Legalizing Guns on the 50th Anniversary of the Texas Tower Shooting Actually Makes Perfect Sense

On August 1, 1966, armed civilians prevented a mass shooter from claiming even more victims.


RG2 / Wikimedia Commons

A Texas law that affirms the right of students and faculty to carry guns on public university campuses went into effect today. Much has been made of the significance of the date, given that the University of Texas tower shooting—one of the most infamous school massacres in history—occurred exactly 50 years ago.

Opponents of gun rights say this law—which was approved by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, over the near-unanimous objections of university officials across the state—is a grim reminder of America's dark obsession with firearms, and one that will make universities less safe. After all, it was exactly 50 years ago to the day when a 25-year-old former marine, Charles Whitman, carted a cache of rifles, shotguns, and pistols to the top of the UT-Austin tower, and opened fire on the innocent people below. He killed 17 and wounded 30 others. (He had murdered his wife and mother before beginning the massacre.)

Student Claire Wilson James was the first person he shot from the tower on August 1, 1966. She survived, though she lost the baby she was carrying, and also her boyfriend, who was shot and killed soon after. James is still alive today, and has no love for guns.

"I just hope they get guns off this campus and get rid of open carry and let the police have the guns if somebody has to have them," she said recently, according to The Guardian.

The amount of pain, terror, and tragedy that James endured is simply astonishing. She's a very brave person, and I don't think anyone could begrudge her her opinions about guns.

But it seems to me that the example of the tower shooting does not present a particularly compelling case against legal guns. On the contrary, it's one of the most obvious cases of good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns.

Whitman's massacre lasted 96 minutes. But after the first 20 minutes, he was severely constrained in his ability to hit his targets. That's because people started shooting back at him: police and civilians. Gunfire from down below meant that Whitman had to spend more time hiding and less time aiming.

Ultimately, law enforcement officer Ramiro Martinez stormed the tower and killed Whitman. He wasn't alone, though—he was accompanied by an armed civilian. Martinez, in fact, later wrote in his autobiography that civilians played a vital role in bringing an end to the massacre.

"I was and am still upset that more recognition has not been given to the citizens who pulled out their hunting rifles and returned the sniper's fire," he wrote, according to The Washington Times. "The City of Austin and the State of Texas should be forever thankful and grateful to them because of the many lives they saved that day."

Mass shootings at universities are blessedly rare, and I wouldn't argue that concealed carry will actually make campus safer. But letting people carry guns certainly seems like it was a boon to safety, rather than a hindrance, at UT-Austin on August 1, 1966. Prohibiting concealed carry is not much of a deterrence to people like Whitman, who are already intent upon committing murder.

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  1. From SJW to NRA shill. Robby X is not easily pigeonholed.

    1. He’s a little bitter over realizing people are calling him Fruit Sushi from earlier. He’s trying to prove his manliness.

  2. Prohibiting concealed carry is not much of a deterrence to people like Whitman, who are already intent upon committing murder.

    The anti-gun people simply cannot comprehend that concept. After all, the intention is to stop people intent on murder. So it’s got to work. I mean, the intentions are good. And don’t get started on unintended consequences. There is no such thing. They’re always caused by something else.

    1. I’m still trying to understand the anti-gun psychology. They seem to believe that the average citizen in a knuckle dragging neanderthal who will pull out their pistol and shoot someone for looking the wrong way at their “Baby’s momma.”

      Come to think about it, this basic assumption seems to be the basis behind all Progressive thinking.

      1. Your missing the belief that anyone who would want to own a gun is automatically a knuckle dragging barbarian who is looking for violence.

      2. My working theory is that they see self-defense as wrong – as an inherently criminal act, even if it is legal. Sort of the way owning slaves or raping ones spouse was once legal, and sort of the way the anti-abortion movement sees abortion as a legalized criminal act.

        According to this view, if you own a gun for self-defense, you’re a criminal, even if the law is so barbaric and backwards as to not recognize that the crime you’re committing is a crime. In the case of something like the Texas Tower shooting, this view means that civilian gun-owners didn’t prevent a crime from getting worse, but instead were criminals who added to the crimes committed that day. Specifically, they were criminals who committed many counts of felony self-defense. Whereas if guns were prohibited, there would only have been the one criminal, at most, and only the relatively few crimes he committed, instead of the many additional crimes committed by those barbaric gun owners.

        1. There is a mindset that life is precious above all else — self-defense against a mere burglar is wrong because it values your property above the burglar’s life. If you mention that anyone breaking into a house is more than a mere thief — they are an unknown danger — they answer that burglars wouldn’t be a danger if there were no armed occupants. British burglars like evenings because occupants have wallets and watches, and can open safes and show where the jewelry is; whereas American burglars prefer daytime to avoid armed occupants.

          I can somewhat understand this life-over-property philosophy. But theft is slavery — stealing the goods I made, or bought from the earnings produced by my labor, is no different from putting a gun to my head and forcing me to produce the same goods. Even with insurance, it still steals my time and effort — and that’s assuming the burglar has no evil intentions at all and will not assault me if I hesitate or surprise him.

          There’s some warped foundation to all such philosophy, and it makes me nauseous even thinking about it. It’s such a defeatist, irresponsible, collectivist philosophy — no one has any personal responsibility, any accountability, no agency — only the few elite know how everyone should think and act. It treats people like serfs.

          And their claim that individualists are selfish greedy bastards with not a shred of humanity — that’s the most bizarre newspeak imaginable.

          1. “I can somewhat understand this life-over-property philosophy.”

            But our property is our life. Our clothes and our homes shelter us from weather extremes, our cars get us to work, our tools allow us to work, our money buys the food that we use to stay alive. If you threaten my property then you are threatening my livelihood, my very survival.

            1. Yes, but all that stuff can be replaced. A life cannot.

              That’s the general idea.

              In addition, they view self defense as vigilante justice. You’re taking the law into your own hands by using force to defend yourself. In the mind of most leftists, not only does government have the monopoly on the initiation of force (as libertarians believe), but they’ve got the monopoly on all force. That makes self defense wrong.

              They would rather you die with a phone in your hand than live with a gun in your hand.

  3. “The amount of pain, terror, and tragedy that James endured is simply astonishing. She’s a very brave person, and I don’t think anyone could begrudge her her opinions about guns.”

    Here we go…

    1. Nice timing. Are we really that predictable? Gonna have to throw some anti liberty positions out now and then to keep you honest.

    2. Yes indeed, this should be interesting.

    3. Actually, I can absolutely begrudge her her opinions on my rights. Especially since keeping people from carrying hasn’t kept anyone safe.

  4. The amount of pain, terror, and tragedy that James endured is simply astonishing. She’s a very brave person, and I don’t think anyone could begrudge her her opinions about guns.

    Nobody could begrudge the Bolsheviks given the actions of the Tsar.

  5. “I just hope they get guns off this campus and get rid of open carry and let the police have the guns if somebody has to have them,”

    Yeah. Yup. Like that strategy has ever worked splendidly!

    Another absurd program from Sweden to prevent migrants from groping concertgoers the Swedish police offered armbands for teen girls that said
    “No Groping! Police” Yeah that idea rightfully got ridiculed over there. It seems this demented mentality of relying on law enforcement (which aren’t always trustworthy) is ubiquitous around the world.

    1. Remember only a leftist can somehow have the belief that “Cops are evil racists who target black people” and “Only cops should be allowed to carry guns.” at the same time.

      1. Yeah and prominent leftists have the protection of paid guards. The peasantry don’t have that.

  6. So the cops ought to have all the guns even though they are racists that want to kill black people on sight even in Texans where all the cops are racist Klansmen redneck Republicans except the ones who got shot.

    1. I should have read ahead before I posted

  7. he’s a very brave person

    How, exactly? She has my sympathy for the damage she received, but what bravery did she exhibit? She didn’t rush Whitman, or return fire, did she?

    and I don’t think anyone could begrudge her her opinions about guns

    Watch me. Really, she’s a member of the “Let us be ruled by our betters” group. The horse-shit idea that police are some special species and only they can do the job, or that they get some kind of SeALs firearms training that no one else can access… spare me.

    1. Sexist.

        1. pinal Tap

    2. I think brave is having a principle despite it harming oneself. Can I empathize as a human being with someone who hates guns after they were shot? Somewhat. But I don’t have to call her brave and I can begrudge her wanting to take rights from other people as a result.

      1. I think brave is having a principle despite it harming oneself.

        I can get behind that. As for this particular situation, I would only apply it to her if she became a total pacifist (which she may be), yet never voted for any kind of anti-weapon agenda, which I’m going to doubt.

        1. She did. Texas Monthly ran a “Guns” issue earlier this year that ran her story as one of several features (the former state representative who championed concealed carry after seeing her parents murdered at Lubys while her pistol was in her car was another). Not only did she lose her baby, she lost her boyfriend who was walking next to her and did become a pacifist. I don’t have to agree with her but I don’t think she’s unprincipled.

    3. Hopefully you are Black because they are looking for a few brave men like you in the radical fringe of the BLM movement. Kill the racist pigs, man.

  8. The amount of pain, terror, and tragedy that James endured is simply astonishing. She’s a very brave person, and I don’t think anyone could begrudge her her opinions on guns.

    When does Reason think we shouldn’t begrudge someone for having a personal tragedy when they have views that disagree with Reason?

    1. You know full well that if an immigration restrictionist was raped by a Mexican immigrant or shot by a Muslim terrorist or an anti-gay marriage advocate molested by a gay guy they wouldn’t be so kind…

  9. “I don’t think anyone could begrudge her her opinions on guns.”

    This is such a lefty tactic lol. Because she suffered immensely both psychologically and physically we are supposed to immediately be like O Okay. The sensible stance would be for her to wish she had a gun to shoot back.

  10. Can we at least blame the Marine Corps for the shootings? And JFK’s assassination too?

    1. What, you want them to create *bad* shooters?

      1. Yeah, this was what I was referencing.

    2. its not like the MC doesn’t take a certain pride in the darker ‘achievements’ of some of its more infamous marines.

      1. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

    3. Better to blame the Duality of Man, the Jungian thing.

  11. The amount of pain, terror, and tragedy that James endured is simply astonishing. She’s a very brave person, and I don’t think anyone could begrudge her her opinions about guns.

    You are waaaay too nice of a person with waaaaay too nice of an upbringing.

  12. Fun With Ratios:

    1. What’s the ratio of mass shooters killed by police compared to those killed by an armed civilian?

    2. Estimate the number of bitch wives/asshole employees killed by their spouse/employees if we just say fuck it and let maniacs conceal carry. Compare this value to the number of people saved in mass shootings by prospective John Waynes. Is this ratio greater or less than the value found in Question 1?

    1. Go fuck yourself you Trotsky apologist piece of shit.

        1. i bet that ratio is better than you think.

          1. According to most reports the ratio of mass shooters killed by cops to those killed by civilians is about 30. I’m not saying the white Bengal tiger doesn’t exist– just that it’s astonishingly rare and we shouldn’t let the manic obsession with seeing one deter us from all other pursuits.

            1. The correct ratio of mass shooters killed by cops to civilians is 1:1.

              1. My data is from the FBI here: active-shooter-events-from-2000-to-2012

                “[Out of 104 cases] 3 cases involved people at the scene shooting the perpetrator to end the attack.”

                1. Cops are civilians dip shit.

                2. However, 21% of mass shootings are ended by unarmed non-police civilians taking immediate action. So we could easily bump that to 15% with relaxed carry laws.

        2. Wow, looks like you’re really in to 6th-grade math concepts. Ratios!

          Here’s some more ratios you can do:

          1) What’s the ratio of Russians killed by Stalin compared to the total Russian population during his reign?
          2) What’s the ratio of Chinese killed by Mao compared to the total Chinese population during his reign?

          Is this ratio in Question 2 greater or less than the value found in Question 1?

          Extra credit for additional ratios involving Castro/Che, Pol Pot, Uncle Ho.

    2. Fun with facts. How many shootings happen in legislated gun free zones? Places that conceal carry holders are forbidden to carry and since they are law abiding do not carry.

    3. Why focus only on mass shooters?

      Far more people are killed by ordinary criminals every year than are killed by mass shooters.

      And what is the ratio of ordinary criminals killed by armed citizens vs those killed by the police?

      About 2.5 to 1.

      An exerpt:

      “* Armed citizens kill more crooks than do the police. Citizens shoot and kill at least twice as many criminals as police do every year (1,527 to 606).[6] And readers of Newsweek learned that “only 2 percent of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal. The ‘error rate’ for the police, however, was 11 percent, more than five times as high.”[7]”

    4. Let’s see

      1. the asnwer to this is 1/1

      a) Cops are civilians therefore all mass shooters are killed by civilians.
      b) More mass shooters are killed by themselves than by the police.

      2. I can’t estimate the total numbers but the *change* is 0 – in AZ we instituted no-permit concealed carry in 2010. No change in murder or gun violence rates in the last 5 years.

      Seriously dude. 5 fucking minutes on Wikipedia looking up the answers to your own questions could keep you from looking like a moronic ass.

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