John Parker, a 36-year-old military veteran, was on campus during the tragic and terrifying Oregon mass shooting at Umpqua Community College Thursday, and he was carrying a concealed handgun. But in interviews after the incident, he explained why he did not attempt to intervene and take down the killer himself.
In fact, he says, a police officer on the scene agreed with his decision to stay out of the fray.
“I told the officer about the gun on my hip,” Parker said, in a Huffington Post report. “He searched me, took the gun, escorted me back to my car and gave me my gun back and told me to have a nice day.”
Less than two hours after news of the shooting broke on Thursday, some television commentators — for example, CNN military analyst Rick Francona — stated that a “gun free zone” on the Umpqua Community College campus was responsible for the allowing the mass shooting to occur.
“The gun free zones are the areas that tell licensed gun owners that you are not allowed to carry your weapon in this facility,” Francona said. “If you’re going to perpetrate some act, you know that most people are not going to be armed.”
A retired Navy SEAL, Jonathan Gilliam, made similar comments.
“We see that the only thing that’s going to stop a gun is another gun,” Gilliam said.
But the UCC campus is not a gun-free zone because Oregon state law makes it legal to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. It was because of that law that Air Force veteran John Parker was able to carry a concealed handgun on the campus.
The college has banned guns inside school buildings, but the school is not able to bar licensed gun owners from carrying their weapons on the campus.
But Parker told MSNBC that his military training had conditioned him “to go into danger, not just run away from it.” Although he did consider taking action to intervene in the Oregon mass shooting, he ultimately decided that to do so would be a bad idea.
“When we found out there was an active shooter on campus, we were going to go and see if we could intervene,” he said, referring as well to other students who also carry concealed weapons on the campus. “If there was something we could do, we were going to do it. Luckily, we made the choice not to get involved.”
Parker went on to explain that he was “quite a distance away” from the building where gunman Christopher Harper-Mercer was shooting students. Not knowing what was going on in the building, Parker said that he could have opened himself and others to becoming “potential targets” of the shooter if they were to attempt to approach the building and intervene.
Parker also noted that the SWAT team on the scene could have easily mistaken him, or anyone else with a drawn weapon, for a shooter — a mistake which likely would have resulted in police shooting him.
“If we had our guns ready to shoot they could think we were the bad guys,” Parker said in the interview.
The magazine, Mother Jones, conducted a study of 62 mass shootings over a 30-year period, but they found no evidence that any of the shooters in the horrific incidents chose targets based on whether or not guns were banned in those areas.
In fact, the magazine discovered, many of the mass shootings — as did the Oregon shooting — took place in areas where carrying concealed weapons was legal. But in no case did an armed civilian do anything but what John Parker did — in other words, they chose not to intervene.
[Images: MSNBC Screen Capture / MySpace / Michael Lloyd / Getty Images]