One of the issues which can always get everyone hot and bothered on both sides of the gun debate is the issue of gun-free zones. On the one hand, proponents of armed, self-defense (John Lott, et. al.) argue that denying folks the right to carry their self-defense gun into a public space makes that space a likely target for any nut who wants to commit mass mayhem using a gun. On the other hand, maintaining and/or expanding gun-free zones is seen by Gun-control Nation as a fundamental strategy for reducing the 125,000+ injuries that we suffer each year from the use/abuse of guns.
I happen to believe that both arguments are bunk and do not, in any way, shape or form, align with the relevant facts. This is because we don’t know the relevant facts, nor has anyone even attempted to figure them out. But making arguments without any factual underpinnings is hardly a new approach when it comes to advocating for or against anything, particularly when it comes to advocating an issue as emotionally-laden as the issue of guns.
It just happens to be the case that most public spaces are gun-free zones, and that’s not about to change. The reason that John Lott says that most large-scale shootings occur in gun-free spaces is because prohibitions on carrying personal firearms are typical of shopping centers, auditoriums and stadiums, which happen to be the places where many people congregate at the same time. Federal law also designates all public K-12 schools as gun-free zones.
The other problem in the gun-free zone universe is that the issue is confused because it’s often attached to a second gun argument which is equally mis-stated on both sides, namely, the issue of mass shootings which, by definition, occur in places where lots of people congregate at the same time. The commonly-accepted definition of a ‘mass shooting’ is an event in which four or more persons are killed, but this usually excludes shootings in private residences or shootings in the street between rival gangs. So, for example, the gunfire which erupted on May 17, 2015, between two motorcycle gangs in a Waco, TX restaurant parking lot wouldn’t necessarily make the mass-shooting hit list, even though 18 bikers and bystanders were injured and another 9 ended up dead. And by the way, how come we don’t hear about this event as being the ‘proof’ that armed citizens can prevent crimes when just about everyone standing outside the Twin Peaks Restaurant that day was carrying a gun?
On the other hand, what makes my friends in Gun-control Nation crazy about expanding gun-free zones is that invariably this proposal is tied to the increase in concealed-carry licensing, which is on its way to covering more than 20 million gun owners at last count. But if you want to argue that an increase in armed citizens leads to an increase in gun injuries you’ll find yourself facing two facts which don’t bear this out.
First, although the latest numbers of CCW puts the national figure at 17.5 million, this figure may represent more than five times the number of people actually walking around on a regular basis with a loaded gun. Do these 3 million gun-toters represent a serious threat to community safety and health? To answer that question we turn to our friends at the Violence Policy Center whose report, Concealed Carry Killers, found that between 2007 and 2017, roughly 1,000 people shot themselves or others with legally-carried guns, the division between homicide and suicide about 50 percent. Over that same eleven-year period, more than 350,000 Americans overall died from gun homicides and suicides. Ok? Get it?
Nobody has yet to come up with a definitive explanation for whether or not shooters, particularly mass shooters, are attracted to gun-free zones. But as far as I’m concerned, the whole issue of concealed-carry and gun-free zones is a side-show when compared to figuring out what to do about the daily, run-of-the-mill shooting events that each year now claim more than 40,000 lives.