David Michael Miller
With the deer hunting season coming up, it’s a good time to review how most responsible Wisconsin hunters treat their weapons and contrast that with the Wild West mentality of the pro-gun zealots.
In response to the recent shootings on college campuses, Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature have yet another bright idea: Put more guns on campus. They want to take away the UW’s authority to ban guns in campus buildings. Why the party of local control thinks that legislators are in a better position than campus administrators to make these decisions is not clear.
But as a Wisconsin hunter, let me explain why this is a bad idea.
I use a high-powered rifle to hunt deer. Here’s how that works. I walk to my stand with my gun unloaded. I carefully load the gun only when I’m safely in my place. I know exactly what I’m looking for. When a deer comes in sight I make sure it’s a safe shot and I usually can rest my gun on the side of the stand as I aim to make it more stable. I have a scope. I take a deep breath to calm myself and I aim carefully. And, yet, sometimes I still miss.
Contrast that with how a handgun would be used to try to prevent a campus shooting. A student would be in class, absorbed in whatever he was studying. Someone enters the room. It takes several moments to understand what’s going on. Who is this? Is it another student coming to see the professor? A colleague of the professor? Is this a college prank? After the shooting starts, the student needs to locate his gun and in a crowded room take aim. With chaos all around and his adrenaline pumping, he has to hit only the bad guy with a shot from a handgun, which is much harder to shoot accurately than a rifle with a scope.
Under those circumstances, the chances that the student will hit one of his colleagues are better than hitting the assailant simply because there are more of them. And the chances are that the gun will never be used in a situation like this but instead be fired accidentally or used in a suicide.
All of this is even more true when we factor in the fact that college students are young adults who are often in highly emotional and stressful situations — complicated family and personal relationships, academic challenges and fateful career decisions.
This is not just based on my experience with firearms. A recent analysis of national crime data by the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center found that in 600 concealed-carry shooting events since 2007, only 21 involved self-defense. By contrast, there were 223 suicides, and 139 people were killed by the concealed carriers, including 17 police officers.
The answer to more gun violence is never more guns. That’s clearly true based both on research and on common sense. The answers are just the opposite: Reduce the number of handguns and semi-automatic weapons in circulation, make these guns harder to get and heavily restrict where they may be carried.
As the fine Wisconsin tradition of deer season approaches, it’s a good time to contrast the highly controlled and safe environment of the hunt with the extremely dangerous and discredited notion of the gun as a means of providing personal safety.