Could CCW Have Stopped Virginia Tech?

Obviously, such a question doesn’t have a definite answer. After all, the fact that people might be free to carry a firearm doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone in the building would have (although, with a 2 hour lag between the two shootings, I think quite a few people with CCW might have decided to carry that day). But at Virginia Tech, such an action is prohibited:

The university’s employees, students, and volunteers, or any visitor or other third party attending a sporting, entertainment, or educational event, or visiting an academic or administrative office building or residence hall, are further prohibited from carrying, maintaining, or storing a firearm or weapon on any university facility, even if the owner has a valid permit, when it is not required by the individual’s job, or in accordance with the relevant University Student Life Policies.

Now, I’m not a gun guy. I don’t own any, and haven’t ever fired one [a situation I plan to remedy in short order]. But I understand one thing: when criminals fear individual citizens who might be carrying, it makes them more wary to commit crimes. I’m not going to say that a different policy at Virginia Tech would have stopped this attack from occurring, or would have definitively made it less deadly. But it easily could have.

The shooter knew that he was attacking an unarmed group of victims, because VT’s policies demand it. He knew he was largely safe, even though, as Billy Beck points out, a classroom shooting situation is not tactically advantageous to a shooter, but is quite advantageous to a defender in that classroom. In an armed society, he would have been a sitting duck.

To a lot of Americans, gun control sounds good. But it doesn’t live up to its promises, for two very simple reasons. First, gun control doesn’t actually disarm criminals, who (as Britain is pointing out) are still able to get guns. Second, gun control disarms the populace, leading people who are well endowed physically to have a natural advantage if they choose to engage in violence, because the “great equalizer” no longer exists.

What happened at Virginia Tech yesterday was a tragedy that will rock the very core of our country, much like Columbine, much like 9/11. I can’t state definitively that allowing Tech students and faculty to carry would have stopped the attack which happened. But I can state that the policy of banning all guns made them into defenseless targets, and nothing more. I don’t want this debate to have to start just yet, when people are still mourning a loss. But dare we ask students and faculty to sit idly by, defenseless, as a gunman mows down one after another? I think not.

Hat Tip: Jace, at Jason Pye’s blog

  • paul

    Maybe we should allow people to carry around nuclear bombs. That probably would have deterred the shooter too. It’s time to repeal the 2nd amendment. Look at
    and notice how the countries with higher murder rates tend to have legalized guns. We could do a phased removal of guns from our society, over a 20 year disarming.

  • Jmarsh

    I’m going to disagree with you, Brad. When I returned to college at the age of 24, I was old enough to carry. On top of that, the landscape of college enrollments has changed, so you’ve got a far greater percentage (20% at LSU, IIRC) of non-traditional students. “Old folks”, those changing careers, soldiers done with their first term of enlistment, etc.

    Paul, criminals don’t pay attention to laws. How hard is this to understand? 110 million firearms in the US, and one person every couple of years goes on a mass shooting with one or two of them. Yet thousands will defend themselves merely by brandishing and not even firing a weapon.

  • Ted


    That graph is a skewed representation of what you are trying to prove.

    First, there is no breakdown of murder by weapon type. Even if all were guns, which they are not, most studies saying guns are bad, that I have read, fail to take into account how many guns used for murder were obtained by legal means versus illegal means.
    In addition, they fail to notice other enviromental and socio economic factors.

    Is the murder rate higher due to poor and cramped living conditions? Is it lower because it is a high class neighborhood? Are more guns used at certain economic levels? Are those guns used also obtained legally?

    I personally know about 9 people who conceal and carry. I am considering getting CCW for both myself and my wife.

    Take away guns? What’s next? Knives? Aren’t they having serious problems with knives in Britain?
    Take away knives? I can get a bat. Or a pipe. Or a brick. I have really large hands.

    And if I can get those things, I am sure someone with less honorable intentions can get them.

  • Ted

    As a side note, I used to do some locksmith work. Do you know what the most common break in tool by profession thieves is?

    A pipe wrench. It can be used to break windows, it can be used to shear pins in a bolt, it can be used to knock off a knob. Not to mention, if you have coveralls and a black cap/ski mask, it makes a perfect disguise.

    It also makes a deadly weapon. The heft in one of those things can break a skull, or jar someones bat out of their hands. Best defense against a professional crook wielding a pipe wrench is a gun.

  • kaioti

    i am generally considered liberal (i consider myself such, within certain parameters), but i am also a fairly hard-core constitutionalist.

    the right to bear arms is insured in the constitution, and i believe every citizen should have this right. however, i do NOT believe ANYONE should have the right to conceal arms. if all of us were permitted to carry a gun in plain sight, wherever we go, and all of us were required to be trained in the weapon’s basic use, i think we would all feel a bit safer, although i admit this idea might be a bit counter-intuitive.

    the worst-case scenario i see with such a policy, is if random checks for concealed weapons were conducted.

    if everyone could see that everyone carried a potentially deadly weapon, and no one knew how many others were proficient in said weapon, i think the temptation to use such weapons would decrease. as things stand, i believe the prohibitions merely encourage the unlawful and imbalanced to, as it were, “buck the system” and use weapons when and where they could.

    again, i feel it is likely that those same would be deterred if they knew that others, following the law, were able to shoot them dead before being able to fire.

    as to full disclosure, i have only once in my life pointed a firearm at another person. it was a shotgun, it was unloaded, and i expect i couldn’t have hit the offender if i tried — in defense of an animal sanctuary against potential poachers.

    truth be told, i expect ANY gun i might ever carry would be unloaded.

    the possible poachers didn’t know that. would anyone?

  • kemper norton

    A message from the UK…….we’ve had a few recent problems with gang violence in major cities , but nothing on the scale of Virginia or
    Columbine in our universities or colleges. More guns = more death by guns , and all the misquoting of the Constitution won’t change that.
    Unless , of course , you considered the guy to be a member of a ” well-regulated militia”.

    Deep sympathy to the bereaved , curses on the policos of all colours who will use this incident for their own ends.

    peace out.

  • Wild Pegasus


    If more guns equals more crime, then why does crime drop when different US states loosen their gun control laws? If so, then why isn’t Finland, Switzerland, or Israel drowning in waves of crime? If more guns equals less crime, then why has gun crime skyrocketed in the wake of the UK gun ban?

    Guns prevent much more crime than they facilitate, is the easiest answer.

    – Josh

  • Adam Selene

    Aside from the natural rights question (A right to life, liberty and property must include a right to self-defense), there is strong evidence from Washington, DC that banning guns doesn’t reduce crime. In fact, crime has gone up, including violent crimes committed with guns as a primary tool, since DC enacted the most restrictive gun control laws in the country.

  • Dan

    Concealed carry laws serve a purpose on their own. With these laws in effect, a criminal never knows who has a gun and who doesn’t. Allowing people to carry concealed licensed firearms protects those who choose not to carry them as well.

    I’m as liberal as anyone else who may comment here, but the numbers, and just plain logic tells us that not allowing people to protect themselves makes them powerless against those who are willing to break the law to have them. When the criminals possess all the fire power, you’re in trouble.

  • Greg

    Horrible to hear about this whole incident.

    Most people will cry for gun control. But honestly is that really the answer ? Give people the chance to defend themselves is the real answer.

    I think most people who would attempt to do something of this nature would think at least twice if they knew other people around them are armed.

    I am a strong supporter of CCW permits (Concealed Carry Weapon) and that all states should issue them upon request.

    In 2006 I believe VT banned CCW permit holders from carrying weapons onto Campus.

    Unfortunately in the world we live in today these things happen, and we have to be prepared for these things. Think of all the time that passed from 1 shooting to the next 2 hours !!! That was not enough time for Law Enforcement to do anything. I want my life to be protected by the person it means most to ME !!!

    No arguements about my post. This is what I believe and its not up for debate. I wish all those affected my best wishes !! 2nd Amendment for All !

  • Kemper Norton

    Josh…thanks for response….firstly , I never said more guns = more crime , merely that they equal more deaths by guns. It is a complex issue , but I think easy access to weapons ( and I agree , changing a waiting period won’t make any difference)might be a contributing factor in shooting people with them. Also , there wasn’t a sudden rocketing in gun crime since a recent ban….it’s just the case that the UK hasn’t had a general gun culture…ever. There are anomolies worldwide as regards gun ownershipvs violent crime , but this freedom to protect yourself second amendment stuff doesn’t seem to have worked that well….time for a different view ? Nice site by the way , makes a change from the rantings of other blogs of all poitical persuasions….” All americans are violent by nature…”it’s Marilyn Manson’s fault” etc etc



  • Wild Pegasus

    It is a complex issue , but I think easy access to weapons ( and I agree , changing a waiting period won’t make any difference)might be a contributing factor in shooting people with them.

    Certainly true. But, then again, many people deserve to be shot or, at least, to be threatened with a shooting.

    There’s also not much evidence to support gun bans as a way to make access dificult for criminals. After all, if a man decides to kill another, he’s hardly going to worry about the proper papers for his weapon of choice.

    this freedom to protect yourself second amendment stuff doesn’t seem to have worked that well

    It works well for hundreds of thousands of people every year. When something like Va Tech happens, obviously, it’s big news. When a shopkeeper whips out a weapon and scares off a couple of muggers, it’s not news. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Look up the crime defense statistics on the US Department of Justice.

    Moreover, the opposite of the Second Amendment also doesn’t work. Washington is a wretched crime-ridden craphole, and it has had a nearly-complete ban on guns for decades.

    – Josh

  • Kemper Norton

    Thanks for not just stomping on me as a European wimp lecturing you about your country’s problems , which would have been fair enough….just learning about the issue’s enough for me. Regardless of the general debate about gun ownership and the second amendment , does no-one have a problem with the fact that a guy who was on record as being disturbed ,having spent time in a mental hospital , having been investigated for stalking two women etc etc….can just walk into a shop and tool himself up ? I’m not saying only middle-class white homeowners should own guns , but surely some kind of online check isn’t crypto-fascist ? Seeing as to get a job in education you need a police check , I’d have thought a history of mental instability and a criminal record might be taken into account here….Of course , this won’t stop all gun violence , but if anyone’s got a good idea how such events could be limited , I’ve yet to hear a decent one……tooling up all students , stopping South Korean action movies….how about a decent level of campus security ?

  • Brad Warbiany


    The problem with gun control is that this guy was determined. While it looks like he bought these guns legally, anyone who is willing to go shoot 40-50+ people is going to find a way to buy a gun illegally if necessary. However, the more restrictions and hoops you place on the purchase of guns legally, the more you deter regular law-abiding citizens without mental problems from purchasing one.

    But your questions about campus security is a non-starter. My whole point in writing this article is that you can’t expect government to protect you. Police really aren’t there to protect you from crimes as they occur (although they will if they can), and to have enough police to do that job would cost an astronomical sum to guard against a very rare threat.

    Virginia Tech can’t afford to hire enough campus security to have stopped this. They may have made some mistakes in the way they handled the situation (not responding properly to the first shootings in the dormitory helped enable the second two hours later), but the fact is that the rules making VT a “gun-free zone” obviously didn’t work.

    Note that I’m not suggesting arming all the students. As I pointed out, I’m not sure that allowing CCW would have stopped this, because you never know whether any of the students or professors in that building would have been carrying that day. I’m not saying that we force everyone to carry, just that we allow those people who have taken the time and effort to become proficient with firearms the freedom to carry.

    This was a horrible tragedy, and the blame for it lies squarely with the shooter. But it’s important to look at this and see if there are lessons to be learned.

  • Mobster

    If the government ever banned me from owning my gun, there would be a standoff in front of my house.

    And if they really wanted to take my gun, then should we as a country not defend ourselves against a tyrannical government.

    The only way the government would get my gun is if they were willing to take it from my cold hands.