Freedomnomics

Article published Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at NY Daily News.

Concealed weapons save lives

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Fridayís horrible shooting in Colorado occurred in yet another place where guns are banned. And thatís consistent with a trend: With a single exception, every multiple-victim public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms.

The Cinemark movie theater in Aurora, like others run by the chain around the country, displayed warning signs that it was illegal to carry guns into the theater.

This applied to all nonlaw enforcement personnel, including individuals with concealed handgun permits. In other words, despite more than 4% of the adult population of Colorado having concealed handgun permits, a gunman intent on killing a lot of people could be confident that law-abiding citizens there would be sitting ducks.

If one of the hundreds of people at the theater had a concealed handgun, possibly the attack would have ended like the shooting at the mega New Life Church in Colorado Springs in December 2007.

In that assault, the churchís minister had given Jeanne Assam permission to carry her concealed handgun. The gunman killed two people in the parking lot ó but when he entered the church, Assam fired 10 shots, severely wounding him. At that point, the gunman committed suicide.

Similar stories are available from across the country. They include shootings at schools that were stopped before police arrived in such places as Pearl, Miss., and Edinboro, Pa., and at colleges like the Appalachian Law School in Virginia. Or attacks in busy downtowns such as Memphis; at a mall in Salt Lake City, or at an apartment building in Oklahoma.

The ban against nonpolice carrying guns usually rests on the false notion that almost anyone can suddenly go crazy and start misusing their weapon or that any crossfire with a killer would be worse than the crime itself. But in state after state, permit holders are extremely law-abiding. They can lose their permits for any type of firearms-related violation.

Nor have I found a single example on record of a multiple-victim public shooting in which a permit holder accidentally shot a bystander.

And I havenít even touched upon the pure deterrent effect of a potential mass murderer having to worry that one of his targets might be armed.

The police response in Aurora could hardly have been quicker, with police arriving within a couple of minutes of the first 911 call. And itís true that the gunman, wearing protective body armor, would have been tough for a civilian to stop.

But the first 911 call was not made until nine minutes after the shooting had started. Even a few minutes can be an eternity for those helplessly cowering unprotected before an armed killer.

In the wake of this crime, gun control advocates have wasted no time offering up more gun control regulations as the way to prevent future tragedies. But aggressive gun control hasnít prevented multiple-victim public shootings in Europe.

In last yearís shooting near Oslo, 69 people were killed and an additional 110 injured. Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun control in the world ó it requires not only extensive psychological screening but also a yearís wait to get a gun ó has been the site of three of the worst five multiple-victim K-12 public school shootings in the world, all in the past decade. There are more examples of attacks in countries with strict gun control, like in Austria, Britain, France, Finland and Italy.

The guns used for the attacks in Germany and Norway were obtained illegally. When individuals plan these attacks months or even years in advance, it is virtually impossible to stop them from getting whatever weapons they need.

In the Colorado attack, the killer apparently spent at least four months preparing for the massacre, and had he not been able to purchase the weapons legally, no doubt he would have obtained them illegally. In any case, his 30 homemade grenades might well have caused even more carnage if he had used them in the attack.

Some suggest having metal detectors and searches for everyone entering sporting events, cinemas, public transportation and other public facilities. Beyond the incredible cost, it just wouldnít work.

There are simply too many possible ways to get into different buildings, as the killer at the Batman movie showed by bringing his weapons through the locked emergency door at the back of the theater.

To reduce future carnage, the key is to get someone with a gun quickly at the scene. Quick responses not only limit the number of casualties, but reduce the attention these killers garner from committing their crimes. We canít get rid of gun-free zones soon enough.

John R. Lott Jr. is a FOXNews.com contributor. He is an economist and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime." He is co-author of the just released "Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our FutureĒ (John Wiley & Sons, March 2012). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.

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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