Friday, March 25, 2005


The last ten days have seen three horrific multiple-victim public shootings: the Atlanta courthouse attack that left four murdered; the Wisconsin church shooting, where seven were murdered, and Monday's high-school shooting in Minnesota, where nine were murdered. What can be learned from these attacks? Some take the attacks as confirmation that guns should be completely banned from even courthouses, let alone schools and churches.

All three attacks took place in areas where gun possession by those who did the attack as well as civilians generally was already banned - so-called "gun-free safe zones." Suppose you or your family are being stalked by a criminal who intends on harming you. Would you feel safer putting a sign in front of your home saying "This Home is a Gun-Free Zone"? It is pretty obvious why we don't put these signs up. As with many other gun laws, law-abiding citizens, not would-be criminals, would obey the sign. Instead of creating a safe zone for victims, it leaves victims defenseless and creates a safe zone for those intent on causing harm.

A three-year prison term for violating a gun-free zone represents a real penalty for a law-abiding citizen. Adding three years to a criminal's sentence when he is probably already going to face multiple death penalties or life sentences for a murderous rampage is probably not going to be the penalty that stops the criminal from committing his crime.

Many Americans have learned this lesson the hard way. In 1985, just eight states had the most liberal right-to-carry laws - laws that automatically grant permits once applicants pass a criminal background check, pay their fees and, when required, complete a training class. Today the total is 37 states. Bill Landes and I have examined all the multiple-victim public shootings with two or more victims in the United States from 1977 to 1999 and found that when states passed right-to-carry laws, these attacks fell by 60 percent. Deaths and injuries from multiple-victim public shootings fell on average by 78 percent. No other gun-control law had any beneficial effect. Indeed, right-to-carry laws were the only policy that consistently reduced these attacks.

Unfortunately, the restrictive concealed-handgun law now in effect in Minnesota bans concealed handguns around schools and Wisconsin is one of four states that completely ban concealed handguns, let alone not allowing them in churches. (There was a guard at the Minnesota school and he was apparently the first person killed, but he was also apparently unarmed.) While permitted concealed handguns by civilians are banned in Georgia courthouses, it is not clear that the benefit is anywhere near as large as other places simply because you usually have armed law enforcement nearby. One possibility is to encourage prosecutors and others to carry concealed guns around courthouses.

People's reaction to the horrific events displayed on TV such as the Minnesota attack are understandable, but the more than two million times each year that Americans use guns defensively are never discussed - even though this is five times as often as the 450,000 times that guns are used to commit crimes over the last couple of years. Seldom do cases make the news where public shootings are stopped or mothers use guns to prevent their children from being kidnapped. Few would know that a quarter of the public-school shootings were stopped by citizens with guns before uniformed police could arrive.

More here

Arm the guards!: "Reality is that there are, and always will be, a very few dangerous people, and high schools may be one of the more likely places to find them. Many of us were at our wildest and moodiest in high school ... super-sensitive about everything, emotions continually on edge, feeling estranged from the world, driven with energy and hormones. It is the stuff of many movies, and of stories we may, much later, tell our own children. Why then should we be surprised that violence occurs in school? More importantly, why have we allowed our schools to go unprotected against the occasional, rare outburst? It is a disgusting case of simply not facing reality because we want to avoid the unpleasant truth.... Being unarmed, security guard Derrick Brun, only 28, became the first helpless victim. It's possible that Jeff Weise wouldn't even have gone to the school armed if he knew the security people were capable of serious self-defense. Guns are not the villains here. Red Lake police officers arrived during the rampage and exchanged gunfire with Weise in the hallway. Weise then retreated to a classroom. Guns eventually ended the terrible episode... guns used by the police, firing inside the school. It could have, and should have, ended far sooner... when Weiss was confronted by two security guards near the front do"

Gun not to blame in school shooting: "When a shooting does occur at school, you can count on the media to lend a helping-hand to their anti-gun buddies in congress by isolating the gun as the cause of the crime. The media wants you to view the blood, suffering, and loss and come to the conclusion that the crime never would have occured if the child did not have a gun. What the media blatantly fails to recognize, however, is that teenagers used to bring guns to school on a regular basis at a time when school shootings did not exist."

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