Prime Time Crime  


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of May  7, 2007)

Arming Students & Faculty not quite so far fetched


  By John Martin

In the aftermath of the massacre at Virginia Tech, the gun control debate is raging as never before.  While much of the vigorous exchange is to be expected, one item is receiving particular attention.

What if a student, faculty or staff member was armed that fatal morning?  Perhaps he (or she) could have intervened and kept the fatalities to a minimum.

For many, this is a preposterous and ridiculous notion unworthy of contemplation.  That would be a mistake.  What were the odds a couple decades ago that Vancouver would ban smoking in all buildings but you could still go into a nice, warm, taxpayer subsidized room to legally shoot heroin and cocaine? 

As noted economist John Lott Jr. and others have concluded, jurisdictions where non-felons can legally acquire permits to carry concealed handguns enjoy an immediate reduction in violent crime.  Research shows that the issuing of such permits has a deterrent effect that discourages or displaces offenders.  It has also been noted that mass killings such as last week’s typically occur in “gun free zones” where law-abiding citizens, unlike mass murderers, tend to follow the rules.

But given the questionable performances of the police and university administration at Virginia Tech, it’s not unreasonable to expect some citizens may decide they need to play a more direct role in their personal safety.

As outspoken columnist and author Mark Steyn noted, imagine what would happen if five Arabs, brandishing tiny box cutters, walked into a crowded sports bar and demanded the patrons turn over their truck keys.  Most likely, the lucky ones would wake up in the hospital a couple days later. 

But citizens on planes or university grounds don’t tend to respond with the same instinctive survival mechanisms that may surface in other situations.  However deranged, potential mass murderers know this and tend to avoid biker bars, rod and gun clubs, and martial arts schools to acquire their fifteen minutes of infamy.  Locations where potential victims are unarmed and security is lax or non-existent are much more preferable.

Still, the notion that one should require a firearm to feel safe at an institution of higher learning is a bitter pill and sad commentary on contemporary society.  It’s a response most are unwilling to concede. Realistically, it doesn’t appear there’s much appetite at this time for students and teachers throwing a revolver into their knapsacks and briefcases each morning.

But it wasn’t that long ago children were taught to always listen to and do what adults told them.  Women were also instructed they should never physically resist an attacker as this would only worsen the situation.  In hindsight, both these were horrifically ill-advised ideals that only served to multiply the number of victims.

Why weren’t children made aware of predators and women taught self-defense and survival skills?

Well, realistically, there just wasn’t much appetite for it at the time.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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