Understanding (Not Accepting) the Taboo Against Arming Campus Police


It may never be clearer than when the topic of under discussion isarming police at RI public colleges and universities, that debates involving guns almost always involve a wider set of issues…

Real dangers and disapproved behaviors, and moral and political weaknesses are certainly all factors in the debate over arming campus police officers – which is another way of saying that what guns symbolize in this debate is as important as guns themselves.

I go on to explain what the symbolism in the campus police and any gun debate involves — and what a particular choice of gun-related symbolism might ignore — in my guest contribution to today’s Nesi’s Notes.

  • Mike678

    The bottom line: If URI won't allow students arms to defend themselves, then they must accept the responsibility and defend the students. If that means metal detectors and armed security, so be it.

    • helen

      Bottom line: 22nd Amendment.

      True bottom line.

      • helen

        Excuse my typo. 2nd Amendment.

  • Warrington Faust

    I am always of two minds about this, and I don't need to go to Kent State to get there. Actual "invasions" of schools are so rare that they can almost be discounted when compared to the number of school days attended each year.

    Most conflicts on campus are probably unarmed. The idea of arming one side would seem to escalate the possibility of serious violence. Many people behave erratically when a gun is drawn on them. Add to this the appallingly high percentage of the time the police shoot the wrong person, I have heard figures as high as 40%. Yesterday's Drudge had the story of an innocent shot by the police, ten times. Google "police shot wrong person". Interestingly, "armed citizens" shoot the wrong person much less frequently. I have heard 15%. I think the "armed citizen" is in possession of more immediate facts. It presents a dilemma.

    • helen

      2nd Amendment.

  • mangeek

    There's no need for any kind of 'lethal force' on campuses. College drug dealers aren't packing heat (generally), and the volence on campuses tends to be of the 'drunk and disorderly' type; adding guns to the mix seems like a Bad Idea.

    Frankly, I'd like to see more police walking the streets or riding bikes with tasers instead of guns. The world REALLY isn't as dangerous as the media would like us to believe.

    • joe bernstein

      You're unrealistic-I spent 25 years in law enforcement and lost friends on the job.Besides,arming university/college police isn't for typical disturbances-campuses are part of larger society and violent crime spills right over into those venues-maybe you should work on the street with a Taser-there are people who get "tased"and it doesn't bother them.On my job we had a crazed person who took 14 9 mm rounds and never slowed down until the agent's partner dumped him with a head shot from a 45.You have no idea-two of my Academy classmates were killed-usually you contribute more intelligent comments than this

      • Warrington Faust

        Joe, I think we both know that the 9mm parabellum has never been thought of as a "man stopper", that is why we developed the .45. Seems to me we adopted the 9mm for NATO consistency. What was the person "dumped" by a .45 doing that necessitated it?

        Taser/gun. Two sides. I have a 55 year old, business owner, friend erroneously stopped outside a mall for "shoplifting". He was told to kneel. He told the police he could not because he wore a knee brace. He attempted to pull up his pant leg to show the brace. He was tased because it was thought that he "was going for a weapon". I hesitate to consider the possible result if the officer had only a gun. Being a small town, he didn't bring a civil suit. "Probable cause" to stop him seemed pretty thin.

        • joe bernstein

          He pulled a butcher knife on an agent doing a bus check at Niagara Falls-look,you wanna try the case at a remove,knock yourself out-I faced some very dangerous situations in my career and never wound up shooting anyone although I'd have been justified a number of times-and the 45 ACP was developed because the 38 was ineffective in the Philippines-at the time the 45 Colt was put into service again but it cant be used in a semi auto.I spent my entire career arresting people-some were extremely dangerous,others pretty benign-you never knew,If I ad been told to go to work without a firearm I would have walked out the door-you are another person whose opinion I usually value but in this case you are out to sea-the decision to shoot or not is most often made in the worst possible conditions and while one is under stress from fear-anyone who says they don't get scared is full of sh*t up to their ears-officers who can cope are those who react through fear and only later get hit with the dropoff in adrenalin-20 or more years of that is damaging-I guess you are a lawyer-I wouldn't want your job and you probably wouldn't have wanted mine-there were times I didn't either

          • _Andrew_


            Great reminder, that what's most important to effective law enforcement, from the day-to-day stuff to life-and-death "rare events", is creating a culture of honor and professionalism and discipline that can be leaned upon when needed. If we can do that, it isn't going to be undone by the carrying of a firearm. And if we can't, we may be screwed as a society anyway.

          • Warrington Faust

            Joe, "asking the facts" seems eminentlyreasonable to me. This is life and death. Sometimes they are disturbing. Not so long ago, locally, the police blockaded a man into an ATM with a knife. Having determined that a man blockaded into an ATM, who had "brought a knife to a gun fight", was dangerous. So, they shot and killed him. I wish I had more facts on that one. Seems a little like Waco to me. Why not just shut off the power and leave him blockaded? Too inconvenient to the public? Might not be much of a life, but it was the only one he had.

            Didn't mean to imply that you were a "crazy". In my time (haven't practiced law in years) I got more that a few police officers "out of trouble", I know they are just people. I never desired that kind of business, but bribing police officers is a well known "marketing plan" for young lawyers.

  • Max D

    Nothing is worse than hiring someone to do a job and not provide them the proper tools. They are highly trained first responders just like state and/or local police. There have been armed assaults on both RIC and URI campuses. It's only a matter of time before on of these unarmed officers runs into a confrontation. Three armed thugs tried to rip-off a marijuana dealer on the Bryant University Campus about ten years ago. They had a shotgun and two handguns. If you think it won't happen at a state campus, you're sadly mistaken.

    • Warrington Faust

      Once again, I am in a quandry. I strongly suspect that armed police will result in more armed thugs, not fewer. Philosophically, a large army with nothing to do may precipitate a war, I have heard of few instances where a large army prevented a war. Do police even carry a "baton" any more. A rather effective weapon in the hands of "highly trained" personnel.

      Please do not chastise me unduly, but I cannot escape the feeling that campus police "want in on the big time". Just sayin.

      • _Andrew_


        Your quandary reminds me of a Jerry Pournelle quote

        [T]he utterly rationalist anti-statist, on the other hand, persuades himself that somehow there are natural rights which everyone ought to recognize, and if only the state would get out of the way we'd all live in harmony; the sort of person who thinks the police no better than a band of brigands, but doesn't think that in the absence of the police, brigands would be smart enough to band together.

        You're using the same thought process the campus lefties do — bringing the taboo object into the sacred enclave will automatically bring punishment (turning campus police officers into "thugs"), though outside of the enclave the objects don't have the same effect.

        • Warrington Faust

          Andrew, I think you misunderstood me. " (turning campus police officers into "thugs")". Perhaps you are old enough to remember MAD (mutually assured destruction) as a diplomatic concept. I suspect that thugs who expect to encounter armed police will arm themselves. There are always "unintended consequences" Perhaps you remember the hoopla about "three strikes you're out" laws. Criminals facing "three strikes" found it better to kill their victims rather than increases their chances of conviction by leaving witnesses. Perfectly reasonable when you think it through. In states without a death sentence, they had nothing to lose.

          P.S. I went to a school where students are armed.

          • joe bernstein

            Mixing military and law enforcement concepts is a big mistake-I spent a total of 30 years between the two,so just maybe I know what I'm talking about.BTW Warrington-your application of logic to violators who have more often than not fried their brains makes no sense.

          • _Andrew_

            Point taken with respect to the effects on campus police, but the original point still stands. You're arguing that the way to reduce crime is to publicly declare areas to be gun-free zones, because that way criminals will know they don't have to bring their guns when they commit their crimes.

            I think that reasoning jumbles up the causal chain.

  • Dan

    I have no problem with arming police – state, municipal, campus, or otherwise. The progressive notion that declaring a certain boundary a "gun-free zone" will protect anyone is delusional. Guns aren't inherently dangerous or scary – I walk past a dozen guards holding submachine guns at the Pentagon each day and none of the commuters are the slightest bit bothered by them. On the flip side of the coin, what I don't endorse is the mentality – usually from current and former cops – that police need to be armored and armed to the teeth because they will accept ZERO police fatalities. I think the more rational position is that we should reasonably protect our officers to the extent that it doesn't turn them into something unrecognizable and separate from the populations they are supposed to be serving. You can't view yourself as a peacekeeper when you're rolling around in a tank wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying a machine gun – that's warzone stuff, not for residential neighborhoods or college campuses.

  • Warrington Faust

    Dan – "I walk past a dozen guards holding submachine guns at the Pentagon each day"

    In the late 70's, I spent quite a lot of time in Mexico and South America. I noticed that the "policia" carried sub machine guns rather than pistols.

    I agree with Dan that the police are straining to become more "para military". I also notice that the movies more frequently portray SWAT teams as a "killer elite" who can't wait "to take them down". I fear that life may imitate art. I am reminded of Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry". Of course, in Dirty Harry's time the crime rate was much higher than it is now. It is unfortunate that the only "crime fighting" initiative that correlates positively with a reduction in crime is abortion. We have simply reduced the relative number of young males in our population.

  • Mike

    Well said Dan.

    Joe–it's easy for people who don't face violence to talk about how scary guns are and the world would be a better place without them. They ignore history–the good old days when guns weren't around and everything was peaceful. In short, denial.

    They are, in effect, sheep–protected by the sheepdogs of our society (Police/military) that face the wolves every day. When the wolves get through, i.e., Aurora, Newton, Boston, they huddle and try to ban the tool, not the cause, and ignore the reality that there are sick people out there that will and want to do them harm.

    Frankly, that is their right. I choose not to be a sheep. I have a weapon and will use it to defend myself and my family should it ever come to that–and I pray it never does. I object, however, when the sheep want to disarm me–to make me and my family as vulnerable as they to the sick and criminal–because they choose not to take on the responsibility of self-defense.

    I agree with some of the commenters that these mass atrocities are rare. One of my friends commented the other day, saying "I'm sure the fact that these mass-atrocity events are rare was of great comfort to the people in the "gun free" Aurora theater…"

    • joe bernstein

      You are absolutely right-don't hire me to keep the lid closed on your garbage can and then tell me I have to wear a tuxedo to do so.I don't like what I see as the increasing trend towards militarized law enforcement-it reminds me of what goes on in third world shitholes and more modern dictatorships.I was on an entry team for four years and was probably involved in executing upwards of 800 search warrants for drugs and we didn't dress up like Ninja Turtles-we had ballistic vests-raid jackets so they couldn't feign ignorance of who we were and handguns and often a short barreled shotgun -we didn't gear up with a lot of military stuff-camos,full auto shoulder weapons,etc.You see news coverage of massacres and everyone is dead already and the cops are still putting on their gear-they really do watch too much Hollywood crap put out by people like the Weinstein brothers who's probably shit themselves going on a real raid

      • joe bernstein

        Glad I retired in 1996-'progressives" can die and go to hell for all I care-I'm sure they feel likewise about me-good.

  • Dan

    If progressives were truly interested in saving the lives of innocents, they would ban backyard pools instead of "assault weapons." That's not a recommendation, for any progressives who might be reading this.

    • _Andrew_


      You might like reading some of the stuff at the Yale law school site about how gun control is argued. They directly take on the question of why some statistics get ignored while others get magnified. Roughly speaking, the conclusion they reach is that guns being a symbol of conflict (while swimming pools aren't) is more important to gun-control advocates than any cost-benefit analysis of outcomes.

      • joe bernstein

        Ivy League ruminations on gun control impress me about as much the average "monster shouter"dregs talking to themselves in Kennedy Plaza

      • Warrington Faust

        "why some statistics get ignored while others get magnified."

        Isn't this a well known concept? "Advocacy Statistics" (I always recall the 500,000 missing children in America. No one ever questioned why Massachusetts had only 27). It is so well known that it hardly seems to bear discussion. No doubt the Yale people "stood on the shoulders of giants".

        My daughter was an Ivy Leaguer. I was appalled by their acceptance of theft. Now "plagiarism", that is another matter all together. That is "intellectual dishonesty".

        • _Andrew_

          Lots of things become "well-known concepts" — after somebody else has discovered them!

  • Warrington Faust

    A note about my commnet on SWAT teams above. Why do we need so many? Given the size of RI counties, I should think one per county would do. Is it additional pay, or federal funding?

  • Warrington Faust

    Dan, Andrew, you might like this. Re: VMI
    "The tradition of guarding the Institute is one of the longest standing and is carried out to this day. Cadets have been posted as sentinels guarding the barracks 24 hours a day, seven days a week while school is in session since the first cadet sentinel, Cadet John B. Strange, and others relieved the Virginia Militia guard team tasked with defending the Lexington Arsenal (that later became VMI) in 1839. The guard team wears the traditional school uniform and each sentinel is armed with an M-14 rifle and bayonet". URI, are you listening?

    Not mentioned in Wikipedia, the Institute has recently adopted a "Violence Prevention" system (traditionally, a good percentage of the Corp is from the Far East, presumably Muslims among them).. They are having a tough time. they had to drop the prayer before dinner. Worse, they had to introduce locks with the admission of women.

    The Institute does maintain a police force for infractions of civil law.

    • joe bernstein

      So Warrington,after VMI were you an officer in the military?I also went to a school where the students were armed as were many of the faculty-John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC-kind of self explanatory I guess-oh,and there were no school shootings there.

  • Warrington Faust

    Joe, I "went" there out of family tradition, sort of a "Virginia thing" to do. I left voluntarily after two years. I sometimes regret that, but my interest was in Economics. I didn't serve, and not all that many cadets do. The Institute has produced some famous Generals. George Marshall and almost the entire Patton family (several died with the CSA). George S., Jr. went there, but only for a year. The alumni has fierce loyalty, last I knew it was the best endowed "public college". West point may be the VMI of the North, but the Institute is the "hard core". The school has a "Battle Flag". On New Market Day the roll of cadets killed by Union forces at New Market is called, with the rejoinder "Died on the Field of Honor, Sir". – "Virginia is for Lovers".

    required split

  • Warrington Faust

    When I delivered my daughter into the hands of Dartmouth College, I was left with the impression that the Ivy League could learn a few things from "the long gray line". At Dartmouth "High Theft" signs were everywhere. Personally, I was seized by two faculty members, working at "computer pass out", who attempted to drag me out of the building. I was able to bring them under control, but they accused me of attempting to steal a computer. At the Institute, any faculty member, or cadet, who created an "incident of dishonor" by accusing a parent of theft, without evidence (a cadet must "see" the violation) would have been required to "report themselves" to the Commandant. Since there are "no degrees of honor", they would be gone in three days and their names never mentioned again.

    To be fair, a cadet I knew was later involved, with his father, in a bank robbery.

  • joe bernstein

    A guy in my shop class at Wingate HS in Brooklyn was absent for a few days-turned out he got caught robbing a bank-never saw him again-the guy who shared my gym locker was arrested for murder-he was subsequently cleared-I guess you never know