Freedomnomics

Article published Friday, September 24, 2015, at The Orange County Register.

Gun-free zones are magnets for murderers

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.

So why do we put up these signs in other places? The California Senate recently voted to ban holders of concealed handgun permits from carrying guns on school or university property. Gun control advocates can’t point to any problems with permit holders carrying guns in those places, but it didn’t stop hasn’t stopped them from pushing a new law.

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 six worst K-12 school shootings and by far the worst mass public shooting perpetrated by a single individual.

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

What might be surprising is how killers often openly talk about their desire to attack where guns are banned. 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.

Just a few months ago, the diary of the Aurora, Colo., “Batman” movie theater killer James Holmes was finally released. He was considering both attacking an airport and a movie theater, but he turned down the airport option because he was concerned about their “substantial security.” Out of seven theaters showing the “Batman” movie premiere within 20 minutes of the suspect’s apartment, only one banned permitted concealed handguns – and that is the one he attacked.

In late 2013, Ron Noble, the secretary general of Interpol, 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 it was virtually impossible to stop killers from getting weapons.

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. 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.

Gun-free zones are magnets for murderers. Even the most ardent gun control advocate would never put “Gun-Free Zone” signs on their home. Let’s finally stop putting them elsewhere.

• Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press). Follow us: @IBDinvestors on Twitter | InvestorsBusinessDaily on Facebook

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