By David Paulin
It was a sad and harrowing morning yesterday at the University of Texas in Austin. A young man with an AK-47 assault rifle fired a number of rounds into the air as he ran past frightened onlookers at 8 a.m. He then dashed into the school's library where police say he shot himself to death.
No injuries from the rampage were reported, other than a sprained ankle as thousands of frightened students evacuated buildings and sought cover in secure areas. Police for a time thought a second shooter might be on the loose.
The shooting triggered a massive police response and prompted school officials to cancel classes and close the campus. It also reignited an old debate in Texas -- whether people with concealed handgun permits ought to be able to carry their handguns on state college and university campuses. Like many states, Texas prohibits concealed handgun holders from carrying their guns on campuses. Republican lawmakers and Republican Gov. Rick Perry have been unsuccessful in their efforts to rescind the ban.
Coincidentally, the shooting occurred on the day that conservative author John R. Lott, Jr., a proponent of concealed-handgun laws, was to speak at the University of Texas law school about crime and how it is affected by citizens who own guns and carry concealed handguns.
A research scientist at the University of Maryland, Lott wrote the book "More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws" – which the Wall Street Journal praised for "helping to redefine the argument over guns and gun control."
Gun bans don't deter crime, says Lott – an argument he made yesterday evening when speaking at a local book store, near where the first shots were fired, instead of at the university's law school.
"Would you put up a sign in front of your house saying 'This is a gun-free zone?" he told the Austin American-Statesman before delivering his lecture. "That makes no sense because it tells the criminal there's not going to be any guns there. Yet we put signs like that up at our schools and universities. ... There's a tremendous advantage to having concealed-carry laws, because the shooter doesn't know who has a weapon.”
"Some places like the UT campus are targeted by gunmen because they know the potential victims won't be armed," Lott went onto tell more than 100 people -- a crowd that Students for Concealed Carry on Campus Vice President Kory Zipperer told the Statesman was larger than expected.
"I think today's situation shows why gun-free zones don't work, because he was still able to carry a gun onto a gun-free zone and shoot," Zipperer said.
Moments after reports of an armed man shooting an AK-47, the university activated contingency plans for such emergencies – warning students with text messages, activating emergency sirens, and announcing the emergency on loudspeakers.
Andy Fernandez, a member of Leaders of Libertarian Longhorns, told the Statesman he was frustrated by how vulnerable students were. "They had no chance to defend themselves," he said.
Ironically, the paper noted that the gunman was, according to authorities, "legally allowed to carry his loaded AK-47 on sidewalks around campus, and only broke the law when he fired it and carried it into a campus building."
As for the shooter: Police quickly identified him as Colton Tooley, a 19-year-old university sophomore majoring in math. Teachers, neighbors, and others who knew him expressed shock: Tooley's actions were inconsistent with the person they knew, they said.
Tooley graduated from Austin's Crockett High School last year and students there were upset to learn what happened, noted Principal Craig Shapiro. In a statement, he said Tooley was "an excellent student who excelled in every subject, and was ranked 7th in his class. His teachers recall him with words such as 'brilliant,' 'meticulous,' and 'respectful.'”
For Crockett's students, Tooley's death was particularly upsetting because it occurred after fellow student James Hinojosa was hit and killed by a train last week, Shapiro said.
“I respectfully request that the news media refrain from coming on to the Crockett campus, and attempting to speak with students or staff. These have been two difficult weeks for our community, with the loss of Colton, and the death of student James Hinojosa in the train accident last week. Our school needs time to heal from our losses." (This was originally published at The American Thinker.)
John Lott discusses the relationship between crime and handgun bans during an appearance on C-SPAN: