There is really no good way to put how I’ve felt the last couple of days into words. On Wednesday, I felt terrified when there were reports of a gunman near where my partner works at UNC-CH. I felt powerless while he was hiding in a cubby room. I felt overjoyed when the all-clear was sounded, and I could breathe again. And when Kevan came home safely, I was immeasurably grateful.
But after having gone through the suspected shooter-on-campus and now the typical fear-mongering that would inevitably come after the real-life shooting in San Bernardino, I also feel so angry.
After the shooting of three students near UNC-CH last year, Kevan and I took a class to learn how to safely handle and carry a concealed weapon. We passed the written and shooting tests and have all the training required to carry concealed almost anywhere. However, we have not gone through the motions of getting our permits yet, because among other things we each spend the overwhelming majority of our days in places where it is a crime to carry the tools necessary to defend ourselves should the worst happen.
Specifically, I am talking about university campuses.
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I am glad that the scare in Chapel Hill was a false alarm. But what makes me so angry is that it could have been completely real. And if it had been real, Kevan would have been helpless despite the fact that his being disarmed does nothing to make the campus safer, does nothing to prevent crazed shooters from terrorizing the campus, does nothing at all but make a person trained to use tools of self-defense safely another easy target.
Kevan was not going to be some rough vigilante like the fear-mongers around guns would have you believe. He would have found a safe place to hide and used the tools necessary only for self-defense if there were no other options. I know this not because Kevan would be some great exception to the rule, but because that is exactly how we were taught in our concealed carry class.
No benefit was achieved by his being made helpless. And no one should ever have to feel so powerless when the answer to the problem is quite simple. Those with the knowledge and training to handle the tools of self-defense safely should not be prohibited from defending themselves, especially not in a potentially fatal school shooting. It is infuriating that our state lawmakers have refused to prioritize students’ fundamental rights to defend themselves.
But my anger goes beyond the fact that Kevan would have been helpless in the face of a real crisis or that our politicians continue to refuse to allow students to defend themselves from unprovoked, violent aggression. At a societal level, I’m angry because we have allowed it to be OK to call for victims to disarm because criminals continue to use tools of defense as weapons of nihilist massacre, terrorism and crazed sport.
After a day like Wednesday, the real-world implications of that being OK are just too clear: Victims must stay powerless, and criminals remain outside our control. I refuse to let that be OK with me, and those who have made sure they are trained to safely defend themselves need to start demanding that they not be made powerless.
Peter McClelland of Burlington is a law student and the president of the N.C. Chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans.