Feeling Safe


This is all over the Internet already, but since we're already hearing demands for new gun laws it deserves to be mentioned here too. From the Roanoke Times, January 31, 2006:

A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly….

Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."

With that grim irony noted, let's not forget an important fact: School shootings are rare. They're especially rare at Virginia Tech. National Review reports that in "2005, the last year for which data are available, the campus had no murders, forcible thefts, or aggravated assaults. Almost no cities of 25,000, Virginia Tech's student enrollment, ever have had a year that safe. Despite a single horrific day nothing fundamental has changed." Anecdotal evidence, even really gruesome anecdotal evidence, isn't the best argument for any sweeping policy change—including changes, such as concealed-carry permits, that I happen to support. The Virginia Tech shootings are a lousy argument for gun control, but that doesn't mean they'll turn out to be a strong argument for anything else.

As Ilya Somin notes, "The extreme rarity of such incidents should be kept in mind as we decide what, if any, policy changes should be made in response to the Virginia Tech tragedy. Some changes may well be warranted, but we should guard against costly overreactions such as the draconian 'zero tolerance' policies implemented in many schools after the Columbine attacks in 1999."