When May I Shoot A Student?

3.26.13-hampikianDr. Greg Hampikian has a dual appointment in the Biology Department and the Department of Criminal Justice at Boise State University. He is best known as the forensic DNA expert and founder of the Idaho Innocence Project.

Dr. Hampikian has worked on hundreds of cases throughout the world and has been responsible for the research leading to more than a dozen exoneration’s.  He has contributed his expertise in DNA evidence to many high profile cases including the that of Amanda Knox. His book, Exit to Freedom, chronicles Calvin Johnson’s 17 year fight to prove his innocence using DNA evidence.

HampikianCNCoopHe has appeared on numerous national television shows including Good Morning America, Nightline, Dateline, and 20-20. He has also appeared as a guest of Ira Flato’s on Science Friday and on CNN with Anderson Cooper.

Dr. Hampikian is in the national news again with a New York Time Op. Ed. piece titled, When May I Shoot a Student. The article, satirizing the “Guns-on-Campus” bill currently being considered by the Idaho State Legislature, has gone viral on social media. Hampikian’s article takes the form of a tongue-in-cheek letter to the chief council of the Idaho Legislature asking for his legal advice. When, Hampikian asks, can I legally shoot a student?

In light of the bill permitting guns on our state’s college and university campuses, which is likely to be approved by the state House of Representatives in the coming days, I have a matter of practical concern that I hope you can help with: When may I shoot a student?

I am a biology professor, not a lawyer, and I had never considered bringing a gun to work until now. But since many of my students are likely to be armed, I thought it would be a good idea to even the playing field.

I have had encounters with disgruntled students over the years, some of whom seemed quite upset, but I always assumed that when they reached into their backpacks they were going for a pencil. Since I carry a pen to lecture, I did not feel outgunned; and because there are no working sharpeners in the lecture hall, the most they could get off is a single point. But now that we’ll all be packing heat, I would like legal instruction in the rules of classroom engagement.

Hampikian proposes specific situations that might arise and wonders what the appropriate response might be.

I assume that if a student shoots first, I am allowed to empty my clip; but given the velocity of firearms, and my aging reflexes, I’d like to be proactive. For example, if I am working out a long equation on the board and several students try to correct me using their laser sights, am I allowed to fire a warning shot?

If two armed students are arguing over who should be served next at the coffee bar and I sense escalating hostility, should I aim for the legs and remind them of the campus Shared-Values Statement (which reads, in part, “Boise State strives to provide a culture of civility and success where all feel safe and free from discrimination, harassment, threats or intimidation”)?

Those who have been following the farce in the statehouse understand his jab at the House Committee who held the initial hearings on the bill.

While our city police chief has expressed grave concerns about allowing guns on campus, I would point out that he already has one. I’m glad that you were not intimidated by him, and did not allow him to speak at the public hearing on the bill (though I really enjoyed the 40 minutes you gave to the National Rifle Association spokesman).

What has been particularly enlightening about Dr. Hampikian’s article is the response. Our illustrious Governor claims that Idaho’s image is not tarnished by the foolish bills the legislature wastes its time (and Idaho taxpayer dollars) on.  Comments on Hampikian’s article would suggest otherwise.

Seriously, does the Idaho State Legislature have nothing better to do? Like get the economy moving? I’m an Idaho native and have a cousin who’s a BSU undergrad. I love him, but trust me, the world is a better place without him lugging a Glock 9mm around in his backpack. And the notion that a kid with a gun could prevent something like Newtown or Va. Tech is unsubstantiated, unresearched nonsense. A 2008 Rand Corporation study analyzed NYC data on police shootings. It showed that highly trained police officers are accurate in hitting the person they’re aiming at 30% of the time. And if they’re being shot at, accuracy drops to 18%. Ergo, if you had a couple students firing back at a school shooter (assuming they could dig through their backpacks and find their guns in the panic and chaos) they’d likely injure or kill one or more classmates by accident. And since it’s doubtful they’ve trained with their weapon as much as a police officer, they’d do well to hit a shooter one-out-of-ten shots. Sadly, Congress in its infinite wisdom has defunded virtually all research into the gun violence epidemic by the NIH and the CDC. Our country badly needs research into what really works and what doesn’t to stem such violence. Perhaps then we as a society wouldn’t be so susceptible to lawmakers who sit around saying, “If only we could send kids to school with guns. What could possibly go wrong?”

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I have a daughter heading to college in a few years, and I’m starting a list of states whose legislatures are stupid enough to encourage gun violence on college campuses. Colleges in those states are no longer worth applying to.

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All credible studies show a direct correlation between the presence of guns and the incidence of deadly violence. If your frat brother gets drunk and angry, he can punch you in the face. Give him a knife, and he can try to stab you, but you may be able to outrun him. Give him a gun, and you’re dead. The math is painfully simple. Unfortunately, so are these lawmakers.

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Some ideas are prima facie so monumentally stupid that they only can be explained by ideology or religion gone wild. Examples: burning witches at the stake, destroying a village in order to save it, outlawing homosexuality, stockpiling enough nuclear weapons to exterminate humanity several times over; and yes, encouraging college students to bring weapons to class. It’s almost beyond belief until you remember it’s Idaho, it’s Republicans, it’s the gun lobby.

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Our son in law just turned down a University teaching job offer in Idaho for just such reasons, even though he has no other offer as yet. Idaho just didn’t measure up as a safe sane place to raise their family.

Some comments took the satire to the next level of absurdity.

As a faculty member myself, I understand Professor Hampikian’s dilemma. I think one solution would be for the instructors to advertise their own lethality by clipping a number of hand grenades to the front of their shirts or blouses (or tweed jackets, as the case may be). Such an array will make students think twice about who has more “freedom” in any confrontation, and it would also nicely enable that old political dictum, “Speak softly and carry a big rack of anti-personnel explosives.”

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I believe the professor has the right idea however I wonder if he has considered tanks? This would make both a perfect defensive tool and an equally excellent ‘stand your ground’ weapon. If he thought perhaps that a student or students had a flame thrower (perhaps a LaCrosse stick might be mistaken for such) then he would be perfectly justified in firing off a round or two. This way he might be able to deal with an entire fraternity chapter on one fell swoop. I’m sure he’d receive a commendation from the NRA.

As I write this, the legislature is hearing testimony about the bill. So far, there has been no support for it, but public opinion doesn’t seem to hold much weight with Republican legislators.

Of all those commenting on Dr Hampikian’s New York Times article, I most empathize with “Todd” of Boise who speaks like a fellow inmate of the crazy state of Idaho reaching out to those in the sane outside world.

We can’t make this stuff up! In addition to this grand piece of legislation our statesman are working on how to make it “legal” to discriminate against the LGBT community (and others?) on religious grounds; how to lower corporate tax rates, in our state that ranks lowest in wages; how we can kill more wolves to boost elk populations so that hunters can then kill more elk; and how we can beat Mississippi to the worst ranked education system in the country. I used to think at some point we’d wake up and change our voting pattern but now I think it just like a bad reality tv show and we can’t change the channel.

One comment

  1. Greg Hampikian has represented the following convicted sex offenders:

    1. Amanda Knox – convicted of the sexual assault and murder of Meredith Kercher.

    2. Bradley Roberts – convicted of kidnapping and raping a 10-year-old girl.

    3. Dennis Dechaine – convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering a 12-year-old girl.

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