Feeling A Bit Cassandrish

On Tuesday, I wrote a piece about the recent spate of mass shootings, and discussed their common elements. In each, I noted, the shootings took place in clearly-defined “gun-free” zones, with one exception. And in each, the killer kept on killing until he ran out of victims and then took his own life, with two exceptions.

In one of those two exceptions (the Chicago strip mall), it appears not to have been an intentional mass murder, but a robbery gone wrong, and the killer is still at large.

In the other shooting, the one that was the exception to both rules, the gunman was stopped by an ordinary citizen acting as a volunteer security guard for the church the killer targeted.

Well, two days after I wrote that article, there was yet another mass shooting — this one on the campus of the Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, killing five. And again, the gunman chose to take his own life once all the ready victims had fled.

So, how does this shooting fit the pattern? Perfectly. As Bill Quick discovered, the campus in question is a “gun-free zone” (in fact, but not quite using those terms):

Northern Illinois University The Student Code of Conduct

3-1.5 Dangerous Weapons:
1.5a Possession, use, sale, or distribution in any residence hall, building, or grounds under university control of: fireworks, firearms, shotguns, rifles, hand guns, switchblade knives, any type of ammunition, explosives, and all other serious weapons.
1.5b Misuse of martial arts weaponry, BB guns, pellet guns, clubs, knives, and all other serious weapons.
Students who wish to bring firearms to the campus must obtain written permission from the chief security officer of the university. Firearms must be stored at the University Security Office except with written permission of the chief security officer of the university. At no time will any of the above dangerous weapons be allowed in the university residence halls.

There was no Jeanne Assam on campus yesterday to stop the shooter. The college had made damned certain of that.

It’s not often that I actually advocate for a lawsuit, but in this case I think it’s long overdue. Every time an institution declares itself a “gun-free zone,” it is making an implicit promise to the public: “you don’t need to protect yourself here — indeed, we won’t allow you to do so. Instead, we will protect you.” And they simply are not keeping that promise.

In essence, they are constructing sheep pens with fences just high enough to keep the sheep in, but low enough for the wolves to leap over, and rarely bothering to even get any sheepdogs. (And most of the time, those sheepdogs are toothless.) Instead, they plaster their fences with “no wolves allowed” and trust in the power of those words to keep the predators at bay.

And how well is that working out?

In Dekalb yesterday, five people were killed by the wolf. In Kirkwood, Missouri, five people (including two armed police officers) were gunned down. (The police officers, the “sheepdogs,” were the first victims.) In Omaha last December, eight were murdered. At Virginia Tech, thirty-two were slaughtered.

The sole exception was the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There the gunman started his spree in the parking lot, where he killed two teenage sisters and wounded two others (including their father). But once he entered the church, he was only able to wound one more before a volunteer security guard — using her own privately-owned gun — stopped him.

The Church was not a “gun-free zone.” Their guards were not sheepdogs, but armed members of their own flock that had chosen to act in the place of sheepdogs. And there very well may have been more armed congregationists who could have done the stopped him as well — the Church had not taken away the rights of its guests to defend themselves, as so many schools and malls and other places have done.

I don’t quite grasp the mindset of those who seek the dubious protection of “gun-free zones” and other such head-in-the-sand solutions. The message seems to be “I trust toothless rules and impersonal institutions to protect my physical safety, and will trust them absolutely and exclusively — to keep me safe and alive, and take no steps to assume any responsibility for myself.”

That seems to work out quite well — right up until it doesn’t.

Just ask those 48 people who practiced it in Blacksburg, Virginia, or Omaha, Nebraska, or Kirkwood, Missouri, or Dekalb, Illinois how well it worked out.

You can ask them all you like, but they won’t be answering any time soon.

They’re dead.

So are the two police officers in Kirkwood who were there to keep the wolves at bay.

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