Do I Have The Right To Defend Myself On Campus?

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By Dr. Harold Pease

A few weeks ago a student attending a well-known Nevada university was raped on campus and is now suing the university for not protecting her, yet preventing her from protecting herself by prohibiting her the right to carry a handgun. She had a concealed handgun permit. The myth that police can protect her, or anyone else, at the moment of violence has been well established by the laws of physics. Police, as good as they can be, cannot be in two places at once. For them to be on the scene, after knowledge of the need, will still take several minutes. Meanwhile the university has left her a victim, she contends, and in so doing bares some responsibility for the crime.

As a faculty member of a sister institution of higher learning, I too am troubled by what I call a “protection vacuum” problem. If the institution can’t or won’t protect me do I have the right to defend myself on campus as anywhere else? After Virginia Tech why shouldn’t I have this right? Most classrooms have but one door and often windows are not designed for easy escape. This leaves everyone in the room in a potential hostage setting because no one is supposed to have a firearm—even those who have a concealed weapons permit, as did the woman referenced in the preceding story. I do have a black belt in karate—even a second degree—but I missed the part where you catch bullets with your teeth.


Technically the institution is to have an emergency plan but such is essentially left to the faculty members. Students in the first row of my classroom are given the responsibility of leaping to the door, pulling the pin that locks the door, jerking the door closed and they and fellow students than lay down on the floor until the danger is over. This only works though if a gunman is using language or making noise that can be interpreted by them as sufficiently threatening and that they are fast enough to lock the door before he enters. If they do not get the door locked a crazed gunman has free access to some 35 students and me who have nothing but my textbook to defend themselves with and, thick as it is, it will not stop a bullet. Essentially the institution has insured their vulnerability. Would we not all benefit if the professor or one or more of the students had a concealed carry permit and his weapon with him and could fire back? By the time police arrive all could be dead. How many lives might this valiant professor or student save?

Some say California is “the land of fruits and nuts” and growing. Would not that give even more cause for justifying faculty to have concealed permits if the universities did not have sufficient trust in the younger permit holders? For those who do not know the permitting process requires some weapons training, a virtually flawless background record, a justifiable reason for carry, and most states require a participant to be at least 21 years of age. All requirements are processed by law enforcement usually under the authority of the county sheriff. It is rare for permit holders to have their permits revoked. So, where is the logic for no confidence in those who have them?

Some might argue that allowing everyone to have a concealed weapon of potentially mass destruction on campus would invite frequent “shoot-outs.” This has proven not so in Utah which has had such a law for sometime. But to this one should also notice that everyone already has a weapon of mass destruction on campus and elsewhere and uses it frequently and responsibly—an automobile—and permit holders have full access of it at age 16. No one, having a “bad hair day,” activates the need to take that weapon to the sidewalk to maim those walking or to the school grounds to chase children. Why would the gun, held by a dully-processed permit holder, be any different?

Colorado has left concealed carry to the board of directors of each campus so some allow it and others do not. A national campaign to open this part of society to firearms is gaining momentum. More than half of the Texas House of Representatives has signed as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns for both students and professors. Texas has 38 public universities and more than half a million students who would no longer be subject to the same hostage setting that I and my students are confronted with every single class period knowing that, irrespective of the law, the “crazies” will always have a gun and the intent to use it.

Back to the women suing the Nevada university for not allowing her to protect herself on campus. The fact that a victim of a rapist or a crazy might shoot them would probably deter many from their intended crime. Each could get their due immediately and justly.

Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit

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