Freedomnomics

Article published Friday, August 13, 2015, at The Daily Caller.

The New York Times Believes MoJo’s Gun-Control Myths

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Normally, even the New York Times doesn’t cite such an unreliable source as Mother Jones for evidence. But when it comes to gun control, it’s considered okay to use biased sources, call people names, and thoughtlessly dismiss the notion that gun-free zones endanger lives.

After the recent shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, former Texas Governor Rick Perry suggested that people should be able to defend themselves in public. How did the Times react? It characterized those who agree with Perry as “fanatics who own the Republican Party by intimidation.”

Take the Times’ response to the fact that, with just two exceptions, all mass public shootings since 1950 have occurred in places where civilians aren’t allowed to carry guns for protection. The Times claims that these places are “not gun-free at all” if there are “no metal detectors or screening.” Metal detectors may be useful for stopping potential killers, but disarming law-abiding permit holders just isn’t a productive goal. As a group, permit holders are extremely law-abiding and are even convicted of felonies and misdemeanors at a tiny fraction of the rate that police are.

The Times claims: “[Permit holders stopping mass public shootings] almost never happens. The logic is nonsense, the odds of a perfectly timed counter-killer getting the drop on the evil killer unlikely.” In fact, there have been literally many dozens of such cases in recent years. Just in recent months, mass public shootings have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders in downtown Chicago; on a street in Winton, Ohio; a liquor store in Conyers, Georgia; a fire station in New Holland, South Carolina; and at a barber shop in Philadelphia.

The statements by local law-enforcement and media about these recent events couldn’t have been clearer about what was at stake. In Chicago, Assistant State’s Attorney Barry Quinn praised the permit holder for “acting in self-defense and in the defense of others.” In Ohio, the Cincinnati Inquirer’s headline read: “Man protects family in gunfight.” For the liquor store attack, Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett said “in my opinion he saved other lives in that store.” The headline for a local TV station in South Carolina said it all: “CWPs [Concealed Weapon Permit holders] likely stopped deaths of children, firefighters.” In Philadelphia, Police Captain Frank Llewellyn noted: “He responded and I guess he saved a lot of people in there.“

Permit holders, the Times argues, shouldn’t be allowed guns because “the armed citizen who jumps into the melee can pose a mortal threat to others.” And yet, out of all the cases of permit holders intervening in mass public shootings, the Times can’t point to a single case where such an accident occurred.

The Times points out that many malls such as the Mall of America in Minnesota don’t trust permit holders to be carry guns. It neglects to mention that there are even more malls that do trust concealed handgun permit holders. Those malls which did experience mass public shootings (in Omaha, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, and Portland) all occurred in the rare mall that posted signs banning guns.

Of course, according to the Times, mass public shooters don’t care whether someone in the crowd could potentially shoot back at them. Events of the past year, however, illustrate just how wrong the Times is. Killers have explicitly stated their desire to avoid places where people may be armed. The cases are easy to find: Charleston; Santa Barbara; and New Brunswick, Canada.

So what is the New York Times’ idea of a really safe place? “Go to the airport — that bubble of gun-free security.” Yes, airports are very safe places, but this has something to do with the overwhelming number of security personnel. It’s not feasible to station lots of police officers and armed guards around every school, movie theater, and restaurant.

A couple of months ago, we learned from his diary that James Holmes, the Aurora movie theater killer, had initially considered attacking an airport. He decided against this and chose a movie theater because he worried that there would be armed individuals who could stop him.

Possibly the Times’ piece should be viewed as a sign of progress. Despite the many errors, it says something about the changing debate that they felt the need to address the question of gun-free zones.

Yes, deterrence works, and simply allowing citizens to carry guns works too.

• Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

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