The conversation about guns: Part 4, “Gun-free zones” do not work.

(This is the third in a multipost series on the ongoing debate over civilian gun ownership. This topic was introduced here and further parts to this series will be linked at that introduction post.)

While our mainstream media and the gun-banning side of this debate have done everything they can to avoid it, you cannot have a “serious” or “meaningful” discussion about protecting our schoolchildren from people who would shoot them without addressing the failure of the so-called “gun-free zones.” Gun-free zones, of course, are those areas legislatively placed around certain types of facilities and whatnot wherein you’re not allowed to carry a gun. They were enacted by people who were seeking to protect certain people – notably children in schools – from being shot by criminals who would do such things. The thinking goes that if you’re not allowed to carry guns into these zones, then no one will be able to shoot innocent kids.

The problem with this approach ought to be obvious to everyone who gives it just a brief bit of thought. The people who would consider shooting schoolchildren aren’t the types who are going to be held back away from their targets by a sign on the sidewalk and an ordinance written in a book at City Hall. Criminals do not care that a sign is there saying they can’t do something. They’re criminals; they are defined by their willingness to violate laws. What the zones do is make it easier to convict someone who does violence within them. In short, it’s handing prosecutors and law enforcement officers an additional charge to apply to a given perpetrator so the job of convicting someone after the commission of a crime is easier. It piles on additional jail time and penalties.

Gun-zones do not actually protect anyone. Events over the past 15 years have proven that definitively with regard to schools and over the past 60 years with such gun-free zones in general. The mass shootings at Columbine, VA Tech, and now at Sandy Hook were all performed within the gun-free zones that were long emplaced and clearly marked. Schools are not the only such places. In fact, since the 1950’s literally every mass shooting but 1 has taken place at a location where citizens were prohibited from carrying guns. And there is strong evidence that these shooters are choosing their targets factoring in the matter of whether the location is a gun-free zone or not. The shooter in the Aurora, CO movie theater had a choice of 6 such theaters within a 20-minute drive of his home, all of which were showing the movie he was apparently drawn to and doing so at the same time. Only 1 of those theaters had a no-guns policy and that is precisely the one he chose. It wasn’t even the closest one to his house. To suggest that this had nothing to do with his decision is merely prejudiced deliberate avoidance of the facts.

What’s maddening about all of this is that this information isn’t new. Every time a tragedy occurs – and they are thankfully very rare, let us not forget – the same immediate calls for banning this or that or widening gun-free zones or ramping up criminal penalties for anything relating to a gun are shouted from the rooftops. The same tired, ineffective “solutions” are offered up and the same facts come out to light. Meaningful conversations only happen when the parties involved don’t act like the other participants have never made responses earlier in the conversation and that’s precisely what these people on the banning side of this debate are doing. Again.

In the 5th and final part of this series I will address the solutions, proposed earlier and more recently, with an eye toward what has a reasonable chance of actually doing something to stop the next such attack.


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