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Commentary

Gun Free Zones
A Prevalent Delusion


     
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The Aurora, Colo., movie theatre; the Sandy Hook, Conn., kindergarten, the Columbine, Colo., high school and dozens of other sites throughout the world, have two things in common: 1) they were “gun free zones”; and 2) consequently they were the sites of massacres committed by gunmen who knew they alone would be armed.

It has even been suggested that “gun free zones” actually attract killers who know they will meet only helpless victims rather than anyone able to effectively oppose them. Whether or not gunmen so calculate, it is true as shown by massacres that have occurred in recent years in “gun free zones” not only in the United States, but in England, France, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Korea and Japan. “Gun free zones” never work for they disarm only those who obey the law.

Gunmen just laugh at “gun free zones.” When confronted by armed police, gunmen sometimes surrender though more often they kill themselves. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, what neither terrorists nor lunatics ever do is kill themselves (or surrender) when faced by unarmed victims.

Those they just kill. Contrast an incident from the Clackamas Mall in Oregon. Having shot two unarmed victims the killer was confronted by an armed Oregon gun permit holder. Apparently fearing capture, the shooter killed himself.

Or consider the absence of school massacres in Israel. Years ago Israeli children were the first targets of the Palestinian intifada. Israel’s response was arming teachers and school bus drivers, as well as parent-volunteers, to guard the children. When a few terrorists were killed, attacks on schools and busses ended—and have never resumed.

This is not because terrorists are afraid to die. But what they want is helpless victims, not confrontations with armed defenders. Now, while terrorists sometimes throw grenades at schools, they are trained not to enter schools lest they be killed before they can kill any children. Thereafter Israel adopted a policy to license numerous gun owners so there will generally be at least a few armed civilians everywhere.

Some examples taken from Prof. Lott’s 2003 book, The Bias Against Guns:

  • November 4, 2001, Jerusalem: a terrorist machine gunning a bus was killed by an Israeli civilian.
  • February 22, 2002, Efrat, Israel: A terrorist who was shooting customers in an Efrat market paused to activate a bomb but before he could do so a woman killed him with a pistol she drew from her purse.
  • Tel Aviv, February 5, 2002: An Israeli civilian, William Hazen, and his family were dining when a terrorist began shooting into the restaurant. Though wounded initially, Hazen killed the terrorist with a pistol he had carried for years.
  • When a terrorist attacked a bus with a sub-machine gun, a pistol-carrying civilian and an army reservist shot him dead.

The many instances related in the Lott book show that, unlike gun free zones, Israeli policy works. Thousands of Israeli civilians armed to guard against terrorist attack have halted such attacks by killing the terrorists, though often the civilians themselves have been injured or killed in these gun battles.

To reiterate, such armed resistance works—unlike other steps which just waste money in order to create a false illusion of safety. In this context it should be remembered that the Sandy Hook kindergarten had such “unarmed security” in the form of a door that could only be unlocked from the principal’s office. So the killer just smashed the door open and killed 20 children.

The obvious truth is that only if armed can victims and their guardians prevail over armed terrorists or lunatics. Compare the Virginia Tech massacre. One of the Virginia Tech teachers was a visiting Israeli professor. In Israel he could have been armed to protect his students. Disarmed at Virginia Tech, he could only try to block a classroom door with his body. After killing him the lunatic was free to kill his students.

The futility of lesser precautions to defeat armed killers is evident from a universal fact: Once again, there is no known instance of a terrorist or lunatic surrendering to the unarmed victims he was killing.

In contrast, had one armed parent been present 20 small children could be alive today.


Don B. Kates is a criminologist and constitutional lawyer who is a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.






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