Not all Academics are Anti Gun


Jeff White
April 21, 2007, 03:26 PM
This was in the St Louis Post Dispatch the other day:
Tighter gun restrictions would not have helped
By Griffin Trotter


In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre, some of the national rhetoric has been propelled by a line of reasoning that goes as follows: Thirty-three people died because of a psychopath with a gun. To preclude the possibility of another such tragedy, we either can eliminate psychopathology or we can eliminate guns. With little hope of the former, we should focus on eliminating guns.

As abstract logic, this refrain has merit. As public policy it does not. We will not eliminate guns in this country. Nor have other gun-toting countries that have banned guns experienced success in eliminating them or preventing their use in murders or other violent crimes.

After a 1996 mass killing in Australia, that grieving country enacted some of the strictest gun-ban laws on the globe, confiscating even ordinary long-barrel 12-gauge pump shotguns typically used for hunting birds. This roundup cost the Australian government an estimated $500 million. After more than 10 years, it has had no impact whatsoever on gun homicides in that country. Presumably, many lives could have been saved if this $500 million had been spent on effective public health measures.

Now we have supposedly serious commentators in America demonizing the concealed carry law in Virginia as a culprit in the Virginia Tech tragedy. This connection is an odd one: The perpetrator in this case didn't possess a concealed carry license.

And even if he had, should we suppose that a homicidal psychopath planning a mass murder would forsake those plans because of a law that forbids concealing guns in a backpack or laundry bag: Yes, I wanted to kill all those people and then myself, but my respect for the ban on concealed weapons precluded me from carrying this off.

Some bemoan the fact that Cho Seung-Hui bought his guns legally, claiming that a gun ban would have averted the incident. But why should anyone accept that this counterfactual argument would deter killers any more than analogous drug laws deter marijuana smokers: Yes, I wanted to kill all those people and then myself, but purchasing guns on the black market seemed like too much of a hassle, so instead I wrote poems and completed my degree in English.

If we are enamored of such contentions, we should consider what might have happened if only one or two Virginia Tech students on the scene had been carrying handguns at the time of the attack; the perpetrator probably would not have survived his first pause to reload.

History is full of examples of civil rights infringements following on the heels of deeply felt tragedy. Think of 9/11 and the Patriot Act, or Pearl Harbor and America's detention camps for Japanese in this country. In mourning the senseless deaths in Virginia, perhaps we should heed the warning of James Madison, that in times of national crisis and high emotion we must practice utmost vigilance in protecting suddenly vulnerable civil rights.

The right to bear arms is being challenged in the aftermath of a tragedy that might have been averted had that very right been better protected. Let us avoid the fatal error.

Dr. Griffin Trotter is an associate professor at the Center for Health Care Ethics at Saint Louis University.

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April 21, 2007, 03:48 PM
Really, I didn't know that - Jeff! :D

Good article!

April 21, 2007, 04:43 PM
Of course not all academics are anti-gun... ;)

April 21, 2007, 04:51 PM
Many of us work in "occupied territory" (heh); I've linked a few academics and students speaking out again Victim Disarmament at

Thanks for continuing to post these, just trying to get the word out to those who "don't quite get it yet", and to abolish the hopes of those who seek to make us all victims.

April 21, 2007, 10:36 PM
I too know some Academic types, and they're the guys I shoot with sometimes. No, not all are against.

April 21, 2007, 10:45 PM
Also, in recent years, many liberal law profs who are personally anti-gun have realized that the Second Amendment does indeed guarentee an individual right to possess and carry firearms, and that this right is premised on self-defense both against common criminals and against domestic usurpations of power by tyrannous rulers. (E.g., see Sanford Levinson's article The Embarrassing Second Amendment ( at

April 22, 2007, 08:20 AM
Not all Academics are Anti Gun

but who did they vote for in the last election, and who turns students into good little socialists? I am not easily impressed. I like the story but not how it is characterized. This is one man speaking.

Reminds me of the faint cry that not all blacks are Democrats.

April 22, 2007, 12:45 PM
judging all academics as liberal or anti gun is just as bad as judging all gun owners to be illiterate rednecks.

Just what do you consider an "academic" to be? Someone who studies? someone who teaches at a university? someone with an advanced degree?

I have an advanced degree, am on the faculty of a university and teach college courses. I am by no means anti gun. As a matter of fact I know many professors that are huge supporters of the second amendment.

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