Article published Wednesday, March 13, 2014, at Investor's Business Daily.

The Police Should Carry Guns Off The Job To Protect Us

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Unbelievably, some won't even let police officers work for free. They object to them carrying guns when off-duty. Gun-control advocates are so extremely fearful of guns, the NFL has banned off-duty police from carrying their guns inside stadiums. They really believe that the presence of guns, even those carried by off-duty police, pose an unacceptable danger.

Not surprisingly, police unions from Minnesota to New York are bringing lawsuits. The sergeants union in New York City is typical, fearing the ban puts both police and the public at risk — calling the policy "ludicrous and insane." It also prevents a fast response when seconds might matter.

And of course the police are right. We trust officers while they are on the job, yet off-duty they are not viewed similarly.

The NFL claims off-duty officers might be confused for terrorists and could be shot by regular on-duty uniformed police.

However, those very officers whose lives are supposedly at risk want to carry guns and believe that it makes both them and the public safer.

Indeed, if terrorists attack fans at a football game, whom would the terrorists target to kill first? Obviously, the uniformed police. The off-duty officers dressed like other fans would be extremely valuable.

Also metal detectors can't be depended on to secure stadiums. Terrorists have the time and resources to make sure that they can find some way into the stadiums. Banning guns guarantees only that law-abiding off-duty officers will be disarmed.

Police aren't just making these arguments out of selfishness or because of their egos. They understand the general principle. Last year, PoliceOne, the largest organization of police officers in the U.S. with 450,000 members, asked its members:

"What would help most in preventing large-scale shootings in public?"

The most frequent answer to that question, with 30% support, was "more permissive concealed carry policies for civilians."

Creating gun-free zones wasn't one of the organization's suggestions, and few officers believe in gun control.

Support for gun control — restrictions on "assault weapons," ammo magazines and "tighter limits on weapons sales and transfers" — added up to only 2.4%.

Even in anti-gun Europe, the thinking is starting to sway toward letting people, not just off-duty police, defend themselves. The head of Interpol (basically Europe's version of the FBI) Ron Noble stated in November that there are two ways to protect people:

"One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves are so secure that in order to get into the soft target you're going to have to pass through extraordinary security."

He pointed to the real problem:

"How do you protect soft (civilian) targets? That's really the challenge.

"You can't have armed police forces everywhere. ... It makes citizens question their views on gun control. You have to ask yourself, 'Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past with an evolving threat of terrorism?'"

Noble's comments came right after the terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where 68 people were killed. As for Kenya, both open and concealed carrying of firearms by civilians is banned. Obviously, those bans didn't stop the terrorists.

We have to recognize that the vast majority of mass public shootings have been extensively planned beforehand — often many months or even years in advance — making it hard to secure areas.

An example is Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary School killer, who spent more than two years studying everything about previous mass shootings: the weapons used, the number of people killed and even how much media coverage each attack received. Some police even likened his careful study to a doctoral dissertation.

Another careful planner was James Holmes, who is charged with the 2012 Aurora, Colo., massacre. According to police, he started buying items 2-1/2 months in advance. He visited neighboring theaters and bought his ticket almost two weeks before his attack.

To help prepare, Holmes photographed the layout of the theater. And he picked the only theater within a 20-minute drive of his apartment that banned permitted concealed handguns.

Police understand deterrence matters. Hopefully, these off-duty officers will never be called upon to stop terrorism. But with police offering to protect us for free, how can we turn them down?

John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of the recently released “At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over the Edge?”

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