On Oct. 24, two students at Gonzaga University defended themselves from a home invader by brandishing a pistol. Lamentably, Gonzaga has a ban on firearms in university buildings and residences. Therefore, even though the students were defending their “castle” or, more technically, habitation, they were still placed on probation by the school. The two students, Erik Fagan and Daniel McIntosh, are appealing their probation and the school has promised to review its no-weapons policy, but this case is just the tip of the iceberg. The sad reality is that all but a few universities prevent students from possessing firearms in university-owned residences.
Universities are essentially leaving their students open to home invasion, burglary, robbery, carjacking, and rape by prohibiting students from arming themselves within their own abode. The students’ attorney, Dean Chuang, highlighted this when he said, “We’re glad that it didn’t have to end in tragedy for [the university] to consider changing the policy.”
Also, just in case anybody thinks that Chuang is overreacting, let’s look at the perpetrator’s background. John Taylor, the home invader, is 29 years of age and a six-time felon, convicted of unlawful imprisonment and riot with a deadly weapon. This could have ended very badly if the students were unarmed, but because they were armed, no bodily harm was sustained.
This isn’t to say that they didn’t suffer, though, as the school was quick in handing down sentences of probation to each of them. The university discipline board found Fagan and McIntosh responsible for committing two different violations. The first violation, possessing weapons on school grounds, though unfair as a policy, was correctly levied based on the facts of the case. However, the ruling on the second violation, putting others in danger by the use of weapons, is a farce.
McIntosh’s account of the incident is as follows: “I draw on him, [and] as soon as he sees me, he decides he doesn’t want to deal with me, [so] he takes off.”
The school has not refuted his account; therefore, it is ridiculous to say that he put others in danger by drawing his weapon. There were no other people in the room, no shots were fired, and he did not pursue the perpetrator. Furthermore, McIntosh called police and security as soon as the incident occurred so that they could come and ensure the safety of other students. I guess the school could argue that he put Taylor in danger, but that would be desirable. If anything, McIntosh protected himself, Fagan, and other students from the danger posed by Taylor.
One could go a step further and argue that the school put others in danger by banning weapons on campus and by having security confiscate McIntosh’s pistol and Fagan’s shotgun right after they used the pistol to successfully protect themselves. Since the guns were registered and Fagan had a concealed weapons permit, there was no legal basis for the seizure, especially by campus security and not the actual police. If Gonzaga put as much effort into protecting their students from criminals as they do harassing them with ludicrous charges and illegally seizing their property, students might not need to brandish pistols at home invaders.
In Washington state, “persons acting in self-defense have no duty to retreat when assaulted in a place they have a right to be” (Washington State v. Redmond, 2003). In other words, the state says that McIntosh has every right to confront a home invader with a pistol. Gonzaga University has tried to limit that right, though, thus putting their students in harm’s way. Gonzaga is making its students choose between injury and loss of property or punishment by the university. This policy is wholly unjust and endangers its students much more than McIntosh’s brandishing of a pistol in self-defense.
Ondo is a member of
the class of 2014.