We previously covered the plight of two Gonzaga University students who were threatened with expulsion for brandishing a licensed handgun in an off-campus, university-owned residence when a convicted felon tried to break into their apartment. Eventually they were placed on probation.

Legal Insurrection reader Mike, who is from Washington State, forwarded me a Letter to the Editor of the Gonzaga Bulletin written by Fr. Patrick Hartin.

Fr. Hartin is Professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga, and an ordained priest of the Diocese of Spokane, Washington.  Prior to 1994 he was affiliated with the Diocese of Johannesburg, South Africa:

“Since grade school, I have been struck with concern about solidarity with the poor and less fortunate,” he said. “I was 10 when apartheid took over Anglican and Catholic schools so the education system would keep blacks subservient. Our bishop refused to hand over the Catholic schools and ran them on collections from parishes until 1994.

(Father Patrick Hartin)

(Father Patrick Hartin)

In the Letter to the Editor, Fr. Hartin supported the student’s inherent right to defend themselves and harshly criticized the Gonzaga administration’s treatment of the students (emphasis added):

After reading the Bulletin Friday morning, I’m convinced that I’m living in Alice’s Wonderland! Instead, it’s no “Wonderland” – more like Dante’s “Hell”! ….

To protect themselves and others in the neighborhood, the students defended themselves by pulling out a gun (one with a legal permit). Then the students called the police (as any law-abiding GU student would), informing them they had a legal gun with a permit. The police congratulated them on their whole mature behavior and response to this incident. There, the incident should have ended (if we were in the real world).

But, we enter GU’s “Wonderland” or Dante’s “Hell.” 2:00 a.m. next morning: GU’s campus security breaks into the students’ apartment and their bedrooms and seizes their weapons…. Tragically, in GU’s “Wonderland,” these young gentlemen are turned from victims into criminals….

What about the cura personalis that is the bedrock of GU’s ethos? We could have been mourning “Two funerals and a rape” this weekend. Instead, the heroes who avoided such a catastrophe are punished as villains. What a far cry from our Jesuit ethos!

In the Catholic tradition, to which I ascribe, every person has a right to defend him or herself and to use appropriate means to save their lives.

I spoke with Fr. Hartin this afternoon, and he expanded on what he meant. He stated that he was “not trying to start an uprising,” but that he was “concerned about students.” He stated that his experiences in South Africa caused him to be “concerned about the person who is the underdog.”

Fr. Hartin said that it was “not a gun issue” to him, more of an issue of the inherent right “to use appropriate means” to defend oneself, and in this case he said “using a gun was perfectly legitimate.”

(Featured image source: YouTube)


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