as concealed carry holders are denied the ability to carry they will be denied the opportunity to try.
If a concealed carry holder had been near Benjamin Knox he/she would have to make a determination. If the shoots were directed toward the concealed carry holder, even if Knox was unaware of his/her presence, then returning fire might be justified. That is a distinct difference in cases where Harper-Mercer was intentional in being surrounded by classmates, Knox was not.
The second case Mr. Henderson uses is that of Deiondre Porter a University of Florida student-athlete He has been charged with aggravated battery, firing a weapon into a vehicle or building, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. The domestic dispute occurred in the victim’s apartment. Concealed carry isn’t at issue in this case.
Mr. Henderson dismisses the victims right to defend herself noting that “she could have handled this after she overcame her terror, fumbled for her gun and … oh, whatever.” He is correct in pointing out she would lose fine motor skills in the initial confrontation when Porter allegedly held a .45 caliber gun to her head. It would be any gun owner’s decision to use or not use a firearm in this confrontation. Knowledge of the perpetrator and the victim’s knowledge of their own skill would play a part in this decision.
In his denigrating statements about the National Rifle Association and the Florida Legislature, Mr. Henderson rightly points out that no guns are allowed in the Legislature’s chambers. The difference is that the Florida Legislature is not a place where one can casually stroll. It is a security controlled environment with armed law enforcement in presence. Campuses are a far different environment. No mass murderer has ever been challenged when stepping onto a college or university campus.
Mr. Henderson comment on “common-sense gun control “ eliciting enormous and often irrational negative reaction, is itself irrational. “Common-sense” is a vague expression that indicates the gun control laws already in statues are not “common-sense” and only those that will be made from a gun-control advocates point of view will be “common-sense”.
What is not “common-sense” is the repeated story of murderers who obtained guns, but then interviews of family members indicate the person had a history of mental illness. The family feels terrible about the people that were killed but didn’t recognize the lurking monster in their family. Common-sense is for the families of disturbed individuals to try and get them help before they lash out irrationally and murder. Senate Bills 7068 and 7070 are an attempt to improve the management and care of mental health services recipients.
Mr. Henderson’s conclusion that calling the cops and waiting is the only response needed is simplistic. It worked for the USF and UF incidents because neither accused shooter was intent on murder.
At Umpqua Community College in Oregon, six minutes elapsed between the 911 call and the Police response where they engaged Harper-Mercer in a gun fight before he turned the gun on himself. No one in the class was prepared to oppose him. Nine died and seven were injured. There were concealed carry permit holders with guns on them in other parts of the campus at the time of the shooting. None choose to run to the shooting. They did not add their presence to the scene the Police had to interpret when they arrived.
The debate about campus carry in Florida comes down to this, responsible Citizens who are permitted to carry at other times, want to be able to defend themselves when law enforcement is minutes away. They want to decide for themselves if they will try to use their gun in a life threatening situation. That decision will be based on their knowledge, skills, attitude, and proximity to the deadly threat.