Run, hide, return fire

A discussion on campus carry

Rebecca Vanderkooi | Demo 64

Imagine, you just sat down when the sound of gunshots fills the lecture hall that hosted your first class of the day. During the time that it would take police officers to arrive, you witness many of your classmates fall victim to another mass shooting in a supposedly gun-free zone.

Now, imagine this same scenario, except one of your classmates is carrying a weapon and has the training to use it immediately and effectively. With immediate action, the people that would have died waiting for a police response might still be alive and well. However, because of a university policy that forbids anyone with a concealed pistol license from having their weapons on campus, law-abiding students and faculty are left unable to defend themselves in a life-threatening confrontation.

“If you look at history and where a lot of these mass shootings have happened over the last ten years, a lot of them have been in these gun-free zones,” said Jacob Schrot, a Ferris employee with nearly ten years of experience as a firearms instructor. “A lot of those scenarios could have been stopped, or at least slowed down, by someone with a carry permit.”

In the state of Michigan, carrying a weapon on a university campus is illegal, but each school is given the final say in what they want their weapons policy to be. They are given the right to create policies that go along with or against state law.

“There are rights that certain entities, such as a university, can take to protect their community… they feel it is a safer route to ban weapons from the community,” DPS director John Allen said. “I believe in the right for everybody to bear arms, but within reason and within rules.”

Rather than give people the right to defend themselves on campus, the university’s goal is to ensure everyone that DPS will protect them, should a dangerous situation arise.

“Our average response time is probably two to three minutes in any location,” Allen said. “We’re trained for it, and we’re up to the task of mobilizing there and knocking out the threat if that’s what we have to do.”

However, even if DPS can immediately detect a campus shooting, a lot can happen in two to three minutes. In 2019 for instance, a gunman in Dayton, Ohio was able to kill nine people and wound 14 others in less than 30 seconds.

“We only have so many officers on campus, and they can’t be everywhere at once, so it’s immediate reaction time versus four or five minutes that it takes for officers to get on the scene,” Schrot said.

Despite their weapons policy, the university still encourages self-defense in an active shooter scenario. According to DPS, to survive an attack, your best chances are to run, hide or fight.

“Our stance is you grab anything you can to defend yourself,” Allen said. “Our stance is if there is something going on here on campus, you run, you fight or you hide, that’s the premises that we operate on here.”

Even U.S. military personnel are taught not to engage in a fight that they have no chance of winning. As a law-abiding citizen in a gun-free zone, facing off against an attacker with a firearm is almost certain death.

According to the DPS website, attackers often seek the softest targets possible, and they plan to cause maximum damage in a short amount of time. Allowing students with a CPL to carry their weapons in classrooms and dormitories would create a safer environment by ensuring that they aren’t soft targets.

This doesn’t just apply to situations involving an active shooter. Giving students the ability to defend themselves can go a long way towards curbing other violent crimes, such as armed robbery and sexual assault. According to a report cited by the CDC, firearms are used defensively between 60,000 to 2.5 million times per year.

“Everyone that gets their CPL feels a greater sense of safety,” Schrot said. “It also doesn’t narrow this down to carrying a firearm. It can also cover a taser that has a projectile or pepper spray that reaches out to 20 or 30 feet.”

For students walking alone at night, that sense of safety can make a world of difference. They wouldn’t have to rely on being near a blue light call box or calling DPS for an escort to feel safe.

Some people are understandably concerned about CPL holders having enough training and knowledge to be trusted with a weapon. After all, not everyone who takes a CPL class is a weapons expert. In response to these concerns, I would like to propose that the university use its pistol range to give classes to people with a CPL who wish to carry on campus.

These proposed classes should ideally give in-depth instruction in threat response, use of deadly force, fundamental weapon safety, and weapon familiarization. Making these classes a prerequisite to carrying on campus would ensure that people are more qualified and less likely to use their weapons irresponsibly.

All it takes is a discussion about implementing responsible firearm policies for Ferris to become a leading champion in gun rights and campus safety.