The right to defend myself: an argument in favor of expanding concealed carry to campuses and churches

Photo courtesy Picserver

Kenneth Pancake

On Nov. 5, in a small town in Texas, a gunman entered a church and opened fire, killing 26 innocent people and injuring 20 others. This horrible, monstrous excuse for a human being certainly wasn’t the first; in fact, many Americans are now desensitized by the constant reporting of some mass murder somewhere in the U.S. We remind ourselves of the tragedies of Las Vegas, Sandy Hook and even the Von Maur shooting 10 years ago here in Omaha.

It makes one think. Perhaps many of us imagine the carnage and wonder if it could be us next time. After a deadly October and November, I have thought of these scenarios and have imagined what it may be like. What if the police don’t get there in time? I always come to the same shocking conclusion: if there is no good guy with a gun near me when it all goes down, there is a good chance that I might not make it. Why? Gun control.

That is why, today, I am calling for the state of Nebraska to enact campus and church concealed carry laws.

If anything, the shooting in Sutherland Springs was a perfect example of failed gun control. The shooter, Devin Kelley, had been court-martialed for past offenses, and because of his conviction, he was no longer federally allowed to own a gun. However, an administrative mistake allowed him to gain access to one anyway. Gun control tactics go further than purchasing restrictions, however. Public universities in 16 states ban weapons on their campuses. Two states ban concealed carry in their churches, aside from an optional and publicly-announced security team.

Fun fact: Nebraska has both of those policies.

Another fun fact: when I’m away from home, I am quite generally in one of three places, and two of those are mentioned above.

At Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church, it so happened that no one inside of the church had a weapon on them. In other cases, it is simply not allowed. At Virginia Tech, 32 people were shot and killed with 17 more wounded, and the shooter still had time to kill himself before the police arrived in the building. Concealed carry was not allowed on that campus at that time, nor was it allowed at Oikos University in Oakland, California where seven died. Weapons were not permitted on the Aurora, Colorado theater property when 12 died and 70 were injured. The authorities, as brave as our officers are when they arrive, can’t teleport. It takes many deadly minutes to arrive on location. Perhaps, if someone had been carrying a weapon to defend their right to live, the numbers would be less in these instances.

In fact, it’s happened before. In 1997, Assistant Principal Joel Myrick used his pistol to detain a student who had already killed two students, stopping him from killing more. In 2007, a church volunteer guard named Jeanne Assam shot Matthew Murray, a shooter who had already killed four, but was stopped from doing more. When it takes police minutes to arrive, this is the kind of help that is needed.

I feel vulnerable every day, as I’m sure many others do. I pray that my school, or my church, isn’t the next to see reporters and news coverage. That feeling is only made worse by the fact that I can’t choose to defend myself on campus, or at my church, when I turn 21. Since we can’t count on gun control policies, and we can’t count on police officers who could be halfway across town, I ask that I be allowed to count on myself.

The ball is in your court, Nebraska senators. We want to be prepared. We want to save our classmates and our congregations from the next maniac who tries to attack us. This next legislative term, give us our God-given right to defend ourselves, and maybe, just maybe, Gov. Pete Ricketts won’t be the next governor to say, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims…”