It’s late at night and I’ve already written about today’s incident at Lone Star College, but I do want to address one other argument that’s bound to come up in the wake of today’s incident: Lone Star’s campus is a gun-free zone.
If only someone on campus had been packing heat. I mean, we talkin about Texas: just look at what happened to the coyote who tried to mess with Rick Perry’s dog.
The reason I suspect Lone Star’s gun-free status will come up soon — if it hasn’t already — is that this is not the only recent incident in the same location. On January 22, a shooting injured four people (three were shot and one suffered a heart attack) on the campus of the same institution of higher education. And the reaction in certain sectors went — imaginatively — something like this:
[Update: It has come up! Some samples: 14 Students Attacked and Wounded in Texas “Gun Free Zone”, It Should Have Been a DGU: At Least The Campus is Still Gun-Free Edition (DGU, for the uninitiated, stands for Defensive Gun Use), 14 People Stabbed in Texas Gun Free Zone, MASS STABBING ON TEXAS CAMPUS WITH WEAPONS BAN, Multiple students stabbed on gun free Lone Star College campus (this last one being my favorite because it appeared in something called the The Tygrrrr Express — a right-wing nutjob truly after my own heart).]
And maybe all these pundits have a point. After all, what are the odds that a single organization would experience two attacks in quick succession? Could the Lone Stabber have been encouraged by the knowledge — trumpeted around the media less than three months ago — that no one else on campus would be packing heat?
I’ll certainly allow that such a narrative is plausible… but consider this account of the attack, and then try to imagine adding guns on the scene:
No one knew what in the world was going on, least of all Ryan Ballard as he headed up the staircase of the Health Science building at the Cy-Fair branch of Lone Star College.
Late for his Tuesday morning biology class, Ballard didn’t even notice the increasing commotion around him, the heightened chatter and raised voices. If anybody nearby even knew about the stabbings that had just taken place, which ultimately would total 14, they had not had time to spread the word.
But Ballard did notice the blood.
First a few drops – perhaps from a nosebleed? Then more blood a few steps higher. And then more, like a small puddle.
Ballard saw three women running down the stairs crying and screaming. And then more blood, as one of the students held her neck, a flowing red stain moving over her hand and down her chest.
“I was in shock,” he said. “I had never seen something that bad.”
Seconds later, he heard someone in the lobby of the building yell, “Stop that guy!” Though Ballard could not have known it at that moment, “that guy” had attacked not just the bleeding woman but more than a dozen students, inexplicably stabbing each with a small knife as he walked by before quickly moving on, almost unnoticed, to another.
For the second time in three months, a Lone Star campus was the scene of a sudden violent assault. No guns this time. The attacker walked down the hallways of a well-populated building, stabbing people at random.
Even if an armed Ballard or a licensed security guard managed to figure out who to shoot, do you really want him doing so “in the hallways of a well-populated building”?
Think back to January 22. On the exact same day that Lone Star suffered its earlier on-campus shooting, the New York Police Department found itself the subject of a lawsuit by a woman who was inadvertently shot when two police officers pursued an armed man in front of the Empire State Building. The lawsuit was expected to be the first of nine.
Nine. Nine is how many innocent bystanders were shot. By trained policemen. On the streets of New York. Without a single shot fired by the armed gunman in return.
Now imagine that same situation unfolding in Texas. Involving untrained civilians. In the packed halls of Lone Star. With a single fugitive knifeman — identity possibly unknown. Or better yet, watch how I imagine it:
Stopping a gunman or a knife-wielding assailant is not as simple as gun, paper, scissors, where the rules are gun wins, and you better bring one to the knife fight if you want to play. As a wise computer once observed, sometimes the only winning move is not to play. But replace your assailant’s gun with a rock (by, say, making it to some degree difficult to obtain), and you’re back in business — even against some very sharp scissors.
No, I don’t propose gun-free school zones and background checks will provide any answer to mass stabbings — but it’s not like free-gun school zones and gun show loopholes will make us any safer either. If today’s stabbing is the best you can come up with in favor of liberal (ironic, huh?) gun laws, I prefer to take my chances that most people have not “fantasized for years about stabbing people to death”, and the fact that “since 1901, there have been only seven massstabbings in a public place in the USA where four or more victims were killed.”*
I’ll wrap this up and go to bed by repeating my point, first published — holy shit — on January 22, that the list of things guns make demonstrably better is remarkably short.
*Admittedly, this last statistic does border suspiciously on baseball recordbook territory — you know, the ones that go something like (but not necessarily), “the only player to hit 17 home runs, 14 doubles, 37 stolen bases, and 3 triples in a single season during the day time against right-handed pitchers.”