Separating Emotion from Logic on “Gun Free Zones”
Debate is raging across Idaho as the legislature considers a bill that would allow guns on university grounds. It’s an emotional issue, and perhaps for that very reason, we should strip away the emotion and consider the issue logically.
It seems that a disproportionate share of mass shootings occur in commercial establishments or school grounds clearly marked as “Gun Free” zones. As a sentient people, we are repulsed, angered, saddened, and outraged at such heinous acts. Perhaps the problem is more related to how “Gun Free” zones attract the attention of the delusional and disaffected who are intent on making a name for themselves.
Every shooting in a school is done illegally per federal law (1995 Gun Free School Zones Act). For those intent on inflicting harm, nothing’s quite so appealing as a gun free zone, for they know all the law-abiding citizens are going to be compliant, giving the perpetrator a veritable shooting gallery to work with, unfettered and undeterred from his mayhem by a legally armed citizen. In short, criminals aren’t the least deterred by gun free zones, and if anything, they’re likely to consider any signage indicating a gun free zone as a welcome sign.
The desire to keep guns far away from innocents, especially on school grounds, is instinctive, yet must be approached logically rather than emotionally, based on empirical data. And there is a lot of it available.
The city of Chicago currently has the most restrictive gun control laws on the books, and has been declared a “gun free zone” where handguns are banned, yet it is the bloodiest city in the world in terms of gun-related deaths. The city averages 40 deaths per month from guns, nearly 500 every year. Chicago’s murder rate is 19.4 per 100,000, which is by far the highest rate in the nation, at nearly 3 times New York which is at 6, and nearly 2 ½ times Los Angeles’ 7.5.
In fact, Chicago ranks as the number one deadliest Alpha city (significant urban center in the global economic system) on the planet. Since it is no longer possible for citizens to legally own handguns within city limits, the only ones who still have them are criminals. It doesn’t appear gun control works for Chicago. In fact, the city illustrates how correct the aphorism is that if guns are outlawed, only the outlaws have guns. The law-abiding citizens do not.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2003 thoroughly analyzed fifty-one in-depth studies dealing with gun control. Those studies included everything from the effectiveness of gun bans to laws requiring gunlocks. From their objective analysis, they “found no discernible effect on public safety by any of the measures we commonly think of as ‘gun control.’”
Since gun control doesn’t work, let’s look at increasing the ability of citizens to protect and defend themselves. Simi Valley, California is consistently listed among the safest of American cities. They have all of California’s gun control laws in force, but locals know it as the home to a lot of police officers from neighboring communities. Nothing like trained and armed homeowners to keep a community virtually crime free.
In 1982, Kennesaw, Georgia, witnessing an increase in local crime, did something counterintuitive to the likes of Chicago and New York; they passed an ordinance requiring heads of households, with some exceptions, to own a handgun. Crime dropped precipitously, and has stayed down. So much so, that Family Circle selected the town as one of the 10 best in the nation to raise a family in.
Our problems with violence and mass shootings have much more to do with cultural and societal issues, mental illness, and a lack of ability on the part of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves. Guns are not the root of the problem. Our nation was brought to its knees eleven years ago by 19 fanatics armed with box-cutters. The tool of destruction is not the perpetrator; the person using or misusing it is.
Gun control has proven impotent in curbing the problem, and “gun free zones” are absurd, since they practically advertise themselves to be potential venues of mayhem and violence. More gun control is not a solution, but only serves as a Band-Aid to our emotions so we feel like we’re doing something. The problems are much deeper in our society than Band-Aids can cure.
The emotional aspect of the issue that we cannot ignore is how the students feel. They must be able to feel safe while at school, and they likely wouldn’t feel safer knowing that anyone can come on campus toting a weapon. The way the legislation is drafted, it is only licensed and authorized personnel who can carry a weapon, which should allay such concerns.
The allowance of licensed and legally authorized personnel carrying a firearm on university grounds is logical. But let’s change the signage at all of our schools. Let’s remove the signs that are so inviting to malcontents and those intending to wreak havoc, and rather than advertise them as gun-free zones, let’s post “These grounds protected by armed and trained personnel. No other weapons allowed.” It may or may not serve as a deterrent, but at least it’s not a welcome sign like “gun-free zone” is!
Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].