The Corner

Should Anita Sarkeesian Have Cancelled Her Speech?

Per Talking Points Memo:

A feminist speaker has canceled a speech at Utah State University after learning the school would allow concealed firearms despite an anonymous threat against her.

Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to give a presentation on the portrayal of women in video games on Wednesday evening. She made the decision to cancel Tuesday night.

University staff members had received a threat earlier Tuesday from an unknown person who vowed to carry out a mass shooting if the event was held. University spokesman Tim Vitale says the FBI told school officials the threat is consistent with ones Sarkeesian receives when she gives speeches elsewhere.

. . .

But Sarkeesian pulled out after learning from university officials that concealed weapons would be permitted, as long as attendees have a valid concealed firearm permit in accordance with Utah law.

I have seen this news being presented in the media as an indication that Utah’s gun laws are in some way extreme or counterproductive. This, I think, is a stretch. If Sarkeesian didn’t want to go ahead with the talk for fear of being killed, that’s her prerogative. We all see the world differently, and if her calculation was that opening up the room to concealed-carry holders was likely to help, rather than hinder, any potential assailant, then fair enough. Sarkeesian noted that she had “requested pat downs or metal detectors after mass shooting threat, but because of Utah’s open carry laws, police wouldn’t do firearm searches.” Evidently, she believes that such searches are effective and that one is better off unarmed in a post-search environment than armed in unsecured environment. That’s her prerogative.

Nevertheless, hers isn’t an objective or final or self-evident judgment; it is one person’s view. It is equally possible, of course, that Sarkeesian could have taken the exact opposite line: That is, that she could have felt that there was little more inviting to a would-be killer than the promise that nobody in the room would be carrying a gun. Knowing what I know about the manner in which shooters scope out their targets — and about the extremely peaceful nature of concealed-carriers in general — I suspect that this would have been my approach, too. As a rule, mass shooters tend to prefer soft venues, in which they know for sure that no fire will be returned. 

As Jazz Shaw asks over at Hot Air:

Do we really believe that such a shooter is going to fare very well in a crowd peppered with people who are packing heat and ready to return fire? I’m guessing they wouldn’t get off more than a few shots. While that would still result in a very bad situation, the point is that it highly unlikely that it would happen. These maniacs may be crazy, but they do tend to think these things out and plan fairly carefully. That’s just not the type of situation which is going to represent a target of opportunity. She was probably far safer in that Utah auditorium than she would have been speaking at Berkley. 

Personally, I do not believe that shooters would “fare very well in a crowd peppered with people who are packing heat and ready to return fire,” no. Nor do I believe that there is any benefit at all in broadcasting “Gun Free Zone” for all to see — even if there are pat-downs and metal detectors at the entrance. There are hundreds of millions of guns in this country, and, generally speaking, what prevents those who wish to shoot at strangers from shooting at strangers is not so much that shooting is illegal as that they might be shot backThis, of course, is why politicians and celebrities surround themselves with gun-toting cops, secret service agents, or private security firms — even in areas that are ostensibly secure. In an ideal world, saying “please don’t bring your gun in here” would prevent murderers and assassins from carrying out their plans. But, rather obviously, we don’t live in that world.

The question, then, comes down to this: Is one safer surrounded by a random and unknowable number of armed citizens, or safer when authorities have attempted to prevent everybody from carrying guns. It’s a difficult question, certainly, but that one person plumped for the latter choice tells us almost nothing at all. Sarkeesian permitted a heckler to use his veto. So what?

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