Freedomnomics

Article published Tuesday, February 24, 2015, at Chicago Tribune.

Take a gun to the mall

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Over the weekend Somali terrorists threatened to attack the Mall of America in Minnesota. They called for a massacre similar to the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed and injured scores of people. With the large Somali population in the Twin Cities area, the threat is hard to ignore.

On Sunday, when asked a couple of times if Americans should still go to the mall, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson would only say: "I'm not telling people to not go to the mall."

Unfortunately, Americans have learned little from terrorist attacks like this. Mall of America officials think that by posting signs banning permitted concealed handguns that they are making the mall safer. They seem to believe that terrorists will obey these signs.

Right after the Kenya attack, Ronald Noble, the secretary-general of Interpol, which is a world version of the FBI and headquartered in Lyon, France, noted two means of protecting people from mass shootings. "One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves (should be) so secure that in order to get into the soft target, you're going to have to pass through extraordinary security."

But Noble warned that his experience taught him that it was virtually impossible to stop killers from getting weapons and that "you can't have armed police forces everywhere."

"It makes citizens question their views on gun control," he noted. "You have to ask yourself, 'Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past, with an evolving threat of terrorism?'"

Since at least 1950, all but two public mass shootings in America have taken place where general citizens are banned from carrying guns. In Europe, there have been no exceptions. Every mass public shooting has occurred in a gun-free zone. And Europe is no stranger to mass shootings. It has been host to three of the worst six K-12 school shootings and by far the worst mass public shooting perpetrated by a single individual.

Killers often openly talk about their desire to attack where guns are banned. Last June, xElliot Rodger, 22, who killed six people in Santa Barbara, Calif., explained his own choice. In his 141-page manifesto called "My Twisted World," Rodger turned down targets because he worried that someone with a gun would cut short his killing spree.

That same month, Canadian Justin Bourque shot to death three people in Moncton, New Brunswick. His Facebook page made fun of gun bans, with pictures of defenseless victims explaining to killers that they weren't allowed to have their guns.

In the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, of seven theaters showing the "Batman" movie premiere within 20 minutes of the suspect's apartment, only one banned permitted concealed handguns. The suspect didn't go to the closest or the largest, but to the one that banned self-defense. Time after time the story is the same.

There is extensive evidence to back this up. Economist William M. Landes at the University of Chicago and I studied the effects of 13 types of gun control laws on public mass shootings from 1977 to 1999. We found that only permitted concealed handgun laws were effective in preventing or reducing the harm caused by these attacks. Again, attacks occurred in those tiny areas where victims weren't able to protect themselves.

Uniformed officers are very important for reducing crime, but they are at a disadvantage when it comes to mass shootings. Attackers can choose when and where to strike. Uniformed officers who happen to be at the scene are frequently the first to be killed. If the attackers see uniformed officers, they can select another target or wait for the officers to leave.

Those advocating gun-free zones raise a number of concerns. They argue that permit holders will accidentally shoot bystanders. Or that arriving police will shoot anyone with a gun, including the permit holders.

Out of the innumerable cases in which concealed carry holders have stopped shootings in malls, churches, schools, universities and busy downtowns, no permit holder has ever shot a bystander. Nor in these cases have the police ever accidentally shot a permit holder.

Would you post a sign announcing that your home is a gun-free zone? Would you feel safer? Criminals don't obey these signs. In fact, gun-free zones look to them like easy targets.

So why do we put up these signs in other places?

Gun-free zones are a magnet for those who want to kill people. Even the most ardent gun control advocate would never put a gun-free zone sign on his home. Let's finally stop putting them elsewhere.

John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of the recently released “At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over the Edge?”

Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Home

Johnlott.org (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

Academic papers:

Social Science Research Network

Book Reviews:

For a list of book reviews on The Bias Against Guns, click here.

---------------------------------
List of my Op-eds
---------------------------------

Posts by topic

Appalachian law school attack

Baghdad murder rate

Arming Pilots

Fraudulent website pretending to be run by me

The Merced Pitchfork Killings and Vin Suprynowicz's quote

Ayres and Donohue

Stanford Law Review

Mother Jones article

Links

Craig Newmark

Eric Rasmusen

William Sjostrom

Dr. T's EconLinks.com

Interview with National Review Online

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at www.johnlott.org:

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper