Umpqua Community College, the site of the massacre on Thursday that left at least 10 people dead, was not — in law or in practice — a gun free zone.
It was the policy of university administrators to limit the use of guns to the extent allowed by law. But, as ThinkProgress and the New York Times reported, Oregon is one of seven states that allows concealed carry on postsecondary campuses. This was based on a 2011 state court decision invalidating efforts to ban guns at public universities in Oregon. Public colleges like UCC are permitted to exclude concealed weapons from certain buildings and facilities but not the campus in general.
But not only was UCC not a gun free zone by law, there were also people who brought guns onto campus at the time of the massacre.
John Parker Jr., a veteran and student at UCC, spoke with MSNBC and revealed that he was in a campus building with a concealed handgun when the shooting started. He suggested other students with him at the time were also carrying concealed handguns.
The issue of whether UCC was a “gun free zone” has become a source of controversy. Gun advocates argue that “gun free zones” encourage gun violence by creating a space where people are unable to defend themselves.
This is not supported by the facts. According to a study of 62 mass shootings over 30 years conducted by Mother Jones, “not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns.” Many of those mass shootings took place in areas were guns where permitted, but not a single one was stopped by armed civilians.
Parker’s interview revealed the practical difficulties of armed civilians trying to stop a mass shooting. By the time he became aware of the shooting, a SWAT team had already responded. He was concerned that police would view him as a “bad guy” and target him, so he quickly retreated into the classroom.