On Saturday, police in West Texas pulled over a motorist for failing to signal a turn. Instead of complying with the routine traffic stop, the man reportedly fired at police with an assault weapon and sped off. According to news reports, the man then began firing indiscriminately at other motorists and residents before hijacking a different vehicle and furthering the shooting spree for 20 miles through Odessa. Between the time the suspect was first confronted by police and the moment officers shot him dead in a theatre parking lot, he murdered seven innocent bystanders and wounded 22 others, including a 17-month-old girl and multiple law enforcement officers.
Rather than mourning such a terrible tragedy together as a nation, we decided instead to split into our respective teams and take turns bludgeoning one another over the head. Our lawmakers seized the opportunity to score political points by blaming President Trump for the slaughter and condemning opponents of gun control as complicit in the murder. The most frequented arguments prevailed as usual, but something different happened this time: Lawmakers took immediate action. It just wasn’t the type of action we’ve come to expect.
In less than one day following the shooting, the state of Texas put into effect legislation loosening concealed carry restrictions. According to NBC News, the new laws “will make it easier for Texans to have guns in schools, places of worship, foster homes where children live and apartments.” While universal background checks, mental health screening and “red flag” laws are potentially viable options in the prevention of mass shootings, there is still little evidence to conclusively prove their effectiveness (the Odessa shooter had previously failed a background check and raised multiple red flags). Moreover, they will do nothing to stop an active shooter.
The fact that is most frequently ignored by proponents of gun control is that criminals do not adhere to the laws enacted by our legislators. From 1994-2004, we implemented a federal assault weapons ban which was concluded by a Department of Justice study to have had an indiscernible effect on overall rates of gun violence. Further, the ban did not prevent the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history to that point. When prevention fails, we need a line of defense between those who mean harm and those in harm’s way.
Whether it be a police officer stationed at a public school, an armed security guard assigned to protect a public building, or a well-equipped bystander, there needs to be armed defense against potential attacks. All of our most prized events or members of society are defended with armed security, including political leaders, sporting events, concerts and many celebrities or otherwise affluent public figures — even our post-9/11 airplanes have air marshals with concealed firearms. If we truly care about the safety of our schoolchildren — and Americans as a whole — then it’s imperative that we invest in their protection, rather than ramming through unconstitutional legislation which strips law-abiding citizens of their ability to defend themselves, ultimately rendering our unarmed vulnerable to both mass shooters and government tyranny.
When conventional modes of gun control fail to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms, everyday people may be the last hope to prevent a tragedy. Such was the case with Suzanna Gratia Hupp during the Luby’s shooting in Killeen, Texas in 1991. Hupp was eating lunch with her parents in the cafeteria when a shooter opened fire inside the building. Hupp reached for her licensed concealed firearm only to remember that she had left it in the car in accordance with state law. Her father, unarmed, charged the shooter and was killed—along with Hupp’s mother and 21 others. Escaping with the belief that she may have been able to intervene, Hupp dedicated a successful political career to fighting the restrictions which left her disarmed on that unfortunate day.
Some tragedies are wholly unpreventable, but this does not mean that efforts can’t be made. The most recent concealed carry laws in Texas are a solid first step toward combating mass shootings and a useful common ground between strict gun control measures and “doing nothing.” While our gridlocked lawmakers argue over ineffective gun control, it is incumbent upon state legislatures nationwide to embrace the prospect of good guys with guns. It may just be the only hope next time a bad guy points one at you.
Kevin Catapano is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.