For the safety of the students and faculty at Virginia Tech, I hope Ken Stanton is wrong in his prediction that our state legislature will pass legislation this January that will force universities to allow concealed handguns on campus (CT, “Concealed Carry is Coming to Virginia Campuses,” Nov. 8).
After a new law passed earlier this year allowing Virginia residents to satisfy the “training” requirement for a concealed carry permit by taking an online course, I was curious to see how easy it is to obtain a permit online. My first step was to complete an online training course from the Concealed Carry Institute. Let it be clear that I have never touched a gun, never mind fired one. The closest that I have ever been to a gun is when being under attack in Norris Hall on April 16, 2007.
The “training” I received was simply to watch a 30-minute instructional video on handgun safety and to successfully answer 15 out of the 20 questions on the multiple-choice test. The following is a question that actually appeared on my test:
When talking about semi-automatic handguns, the magazine is:
a) A brochure that describes the firearm
b) An instruction manual for the firearm
c) The part of the firearm that holds ammunition
d) The mechanism that puts the firearm on safety
Needless to say, I passed the test. Although the test is not difficult, and I can retake the test many times, there is a great potential for cheating online. Anyone can easily have another person take the test for them, or one can open a separate Web browser to search for the correct answers.
My next step was to apply to my local circuit court and pass a computerized background check. Despite my total lack of experience with firearms, in a few weeks I had received my concealed carry permit.
That was it. There was not a firearms instructor to show me, in person, how to use a gun, and no requirement to fire at a shooting range and demonstrate my proficiency with a handgun. This is the training regimen that Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) want us to believe will “protect” us in classrooms if facing a lethal threat.
Ken Stanton lauds these requirements as “some of the best measures in the country to ensure responsibility when carrying,” but is the bare minimum truly enough to protect you?
SCCC claims that all concealed carry permit holders are law abiding citizens, but it is possible to qualify for a concealed handgun permit in Virginia even with multiple misdemeanor convictions on your record. Individuals who have previously been the subjects of restraining orders, convicted of drunk driving, or treated for mental health illness can also obtain a permit.
It’s shocking but not surprising that there have already been four confirmed shootings this year by concealed handgun permit holders: Michael McClendon in Alabama (killed 10, wounded six), Frank Garcia in upstate New York (killed four, injured one), Richard Poplawski in Pittsburgh (Neo-Nazi who killed three police officers, injured one) and George Sodini in Pittsburgh (health club shooter who killed three women, injured nine).
Like the Editorial Board of the Collegiate Times, I was deeply disturbed when the SCCC invited Eric Thompson to Tech shortly after the one-year anniversary of the shootings. The online gun dealer sold guns and accessories to the Tech shooter, to the Northern Illinois University shooter, and to George Sodini, the aforementioned concealed carry permit holder and mass murderer.
SCCC’s featured speaker on Monday night, Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens’ Defense League (VCDL), is equally such an extremist on the gun issue. Van Cleave and the VCDL have pushed to force guns to be allowed everywhere, including in government buildings, restaurants where alcohol is served, and now on school campuses. At a recent speech at Liberty University, Van Cleave noted with pride: “At the end of the day, I don’t think there should be restrictions of firearms. Period.”
That means no background checks to help prevent dangerous individuals, like the Virginia Tech and NIU shooters, from wreaking havoc with easily obtained handguns and assault weapons. SCCC and VCDL might be content to settle matters by engaging in shootouts with disturbed individuals who have gained easy access to firearms, but the rest of us deserve more thoughtful, practical solutions on how to prevent violence on America’s college campuses.