Last week a news item came out of Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware, about the arrest of a student from East Orange, NJ. Loyer T. Braden, age 18, was charged with attempted murder, reckless endangerment, and using a firearm in a crime. He allegedly shot and wounded two DSU students at the school. Both were District of Columbia residents.
What caught my attention - beyond the alarming fact of yet another shooting at a university that is a supposed "gun-free zone" - was that university officials had assured the campus community, during the weekend following the shooting, that the gunman was no longer on campus. Mr. Braden had fled following the incident, but he was unexpectedly found in his college dormitory room and arrested at 3 AM on Monday morning, September 24. Officials had no explanation for how he slipped back onto the campus and into his room.
Where have we heard this sort of thing before? At Virginia Tech last spring, of course. There, a student shot and killed two students in a dormitory around 7:30 AM on April 16. The killer fled, and officials quickly assured the university community that he had left the campus and probably had left the state. (I have been unable to determine on what basis the latter claim was made.)
University administrators were slow in summoning state police, as they were convinced that the shooting was merely a "domestic dispute". They waited two hours before sending a warning, via e-mail, to the entire community. By that time it was too late. The heavily armed killer had returned to the campus without being noticed, chained the doors of a building shut, and begun methodically shooting students and faculty. Ultimately he killed thirty-two and wounded dozens more before taking his own life.
Following the shootings, officials were criticized for failing to "lock down" the campus, but administrators argued that it was impossible to seal off the huge campus, which is honeycombed by numerous roads and has no fenced perimeter. The argument has continued, but the issue is a red herring diverting attention from more important questions. Virtually unexamined was the initial claim that the early shootings were an isolated "domestic incident", plus the further claim that the killer had left not only the campus but probably the state. Both claims caused the campus - including security staff - to relax its guard. The burning questions were these:
- Why did officials not summon police at once to flood the campus with men, arms, and vehicles?
- Why were calls not made and messengers not immediately dispatched to every part of the campus to warn that a killer was at large, whereabouts unknown?
- Why was a campus-wide manhunt not demanded and conducted until the killer was apprehended - or until it could be conclusively determined that he was not on campus?
- Why did officials downplay the threat when they had no real basis for doing so?
These important questions all have the same answer. Officials felt compelled to tell people what they wanted to hear: that all was well; that the situation was under control; that there was no danger. An announcement that a killer was at large and might be a threat to the university community might have cast aspersions on those officials - perhaps made them look incompetent. Far better to play lets-pretend and hope for the best.
Unfortunately, that little game cost thirty-two students their lives and cost many others serious injury. Scores of families will be scarred for life because officials dithered, made foolish assumptions, and delayed taking decisive action when a serious threat to the campus arose.
A theme heard repeatedly in the wake of this horrible event was "Never again!" Across the USA, university officials have rolled up their sleeves, launched "task forces" to work on contingency plans, and vowed never to let such an event happen on their campuses. "Now we're really serious," was the near-universal proclamation. "We know what has to be done, and by God we're doing it." We all assumed they were really serious.
Well, maybe some were. But the company of the "really serious" evidently did not include officials of Delaware State. After a shooting incident on campus, DSU officials blithely announced that all was well and went back to contemplating their belly-button lint.
The announcement that Mr. Braden - whose absence from the campus had been guaranteed - had been apprehended in his dormitory room should have sent shock waves through the university. Hopefully, heads have rolled. But I doubt it. More than likely, the incident has been marked down as an anomaly, and campus security (an oxymoron?) is already back to "normal".
Parents and students should be storming the university shouting, "Hello! Is anyone in there?" and demanding the president's resignation. His security staff's inexcusable bungling could have led to a repeat of the Virginia Tech incident. It is an outrage. They should all be tarred and feathered and ridden off the campus on a rail.
Until university administrators stop telling themselves that their campuses are "different from those yahoos down there", we're going to see repeats of the Tech tragedy. We have to stop fooling around with incompetent campus security, and replace them with real professionals. And we have to abandon the delusion that "gun-free zones" actually make anyone safer.
Gun bans might make us "feel" safer, as a Tech spokesman exulted after Virginia legislators rejected a provision that would have allowed permit-holders to be armed on campus. But banning the legitimate carrying of arms does not truly make us safer. Even after the Tech shootings - which illustrated that the killer was not deterred in the least by campus gun-prohibitions - university officials stubbornly cling to the discredited fiction that legally carried weapons pose an unacceptable threat to the university community. This precludes any possibility of resistance, should another shooter come calling.
Nope. There's nobody in there. Liberal mantras have replaced brains. Keep your kids home if you want them to survive until graduation. Common sense is out to lunch for the duration.