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Gun-free campuses are magnets for murderers

May 19, 2017, at The Press Herald

By John R. Lott, Jr.


Would you post a sign announcing that your home is a gun-free zone? Would you feel safer? Criminals don’t obey these signs. In fact, these signs actually attract criminals. To criminals, places where their victims are disarmed look like easy targets.

So why do we put up these signs in other places? The Maine Legislature will soon vote on whether to lift the ban on permitted concealed handguns on school or university property. Opponents’ fears over this are exactly the same as their fears regarding the original permitted concealed handgun law, and they are just as wrong.

Today, 12 other states have laws mandating that public college campuses allow permitted concealed handguns. An additional 23 states leave it up to the university. Prior to the early 1990s, states allowing concealed handguns didn’t have legal restrictions. Gun control advocates can’t point to any problems with permit holders carrying gun in these states, but it hasn’t stopped them from fighting against the new law.

Police are very important to fighting crime, but stopping mass public shootings is a uniquely difficult challenge. For police, wearing a uniform is often akin to wearing a neon sign saying “Shoot me first.” This makes them easy targets for attackers. The benefit of concealed carry is that the attackers won’t know who is a threat to them. In addition, putting police in schools is also incredibly costly, much more so than staff and volunteers who are already working at the schools.

Permit holders are historically known to be extremely law-abiding, committing any type of firearms-related violation at thousandths of 1 percentage point, and most violations are trivial. Using available data, a study by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that college-age permit holders in Michigan, Nevada and Texas are at least as responsible as older permit holders.

Over the decades, there have been only five accidental discharges by permit holders on university property. All cases involved very minor injuries. None involved someone other than the permit holder getting hold of the gun.

Fears that students will get intoxicated and misuse guns were unfounded. However young people behave as a group, those who go through the process to get a permit are very responsible.

Those advocating gun-free zones raise other concerns over mass public shootings: that permit holders will accidentally shoot bystanders or that arriving police will shoot the permit holders.

In the dozens of cases where concealed carry holders have stopped mass public shootings in malls, churches, schools, universities and busy downtowns, no permit holder has ever shot a bystander. Nor have the police ever accidentally shot a permit holder.

Since at least 1950, all but four public mass shootings in America have taken place where general citizens are banned from carrying guns. In Europe, every mass public shooting has occurred in a gun-free zone. And Europe is no stranger to mass public shootings. It has been host to three of the four worst K-12 school shootings and over the last eight years a per capita casualty rate 50 percent higher than the U.S.

With dozens of recent cases where permit holders stopped what clearly would have become mass public shootings, unsurprisingly killers try avoiding resistance.

Last year, a young Islamic State sympathizer planned a shooting at one of the largest churches in Detroit. In a wiretap, the FBI recorded his explanation of why he had picked the church as a target: “It’s easy, and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus it would make the news.”

These killers might be crazy, but they aren’t stupid. They want to kill as many people as possible. Killers consistently pick defenseless targets where they know no one will have a gun. Just look at the Charleston church, Colorado “Batman” movie theater and Santa Barbara, California, attacks.

In late 2013, Interpol Secretary General Ron Noble warned, even with “extraordinary security,” it was virtually impossible to keep weapons out of soft targets and that meant only the terrorists will have weapons.

Making campuses gun-free zones also means that people are disarmed on their way to or from school.

Gun-free zones are magnets for murderers. Even the most ardent gun control advocate would never put “Gun-Free Zone” signs on their home. Let’s finally stop putting them elsewhere.

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