Freedomnomics

Article published Wednesday, June 29, 2016, at National Review.

The Case for More Concealed Handguns

By John R. Lott, Jr.

In a new Gallup poll released, a nearly two-to-one margin of Americans (64 to 34 percent) think that increasing the number of people carrying concealed handguns will help prevent terrorism. Even 45 percent of Democrats agree.

Civilians aren’t alone in these views. PoliceOne, a private organization with 450,000 members (380,000 full-time active law enforcement and 70,000 retired), polled its members in 2013 shortly after the Newtown, Conn., massacre. Eighty-six percent of respondents said that allowing legally armed citizens to carry guns in places such as Newtown and Aurora would have reduced casualties.

But not everyone has gotten the message.

While Donald Trump has called to end gun-free zones, Hillary Clinton, speaking in the aftermath of the Orlando atrocity, dismissed the idea as “reckless” and as evidence that her opponent is “temperamentally unfit” to be president.

Other Democrats have chimed in. President Obama, in his prepared remarks after the shootings at Pulse, announced: “The notion that the answer to this tragedy would be to make sure that more people in a nightclub are similarly armed to the killer defies common sense.” Bill Clinton asserted that if someone had a permitted concealed handgun at the Pulse nightclub, “it is likely that more people would have been killed.

But there are dozens of cases, most in the last five years, in which concealed-handgun permit holders stopped mass public shootings. Last year, these cases occurred in such places as a busy sidewalk in Chicago, a volunteer fire department having a children’s day in South Carolina, a barbershop in Philadelphia, a store in Conyers, Ga., and a street in Winton, Ohio. In not one of all these cases did a permit holder accidentally shoot an innocent bystander. Nor did the police accidentally shoot these heroes upon arriving at the scene.

Time after time, we see killers consciously pick target zones in which their victims are defenseless. Look at the shootings over the last couple of years that occurred at a church in Charleston, a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., a sorority house in Santa Barbara, and in Canada. Only 1 percent of the mass public shootings since 1950 have occurred where general citizens have been able to defend themselves.

The Sunday-morning national talk shows have made much of the fact that Pulse nightclub served alcohol. Jonathan Karl on ABC News’s This Week asked, “Is that really what you want is, people late at night, drinking at a nightclub, two–three o’clock in the morning, armed to the teeth?” John Dickerson on Face the Nation was equally incredulous.

In fact, 40 states allow people to have guns with them in bars. There is not a single example in a bar of someone getting drunk in a bar and shooting at others. Nor is there a case in which a sober person in a bar unjustifiably shot others.

In something like designated-driver laws, some states prohibit permit holders from drinking while they are carrying in bars. States also make it crime for a permit holder to carry a gun while drunk. By any measure, permit holders are incredibly law-abiding.

Unfortunately for the nightclub patrons at Pulse, Florida is not one of the states that allow concealed carry in bars.

Police are probably the single most important factor in stopping crime, but stopping mass public shootings is an extremely dangerous proposition for officers and security guards alike. Attackers will generally shoot first at any uniformed guards or officers who are present. During the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last year, the first person killed was the guard who was protecting the magazine’s offices.

Being able to choose the time and place of an attack gives terrorists a major strategic advantage. The Orlando killer had obviously been to the Pulse nightclub many times. As a result, he clearly knew there was an armed security guard at the club’s entrance. Had some of the customers been carrying permitted concealed handguns, the terrorist wouldn’t have been able to know who might resist. This would have denied him a major strategic advantage.

It is unlikely that either the Clintons or Obama would ever put gun-free zone signs in front of their homes. They should stop telling the rest of us where to put such signs.

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

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