Article published Saturday, February 13, 2016, at Knoxville News Sentinel.

Gun-free zones increase danger for the public

By John R. Lott, Jr.

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, to criminals, gun-free zones look like easy targets.

This week the Tennessee state Senate Judiciary Committee considered four bills that would make it easier for people to defend themselves. Three of the bills would end gun-free zones at universities. The fourth would allow permit holders who are banned from carrying guns in gun-free zones on government or private property to sue for damages.

Gun control advocates can't point to any problems with permit holders carrying gun in those places, but it hasn't stopped them from wanting law-abiding Tennesseans disarmed.

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, host to three of the six worst K-12 school shootings and by far the worst mass public shooting perpetrated by a single individual, every mass shooting has occurred in a gun-free zone.

With dozens of cases where permit holders have clearly stopped what would have been mass public shootings, it is understandable why killers avoid places where they can't kill a large number of people.

Killers often openly talk about their desire to attack where guns are banned.

In June, the Charleston killer's first choice was to target the College of Charleston, but he chose the church instead because there were armed guards at the college. In his diary, the Aurora, Colorado, "Batman" movie theater killer, James Holmes, wrote he was considering attacking an airport and a movie theater, but he turned down the airport option because he was concerned about its "substantial security." Elliot Rodger, who shot to death three people in Santa Barbara, California, explained in his 141-page manifesto that he turned down targets because he worried that someone with a gun would cut short his killing spree.

University of Chicago economist Bill Landes and I studied the effects of 13 types of gun control laws on public mass shootings from 1977 to 1999. We found that permitted concealed handgun laws were the only effective measures in preventing or reducing the harm caused by these attacks.

Those advocating gun-free zones argue that permit holders will accidentally shoot bystanders. Or that arriving police will shoot anyone with a gun, including the permit holders. At colleges, fears are raised that students will get drunk and misuse guns.

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.

Today, 12 states mandate that permit holders are allowed to carry guns on public college campuses. An additional 21 states leave it up to each university. But these legal restrictions didn't exist before the early 1990s. Students with permits didn't cause any problems on school property. Indeed, a study this past year by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that college-age permit holders in Michigan, Nevada and Texas are at least as responsible as older permit holders.

Gun-free zones are a magnet for murderers. Even the most ardent gun control advocate would never put "Gun-Free Zone" signs on his home. Let's finally stop putting them elsewhere.

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