My first reaction to the Virginia Tech massacre was to wonder how a man with two simple handguns was allowed to kill so many people. That question was quickly answered as the tragic news poured in.
The most striking common factor in mass shootings in America is that they always take place in areas that are designated as gun-free zones.
Maniacs in a homicidal rage seek out gun free-zones with an uncanny precision. There they know they will be like a wolf among penned sheep, killing at will until they are eventually hunted down by law enforcement or decide their mission is accomplished and end their own tortured life.
Gun-free schools, offices, shopping malls and factories are the favorite targets. Some gun-free zones, such as court houses and jails, never are targeted because they are protected by armed guards and metal detectors. When administrators give in to the siren's simplistic call to create a gun-free zone without a corresponding increase in security, they are putting everyone there at risk.
Gun-banning administrators are obligated morally, I believe, to provide armed security. Unfortunately, this is economically impossible in most cases and in some places the sensitivities of the local community make armed security too disturbing.
Gun control laws are about as useful as alcohol prohibition. They have failed around the world. Criminals and lunatics simply ignore the laws and go about their dirty business. The sensible alternative is to make use of the free security provided by lawfully armed citizens.
Defenders who are already present at the time of an attack easily can identify the attacker and know the layout of the building. Contrast this with the difficult task facing police officers entering an unfamiliar building filled with people they don't know.
Millions of good Americans are now licensed to carry a concealed handgun. They have decided that they won't be helpless victims. But if you work or study in a place that prohibits guns, you must choose between risking your career and risking your safety.
Anti-self-defense laws are what French Canadian professor Pierre Lemieux calls "pretend laws." Politicians pretend that they will protect us and we pretend that we feel safer.
It is only when we are confronted with our own self-deception that we must admit the truth.
Ironically, in 2006 Virginia had a chance to pass a law that would have allowed permit holders to carry guns on campus.
When the bill failed to pass out of committee, a Virginia Tech spokesperson said, "this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
Pretend laws indeed.
Until we face reality, the random slaughter will continue.
Michael S. Brown, O.D., of Vancouver, represents Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws (www.dsgl.org).