At 6 a.m. Thursday, a 68-year-old man was loading copies of the Alligator for delivery into the back of his vehicle. As he bent into the trunk, a young male approached on foot and pointed a gun at him, threatening his life in exchange for a wallet.
The entire encounter lasted approximately 35 seconds based on video evidence, and everything took place around 1,000 feet from the university's campus. Given the brevity of this and most violent encounters, it would not be reasonable to expect law enforcement to be able to intervene - the citizen was on his own in an alley with a dangerous interloper.
From this, we learn several valuable lessons.
Violent crime happens to innocent people - even in Gainesville. Also, law enforcement officers simply are not sufficiently numerous or omniscient enough to intervene in most violent encounters, which happen in seconds.
If we place ourselves in the shoes of Thursday's victim, alone in an alley and staring down the barrel of a pistol held in the clenched fist of a threatening maniac, we are faced with an inescapable truth: As individuals, we are responsible for our own safety - and this responsibility exists in a world where the predators are armed no matter what laws we try to pass.
The lawfully concealed firearm represents a tremendous asset in the hands of a licensed citizen who has undergone the training our state requires. To the uninitiated, it may seem extreme, but such misconceptions are the product of an information vacuum filled by social biases and unfounded fears.
Proper firearms education, which is sadly rare among the general populous despite its broad availability, tells us a firearm is the only tool that consistently, reliably and repeatedly provides the level of force necessary to immediately stop dangerous aggression.
A firearm can provide a chance at survival to individuals who would otherwise be at a disadvantage against the typical youthful male attacker or attackers due to weight differences, upper-body-strength differentials or numbers.
The state of Florida recognized this truth in 1987 when it enacted a "shall issue" policy that made concealed firearms permits available to the average citizen.
Since that time, lawfully armed citizens have comprised 1 to 2 percent of the population in Florida with violent crime rates far below those of the general population. Nationwide, there are anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of legitimate defensive gun uses per year, the majority of which take place without a single shot being fired. In the more than 20 years since Florida passed "shall-issue" legislation allowing concealed firearms has spread to 49 states, time and again disproving the "Wild West"-style predictions made by opponents of this critical freedom.
Even though he was off-campus when he was victimized, if the man from the Alligator robbery was planning to deliver his newspapers at any of the many Alligator vending stations on campus, he could not have had a firearm per Florida state law and university policy. Yet criminals bring weapons onto campus regularly - as evidenced by the armed robbery in Corry Village in July 2009 or the robbery at knifepoint of a book buyback tent near Carleton Auditorium that happened in December 2009.
This need not be the case. Seventy-one college campuses throughout the nation now recognize the intrinsic right to armed self-defense and allow their students, faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on campus.
As law-abiding adults, the time has come for UF students, faculty and staff to ask themselves whether they ought to learn more about this freedom and start asking why they are being denied it by ancient policies that are holdovers from a less-enlightened age.
Dustin Blanton is a part of Students for Concealed Carry.