Advocates are calling for tougher restrictions on campus gun regulations following a deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University last week.
Police say Ross Truett Ashley, a part-time student at the University of Virginia—Wise, shot and killed Virginia Tech campus police officer Deriek Crouse after a routine traffic stop. Ashley then turned the gun on himself, taking his own life.
The incident comes several years after then-Virginia Tech graduate student Seung-Hui Cho claimed 33 lives, including his own, in April 2007, the deadliest single-gunman massacre in U.S. history.
Such tragedies create fertile soil for gun lobbyists hoping to pass laws that will permit firearms on college campuses and gun-control advocates and families of victims from Virginia Tech’s 2007 shooting, who are calling for increased regulation.
“We know it’s going to happen, the clarion call for people to be armed,” said Andy Pelosi, the executive director of GunFreeKids.org and director of The Campaign to Keep Guns of Campus.
Gun violence on campus is exceedingly rare, Pelosi said, and nearly all violent crimes involving college students occur off campus, according to a National Crime Victimization Survey conducted from 1995 to 2002. Of those violent crimes, 9 percent are committed using a gun.
With those types of statistics, “more guns equal more death, and more crime,” Pelosi said.
“This is not the time to start arming people,” he added. “This [Virginia Tech] police officer was armed and he was killed.”
Instead, officials “need to ask the right questions,” Pelosi said, “like figuring out where [Ashley] got his gun and what his mental state was at the time of the shooting.” Recent reports since the incident show that Ashley had legally purchased the handgun earlier this year.
Such debates are difficult for family members of those impacted by the 2007 shooting.
Lori Haas, the mother of a Virginia Tech student who was shot and injured by Cho, referenced a state bill earlier this year that would have made it legal for students to carry loaded guns on campus.
While she said they “anticipate similar legislation,” will continue to crop up, her experience has been that most students, faculty, and staff do not support such laws.
“There is a very small [number of] special interest groups that represent a very small segment of society who wants guns on campuses,” she said. “But not the stakeholders.”
Cho—who was declared dangerous and “mentally ill” by a Virginia Court in 2005—was still able to purchase two guns legally due to Virginia’s “lax gun laws,” according to the New York Times.
An exemption called the “gun show loophole” has made it easier for unqualified people to purchase firearms; estimates indicate as much as 40 percent of firearm sales in American are conducted without a background check.
“Ads, street corners, flea markets, gun shows—there are a number of places where guns are sold between strangers with no background checks,” said Haas, who also works for Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
David Burnett, the public relations director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, an organization which advocates for permitting guns on campus, said:
We absolutely don't believe in ‘arming everyone’ or giving guns to people who don't know how to handle them. We are simply saying those few individuals who already have permits and carry responsibly in 99 percent of the rest of the state shouldn't be deprived of that right the moment they cross that arbitrary campus boundary. Right now, criminals have a government guarantee that their victims will be disarmed. What would it change if we let professors, ROTC cadets, returning students, military vets and other responsibly armed citizens carry discretely in case of emergencies?
But having guns on campus results in unintended consequences, creating more havoc, “including attempted suicide, successful suicide, unintentional injury, and domestic violence incidents,” Pelosi said. “People who want students armed are using the Second Amendment to push guns everywhere.”