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virginia tech editorial from last summer


Last August, while awaiting trial for attempted armed robbery, a man named William Morva was taken to Montgomery Regional Hospital for a sprained ankle and wrist. After using the bathroom, he knocked a deputy unconscious using a metal toilet-paper container. He seized the deputy's gun and shot a hospital security guard who was running to the deputy's aid. The security guard died from his wounds.

A manhunt for Morva ensued. On the morning of August 21 he shot and killed a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy on the Huckleberry Trail near the Virginia Tech Campus. Police evacuated and searched Student Center on the campus after someone fitting Morva's description was seen inside. However, this sighting turned out to be unfounded. Virginia Tech canceled classes and closed campus.

This is one of the editorials that appeared in the student newspaper, The Virginia Tech Collegiate Times, after the incident, nearly 8 months ago:


By Jonathan McGlumphy

The recent escape and pursuit of William Morva caused us to see things we never expected to on campus: Squires evacuated, police with assault rifles and snipers on rooftops. In the aftermath we must be sure to fairly and accurately assess the actions of all parties to ascertain what could have been done better or worse.

We can only applaud the various law enforcement agencies that pursued and eventually captured Morva, most especially Cpl. Eric Sutphin of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office. He and hospital security guard Derrick McFarland paid the ultimate price trying to prevent a suspected dangerous criminal from harming others.

We must give due criticism to the University for its decisions that put students in greater danger than was necessary. By that I am not so much referring to the decision to allow morning classes to take place, but rather the decades-old policy that prohibits students, faculty and staff from legally carrying firearms on campus. This ban even goes so far as to include those who have valid Concealed Handgun Permits.

No doubt many people reading this are thinking, “Guns have no place in an institute of learning!” The most commonly used argument in favor of campus gun bans is that there are times when emotions run high — either because of an in-class discussion or a dispute between a student and professor over a grade — and someone with a gun could easily lose control and shoot somebody else.

There are several facts that debunk this argument. The first is that the campus gun ban is completely artificial, and relies on the honor system. Because we don’t have metal detectors scanning every car and person that enters the campus, it is impossible to truly prevent someone from bringing a firearm if they are so inclined.

Secondly, if your emotions are running high, you don’t need a gun to do serious harm to another human being. Common objects such as pencils, large hole-punchers and metal trash cans can be turned into weapons very quickly. Failing that, fists are also highly effective in a moment of rage. Remember that a gun is just a tool, and it takes a human being’s free will to use it.

Thirdly, incidences where violence has occurred because of an in-class discussion or grade dispute are extremely rare, so this gun ban really is a solution in search of a non-existent problem.

Finally, a person who has a CHP has gone through both firearm training and an extensive background check to obtain that permit. CHP holders are the good guys (and gals), and are statistically less given to violent crime than the rest of the population. And if we’re concerned about guns is residence halls, realize that in just about every state that issues CHPs, including Virginia, you have to be at least 21 to obtain a permit. Since most 21-year olds live off-campus, I’d say the chance of a CHP holder keeping a handgun in a residence hall is slim. And even if one did, remember that this person is better trained than most, meaning that he or she will have the sense to keep the firearm secured at all times. Now consider the situation of this past Monday. A violent criminal who clearly has no respect for other people’s lives is running loose on campus, his precise whereabouts unknown. And while the police did an excellent job of patrolling campus, they simply cannot be everywhere at once. Is it not obvious that all students, faculty and staff would have been safer if CHP holders were not banned from carrying their weapons on campus?

What the Board of Visitors has effectively done by banning CHP-holding students, faculty and staff from carrying their weapons is creating a “Safe Zone” for criminals who do not care about the rules anyway. Disarming law-abiding citizens has never made the general populace more secure. In fact, the opposite tends to be true. States that have less restrictive gun control laws have seen a greater decrease in violent crime since 1995 than states that have more restrictive gun control. Closer to home, a few years ago, an armed man was terrorizing the campus of the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, VA. It was not the police who stopped him, but two CHP-holding students who ran to their cars, got their weapons, and were able to subdue the gunman.

Am I encouraging vigilante behavior? No. That is why we have police, to eliminate the need for that. However, we cannot deny that armed citizens are, and have been a source of security for the public at large for the entire history of this country. For the university to continue to enforce its no-gun policy is to continue to put students in greater danger from the Morvas of the world.

Jonathan McGlumphy is a graduate student at Virginia Tech and a member of the Libertarians at Virginia Tech.


Just thought a few of you might be interested.

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