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Are "Gun-Free Zones" Dangerous?

John Lott has this interesting op-ed arguing that "gun-free zones" are actually more dangerous because they spawn attacks. He mentions that in my home town of Salt Lake City, the Trolley Square massacre (6 killed last year) took place at an area where the property owner had excluded firearms -- even those carried by concealed permit holders. He relies on anecdotal evidence for the argument, but seems to make a reasonable case for the proposition that "gun-free zones" are at greater risk of attack.

Temp Guest (mail):
Just to get the usual ad hominem arguments out of the way: John Lott is a horrible, evil person. He has done bad things.

Since the point has been made, all future posts should address Lott's arguments in this article, rather than his character or past behavior.
4.22.2008 4:57pm
Sean M:
I'd say "he relies on anecdotal evidence for the argument" is fairly fatal to the argument.
4.22.2008 5:03pm
FantasiaWHT:
If the attacker doesn't plan on surviving, will the presence of guns actually stop him? Granted, the presence of guns might mitigate or minimize the amount of damage done per attack, but would it really stop somebody who wants to "go out fighting"?
4.22.2008 5:05pm
Houston Lawyer:
In Israel, where many people carry weapons, the Palestinians have resorted to the use of suicide bombers, since the locals will quickly shoot anyone shooting at civilians. Even suicide bombers can be stopped by someone with a gun.

Criminals of whatever stripe almost always choose soft targets instead of hard targets. Very few cops are carjacked.
4.22.2008 5:12pm
Lawman (mail):
This seems to parrallel the argument on a somewhat micor scale that areas, such as sates, that refuse carrying of handguns have a higher crime rate. Proven or not, he seems to make the same argument.
4.22.2008 5:13pm
john w (mail):
NEWS FLASH: Criminals prefer unarmed victims!! Details at eleven. ... And in other late-breaking news: The sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow, and guys like to look at pretty girls.

Now tell me something that I don't know.
4.22.2008 5:14pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
We must not have any truth-in-advertising laws.

If we did, those "gun-free zones" would be forced to state what they really are: "Target-rich environment for every nutcase and lowlife in the area."
4.22.2008 5:16pm
quasimodo (mail):
I would guess the samples would be too small to provide meaningful stats, so anecdotes are all he has to go on.

but that is just a guess
4.22.2008 5:17pm
CDU (mail) (www):
If the attacker doesn't plan on surviving, will the presence of guns actually stop him?

The presence of guns might not stop him, but a bullet going through his head probably will.

I'm a big believer in concealed carry, but it's not a panacea. While it may deter ordinary crooks, I'm skeptical if it will influence the psychopaths. There is really no way to stop them from doing something, well, psychopathic. The best we can do is to end their rampage as quickly as possible. The record suggests that this generally happens as soon as someone with a gun shows up whether it's a police officer (as at Trolley Square) or a citizen with a concealed carry permit (as at the New Life Church).
4.22.2008 5:18pm
Philistine (mail):
I'm not convinced. While there are a few exceptions--most school shootings are done by current or former students. It seems likely their choice of victim has much more to do with their association with the school than it does their gun-free status.

On others types of mass shootings, I'm not sure how much you can infer the plan was to go to a "gun free zone" and how much there is a simple overlap between large conglomerations of people and gun free zones.
4.22.2008 5:18pm
Nathan_M (mail):
Well, Lott's point such as it is seems reasonable. One crazy person with a gun who wants to kill people is more dangerous if everyone else doesn't have guns.

On the other hand, 99.9999% of the time there is no crazy person with a gun who wants to kill people. If someone randomly becomes angry and violent they're a lot less dangerous if they're unarmed.

No number of anecdotes about either situation establishes any sort of case that "gun-free zones" are more or less dangerous overall. That would require actual statistics of the sort only Mary Rosh is likely to trust John Lott about without documentation.
4.22.2008 5:20pm
Crust (mail):
Nathan_M said what I had to say, only better.
4.22.2008 5:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Enough anecdotes add up to data, unless you don't like the conclusion.
Seems reasonable to count mass shootings. Somebody shows up with the apparent intent of killing until he runs out of ammo or is shot. Not too many of those.
How many happened in gun-free zones?
How many did not?
How many would have been worse without guns--Trolley Square and the New Life church--in the hands of locals? Nobody wants to rerun the Trolley Square junior jihadi's actions but without the cop's being illegally armed. So we don't really know. Which is fine if you don't like the obvious conclusion. But the conclusion is obvious.
4.22.2008 5:38pm
luagha:
But, as is mentioned, the statistics on law-abiding permit-holders makes it clear that armed but law-abiding permit-holders basically never do anything stupid or illegal with said weapon even when they become angry or violent for some unknown reason.

That's what's being mentioned when he states that the data on permit holders losing their permits for illegal actions comes from. And don't take Lott's word on it (please). Go look it up yourself. The data is out there, and it's vanishingly slim.
4.22.2008 5:39pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"Just to get the usual ad hominem arguments out of the way: John Lott is a horrible, evil person. He has done bad things.

Since the point has been made, all future posts should address Lott's arguments in this article, rather than his character or past behavior."

Nobody thinks that Lott's behavior bears on the truth value or validity of his *arguments*-that would indeed be the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, and the arguments stand or fall on their own merits.

However, when we are assessing whether to *believe* things Lott asserts (and are not in a position to assess the data/run regressions, etc. ourselves), his past behavior does (and ought) to factor into our assessment.

This is the difference between logic and credibility--ad hominem attacks may be perfectly appropriate in the latter domain.
4.22.2008 5:51pm
ejo:
I have also heard anecdotes that higher rates of imprisonment lead to lower crime rates-how can this be possible?
4.22.2008 5:55pm
Smokey:
Nathan_M:
...99.9999% of the time there is no crazy person with a gun who wants to kill people.
You might have had a somewhat rational argument if you'd stopped at 99%.

And luagha is right. Out of 300 million+ people in this country, you have to look long and hard to find examples of law-abiding citizens suddenly pulling out their legal guns and shooting anyone.

Want to use that 99.9999% figure accurately? That percentage is probably close to the number of law-abiding citizens who never use their guns in illegal activity.

If legislators put half the energy into cracking down on criminal gun use that they waste on fighting the right of honest citizens to be armed, they'd make a big dent in the problem. Which begs the question: why are legislators so afraid of honest citizens being armed?
4.22.2008 5:58pm
Justin (mail):
"He relies on anecdotal evidence for the argument, but seems to make a reasonable case for the proposition that "gun-free zones" are at greater risk of attack."

Part after comma doesn't follow from part before comma. I've noticed Judge Cassell do that in the past - think that disclosing a flaw in an argument that destroys said argument, somehow insulates the argument and protects it from becoming worthless.

Also, the logic is silly - does anyone here think that Columbine-styled attackers do some cost-benefit analysis, taking into effect the existence of a "gun-free" school zone? While an argument could be made using logic that allowing guns in a school zone may help STOP such attacks, to say they will DETER such attacks seems a flight of fancy.
4.22.2008 6:01pm
MXE (mail):
It's hard to muster good empirical evidence for a claim like "gun-free zones attract mass shooters." For one thing, you're dealing with a very small sample size. Furthermore, the gun-free zones in a given community often are precisely the vulnerable, "attractive" (though it's an ugly thought to even consider it from that perspective) targets. That's because gun-free zones are areas full of people in a physically open area going about their business.

I think pro-2A folks probably don't gain much by acting like gun-free zones are death traps. However, I think it's totally legitimate to point out that it is absurd on the face of it to claim that an area being a "gun-free zone" could deter a mass shooter.

However, I don't think gun-free zones were ever implemented to stop mass shootings. They were implemented to stop crimes of passion (and to calm soccer moms' nerves, probably). And yes, I know that the number of such crimes by legal CCW holders is next to zero.
4.22.2008 6:02pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Enough anecdotes add up to data, unless you don't like the conclusion.

I agree with this, but I would also note that it's probably pretty hard to get enough anecdotes because these mass shootings are so damned random.

Speaking as a policy matter, I would suspect that an uneforceable "gun free zone" is the worst of all possible worlds. You can either do a full security search, as in an airport or a major sports event, and therefore lessen the likelihood of any weapons getting through the security perimeter, or you can permit people to keep and bear arms. But simply saying "all weapons are banned" without taking steps to enforce the ban really is going to lead to the condition the NRA complains of, where only the criminals have guns.
4.22.2008 6:05pm
Gilbert (mail):
Is it POSSIBLE that the areas traditionally declared gun-free zones are the areas where there is already a recognized problem of gun violence? (malls, school zones, etc)

Just throwing it out there.
4.22.2008 6:06pm
john w (mail):
... does anyone here think that Columbine-styled attackers do some cost-benefit analysis, taking into effect the existence of a "gun-free" school zone?

But apparently they do. When was the last time you heard about some wacko trying to shoot up a Marine Corps barracks or a police station, or even an NRA convention? They may be crazy, but they aren't stupid.
4.22.2008 6:06pm
MXE (mail):
Speaking as a policy matter, I would suspect that an uneforceable "gun free zone" is the worst of all possible worlds.

Dilan, I agree with you, though an intelligent proponent of gun-free zones would say that the part your analysis doesn't cover are those conscientious enough to disarm themselves on the basis of a "no guns" sign, but may somehow end up shooting someone anyway. (I suppose either through an accident or possibly drunkenness. And yes, I think this is a pretty silly fear -- it's just what they'd say.)
4.22.2008 6:11pm
zippypinhead:
If someone randomly becomes angry and violent they're a lot less dangerous if they're unarmed.... No number of anecdotes about either situation establishes any sort of case that "gun-free zones" are more or less dangerous overall. That would require actual statistics...
Except that actual statistics DO refute the "[angry citizens are] a lot less dangerous if they're unarmed" argument against permitting licensed concealed carry by individuals willing to undergo background checks and training -- There are several million licensed CCW permit holders nationwide (over 150,000 and climbing just in Virginia, where the largest "gun free zone" massacre in U.S. history occurred). As discussed on a number of previous threads over time on this blog, the violent crime rate among this population is extraordinarily low -- even lower than it is for uniformed local police officers. If the hypothesis that you're safer when CCW holders aren't carrying had any validity, one would expect to see evidence of CCW holders actually getting into trouble when they were armed (or more accurately, evidence of CCW holders getting into trouble more often when armed than when not armed).
4.22.2008 6:13pm
Justin (mail):
But apparently they do. When was the last time you heard about some wacko trying to shoot up a Marine Corps barracks or a police station, or even an NRA convention? They may be crazy, but they aren't stupid.

The equivalent of your argument is that guns deter crime, and use the fact that nobody tries to rob military bases as a point. There's two fundemental differnces, one between

a) A place where there may be some increase in the numbers of guns around.

and b

b) a place that is guaranteed to outmuscle even a Columbine styled series of paramilitary weapons.

And another difference between:

a) a place that troubled teenagers hardly think about.

and b

b) a place that troubled teenagers see as the source of their emotional pain.
4.22.2008 6:17pm
frankcross (mail):
The "anecdotes add up to data" doesn't address the issue. The issue is relative risk. You can come up with many anecdotes of crimes in other areas, and that would not be good data that zones with guns are more dangerous, either. This would not be that hard to study, and the sample size shouldn't be too small. You could do before and after studies on the adoption of gun free zones or match them with comparable areas and compare crime rates.

Anecdotes are the stuff of blogs, but you can't use them to make much of a case for policy.
4.22.2008 6:26pm
Philistine (mail):
Here is a chart of mass gun violence in the US since 1997 (not just killings, woundings are included).

It's from the Brady Campaign, though in this case I'd expect they would want to be over-inclusive in reporting.

It's not always possible to tell, but a quick perusal seems to suggest that most mass gun violence is not taking place in "gun free zones."

It might be interesting to take a look at some of the "random" cases--like some of the mall cases where there wasn't a particular victim or entity which was obviously being targetted.

An analysis of that might convince me that there is a subclass of mass-murderer who specifically decides to go to a "gun free" zone--but Lott seems to be ignoring a lot of things that go against him, here.
4.22.2008 6:27pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
I have written extensively previously about the statistical evidence on this question. If you would like to see statistics, please see this paper here. Landes and I have a more readable version of the discussion in chapter 6 here. I would be happy to answer questions that people have about either discussion. If anyone can find one of these attacks where the point of the crime is to kill and harm people (not a gang fight or as a result of another crime such as a robbery) where more than three people have been killed in a public shooting and it occurred in an area where permitted concealed handguns were allowed, they should try to provide it. I guess that I don't just view that as an anecdotal point.

There are links in the piece that shows that the malls where the attacks occurred were in gun free zones. I already have links in that show what I claimed about the NIU and Kirkwood attacks. If there is something that somewhat wants a link to, that isn't already linked please let me know.
4.22.2008 6:37pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Dear Philistine:

The Brady campaign discussion doesn't try to distinguish whether these attacks are in a public place, whether it was in a place where people were allowed to carry concealed handguns in a right-to-carry state, whether it was a part of some other crime.

I would be interested in hearing your comments after you look at the discussions that I have linked to above.
4.22.2008 6:42pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
All that Lott is saying is that gun-free zones are not free from attack, while pointing out a few counter examples of where a handgun permit holder was able to stop an attack. The conclusion he seems to be pointing to is that declaring an area "gun-free" does not prevent bad guys from taking guns into it.
4.22.2008 6:46pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Is it POSSIBLE that the areas traditionally declared gun-free zones are the areas where there is already a recognized problem of gun violence?


That's not really the case, though. There had only been 8 school shootings in the last 214 years before the 1990 unconstitutional "Gun Free School Zones Act" aka School Shooting Gallery law came in place, while the seventeen years since that law and its slightly more constitutional descendant have been in place, there have been 80 school shootings.
4.22.2008 6:48pm
alkali (mail):
Finally, an explanation to the mystery of why students tend to shoot up schools and college campuses.
4.22.2008 6:51pm
Nathan_M (mail):

If anyone can find one of these attacks where the point of the crime is to kill and harm people (not a gang fight or as a result of another crime such as a robbery) where more than three people have been killed in a public shooting and it occurred in an area where permitted concealed handguns were allowed, they should try to provide it. I guess that I don't just view that as an anecdotal point.

There are a number of examples of this in the report Philistine linked from the Brady campaign. I didn't read all of it, but there were shootings at parties in Wisconsin and Washington -- both those states issue concealed carry permits -- that would seem to meet your requirements.
4.22.2008 6:52pm
General Disarray:
"When was the last time you heard about some wacko trying to shoot up a Marine Corps barracks . . . "

I don't mean to hijack the thread, but the assumption that military bases are bristling with instantly available firepower has always bugged me. On the (Marine Corps, Army and Navy) bases where I served the barracks were gun-free zones, and would've been soft targets for a gunman until the MPs and/or the officer of the day showed up. Yes, military bases are bristling with firepower -- but nearly all of it is in armories and ammo supply points, and takes considerable time to mobilize.

Sorry for the hijacking. I'm done.
4.22.2008 7:00pm
Carolina:
The Israeli example is the best "experiment" on this, IMHO.

Since a couple of awful incidents in the 1970s where terrorists massacred students (one on a bus, one at the school, IIRC) with gunfire, Israel now has students escorted and protected by armed men (often grandfathers, etc of students).

I am aware of no recent mass attack by gunfire on Israeli students, as the terrorists know they will get shot in a hurry.
4.22.2008 7:05pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
If the attacker doesn't plan on surviving, will the presence of guns actually stop him?
If the attacker simply wants to die, no. But then he can accomplish that without leaving home, via suicide. OTOH if he wants the notoriety of killing a large number of random people, then he'll pick a gun-free zone. Particularly now that the media passed over the shooter at the New Life Church to write about the CHL.
On others types of mass shootings, I'm not sure how much you can infer the plan was to go to a "gun free zone" and how much there is a simple overlap between large conglomerations of people and gun free zones.
The vast majority of the malls in the 40 right-to-carry states allow concealed carry. Yet every mall shooting so far has been in one of the few locations either posted gun-free or in a restricted license state. You don't often get a 100% relationship by accident.
On the other hand, 99.9999% of the time there is no crazy person with a gun who wants to kill people. If someone randomly becomes angry and violent they're a lot less dangerous if they're unarmed.
Let's see. The number of crazy people who stage multiple shootings is only in double digits, so allowing concealed carry isn't justified. The number of concealed carry licensees who have "randomly become angry and violent" and started shooting people is zero, but it might possibly happen someday. Therefore banning concealed carry is justified. Even Mary Rosh understands that fallacy.
However, when we are assessing whether to *believe* things Lott asserts (and are not in a position to assess the data/run regressions, etc. ourselves), his past behavior does (and ought) to factor into our assessment.
Okay. But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. No one is coming up with anecdotes either about rogue CHLs or about attacks where they can carry, other than the New life Church where the CHL accomplished exactly what we said she would. OTOH the anti-gun folks have made dozens of predictions, including:
Concealed carry will turn fender-benders into firefights.
CHLs will kill innocent people and law enforcement officers.
Armed airline pilots will shoot their passengers.
A single bullet will cause an airliner to crash.
If the "assault rifle" ban expires bodies will be stacked like cordwood.
If fifty caliber rifles aren't banned they'll shoot down airliners.
If students can carry classroom discussions will escalate and they'll shoot each other.
If off-duty law enforcement officers carry their mistakes will cost billions in liability.
Castle doctrine laws will result in a huge increase in questionable self-defense shootings.
Concealed handgun licensees carrying in national parks will become poachers and shoot other visitors.

After dozens of such predictions over the past twenty years (since the mid 1980s when Florida was debating concealed carry) the gun-ban folks have been wrong every single time. So let's factor that past behavior into our assessment.
... does anyone here think that Columbine-styled attackers do some cost-benefit analysis, taking into effect the existence of a "gun-free" school zone?
I do. Remember the man who shot up a California Jewish day care center several years back? He went from Washington to gun-free LA County and reportedly considered several locations, rejecting them because they had security.
Is it POSSIBLE that the areas traditionally declared gun-free zones are the areas where there is already a recognized problem of gun violence? (malls, school zones, etc)
I remember back in the 1960s, before schools went gun-free. The year I graduated from high school, 1965, virtually every high school in New York City had a rifle range and a school riflery program. No school shootings at all. Also, I don't remember any random shootings in malls before they started posting gun-free signs in reaction to the spreading of concealed carry.
It's not always possible to tell, but a quick perusal seems to suggest that most mass gun violence is not taking place in "gun free zones."
Nor does the Brady Center attempt any analysis of this list of anecdotes. Many of these are gang and drug related, which are irrelevant to this discussion. Many more are in what are effectively gun-free zones. For instance, if mall employees are prohibited from having firearms at work, an attack targeting them by someone familiar with the policy is an attack on the disarmed. So would an attack in a home where the assailant knew there were no firearms. It would be interesting to research the list and find out.
4.22.2008 7:06pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Nathan, where are you getting your info? I lived in Wisconsin until recently. It's not a CCW state. The state house voted for that, but the Dem. gov. vetoed it.
4.22.2008 7:07pm
Crunchy Frog:

Also, the logic is silly - does anyone here think that Columbine-styled attackers do some cost-benefit analysis, taking into effect the existence of a "gun-free" school zone?

On August 10, 1999, Buford Furrow shot up the North Valley Jewish Community Center, injuring five people, including four children. He chose this location because he was deterred from his original target, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, by the presence of armed security.

Upon leaving the scene, he happened upon Joseph Ileto, a Filipino letter carrier, and shot him in the head, killing him. Buford later told police that he was merely a "target of opportunity".

I knew Joe. He worked with my wife. He was a good guy. He would be alive today if someone at or near the community center had been armed.
4.22.2008 7:09pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I think there are two questions. Do gun-free zones attact mass shooters? IOW, are there more mass shootings at gun-free public venues than other public venues?
Do armed citizens in public venues under attack end mass shootings with fewer casualties than would otherwise be the case?

The answer to the second question is yes. The answer to the first would probably depend on the definition of public venue, which, given how activists work, would vary according to which definition was most useful.
4.22.2008 7:10pm
zippypinhead:
There are a number of examples of [random killing sprees] in the report Philistine linked from the Brady campaign. I didn't read all of it, but there were shootings at parties in Wisconsin and Washington -- both those states issue concealed carry permits -- that would seem to meet your requirements [for such sprees in non-gun free zones].
Not really. I immediately recognized at least a couple of the Brady descriptions you reference, and remembered reading press reports about the incidents. The Brady descriptions sounded like they were random NIU-style rampages, but in fact they were apparently gang-related retaliations or similar "targeted" shootings, albeit with piss-poor target acquisition and fire discipline. I suspect that someone with a bit of time on their hands and access to Google could fairly easily flesh out the circumstances behind most of the listed incidents.
4.22.2008 7:10pm
seadrive:
The question about having a high number people carrying guns is not so much how many psycho killers they can intercept as how many of them will get high or drunk and kill someone.
4.22.2008 7:14pm
Dan M.:
Yes, people that want to commit mass shooting/suicide may not care about getting shot. But it's equally likely that they simply prefer not to get shot before they accomplish their goal. I'm not convinced that most shopping malls in shall-issue states are posted to disallow concealed carry. That's certainly not the case in WV at least for 3 of the most popular malls. That sign on a storefront certainly is no deterrent.

In general, it's a loaded question. There are indeed shootings occasionally at police stations and military bases but for obvious reasons these have less of a chance of having a high body count. But you'd have to ask yourself if a person who shoots up a police station is intent on a high body county or simply out to kill somebody. And you could ask, is a mass killer as likely to strike at Blue Ridge Community College (in VA), which allows concealed carry, or at Virginia Tech? Or would a deranged Blue Ridge student export his rage to a gun free VA campus?

Then you have to assess the likelihood of success of such an attempt. Even at a college with concealed carry, the likelihood of success as essentially the same. Students over 21 do not represent a majority at many colleges, and even among these, only a couple percent would be like concealed carry holders. Course schedules are easily found online. All a potential killer would have to do is look online for when and where a section of English 101 or College Algebra is being taught and you've effectively avoided almost any chance of confrontation with an armed student. Would we then classify those classes as 'gun free zones' within a gun-friendly campus? I would.
4.22.2008 7:17pm
Justin (mail):
Crunchy, I stopped reading at "armed security." Trying to make a logical argument personal aside, I already distinguished the mere possibility of some minor increase in concealed weapons and the actual existence of armed guards.
4.22.2008 7:22pm
Nathan_M (mail):

Nathan, where are you getting your info? I lived in Wisconsin until recently. It's not a CCW state. The state house voted for that, but the Dem. gov. vetoed it.

Oops, sorry. I googled it, and then misread the Wisconsin Concealed Carry Association's webpage.
4.22.2008 7:28pm
Dan M.:
Why should it matter if it's armed security? Your first question was simply, "Do you think they do an analysis?"

Obviously the answer is yes. No mass shooter expects to ultimately get away with it or even to likely live through the ordeal, so clearly at least a rudimentary analysis is done to find a place where there will be as little resistance as possible.

Whether concealed carry has an actual deterrent effect would depend on how aware the person is of concealed carry laws in his state. I think a stronger case could be made for its deterrent effects than for anyone to pretend that it somehow increases crime. And in the interest of personal liberty, that honestly should be the standard in judging it.
4.22.2008 7:32pm
zippypinhead:
There are indeed shootings occasionally at police stations and military bases but for obvious reasons these have less of a chance of having a high body count. But you'd have to ask yourself if a person who shoots up a police station is intent on a high body county or simply out to kill somebody.
The police station shooting I am most familiar with was basically a "suicide by cop" in which the perpetrator killed two officers and wounded another before being killed himself. The shooter was clearly mentally deranged, and had a beef against the local police in general and one of his officer victims in particular. The shooter faced almost immediate return fire, including from some of his victims. I daresay if the shooter had decided to go to a school rather than a police station, the body count would have been a lot higher.

Perhaps the most tragic part of this story is that in hindsight there were even more warning signs than there were with Va. Tech shooter Cho, and the shooter's father played a role in facilitating his son's death wish. Slightly off-topic: Cho and the Fairfax shooter, Kennedy, graduated from the same high school. A shocking coincidence that I'd forgotten until I pulled up the articles to link here.
4.22.2008 7:41pm
Bama 1L:
How gun-free is, for example, Trolley Square Mall anyway? Are peaceful, law-abiding permit-holders *so* peaceful and law-abiding that they always disarm themselves when going to the mall? Especially when there is no enforcement of the gun policy? Were there people in the mall who would have been armed but for the mall's gun policy?

Isn't the important fact that *any* group of ordinary civilians in public is likely to be unarmed, regardless of public laws and landowner rules regarding guns?

This leave aside the question of whether mass shooters engage in this type of analysis.
4.22.2008 7:42pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Here in the SF Bay Area we have many "... Free Zones." I've seen Nuclear Free Zones, Drug Free Zones, Smoke Free Zones, Crime Free Zones, and "Gun Free Zones," to name a few. You see this kind of thing mainly in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco. But other communities also engage in this kind of magical thinking as well. It's basically an exercise in feel-good local government policy making. These zones are either illegal like the nuclear and gun zones, or largely ineffective like the rest. No one really knows how effective or ineffective these zones are because we have so little data, no concept of a control, and no defined performance metric. The whole think is pretty silly.
4.22.2008 7:43pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
In general, it's a loaded question.

Please, no gun puns.
4.22.2008 7:45pm
lurker-999 (mail):
The question about having a high number people carrying guns is not so much how many psycho killers they can intercept as how many of them will get high or drunk and kill someone.

Well, since the arrest rate for CHL holders is lower than the arrest rate for off-duty police officers, I guess we can easily decide who ought to be disarmed first, can't we?
4.22.2008 7:48pm
frankcross (mail):
gattsuru, that would be persuasive, but what is the source for your data?
4.22.2008 7:51pm
frankcross (mail):
Never mind, it was an email believed by the sort who think Obama is Muslim.

In 30 seconds of googling, I found out it was false and omitted multiple shootings shortly before the act was passed.
4.22.2008 7:56pm
Philistine (mail):

The Brady campaign discussion doesn't try to distinguish whether these attacks are in a public place, whether it was in a place where people were allowed to carry concealed handguns in a right-to-carry state, whether it was a part of some other crime.

I would be interested in hearing your comments after you look at the discussions that I have linked to above.



I'm not sure it really answers the issues, though.

There appear to be (at least) 5 main types of mass shootings*:

1. School Shootings.
2. Workplace Shootings.
3. Family/Neighbor Shootings
4. Criminals shooting criminals/Drug-related Shootings
5. Complete random victim targets.

It seems that for 1 and 2, the gun-free nature of the scene is likely to be irrelevant to almost all of these shooters.

For 3, the same thing—and, in fact, especially when in a home, they are not in a gun-free zone (other than, DC or a few places).

For 4, the assumption whether or not someplace is a gun free zone is also irrelevant.

Really, its only 5 where it becomes a question of maybe whether or not a place is a gun-free zone goes into the planning. It's tough to determine—because very often the shooter dies in the attack, but an analysis of these types of cases by themselves is one thing.

The thing is—the # of cases in this category seemed dwarfed by the other categories.



*I started with three, but kept adding more. There's probably a couple more.
4.22.2008 8:11pm
Dan M.:
The question of whether people actually follow the mall's prohibition on concealed carry is a legitimate question. As far as I know all the businesses can do is ask you to leave and you commit no crime so long as you then comply.

But there's also the matter of whether gun-carriers try to avoid places where their guns are not welcome if they have other options for the individual types of stores they'd like to visit.

Yes, any large group is likely to be, in vast majority, unarmed. And it's too easy to say, "Look these 3 college that allow concealed carry haven't had mass shootings, and 2 of the other few hundred have!" Honestly it's more interesting to look at the general crime rates around campus and how allowance of concealed carry has possibly affected them.

Mass shootings are such a rare event that it's hard to put odds on such a thing, but I'd bet 100:1 that the next one will be in a gun free zone (eh, maybe higher, maybe a little lower, I'd have to look at the stats a little more).

If guns became so saturated in society that the crazies resorted to being suicide bombers, who would the Brady Campaign blame then? Would they simply blame gunowners for escalating the tactics?
4.22.2008 8:12pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The question about having a high number people carrying guns is not so much how many psycho killers they can intercept as how many of them will get high or drunk and kill someone."

I think the answer to your question is zero if police officers are eliminated from the sample of those permitted to carry guns. There have been some rouge cops who used their gun to kill, but I have yet to read of any permit holders who have. We also have to consider that this is a huge sample population since millions have permits.

Perhaps someone knows of cases in any of the 40 states with permits where permit holders have become high or drunk and killed someone with their gun? Prior to 1995 this may have been a reasonable hypothesis, but now that we have lots of real data, there is no more need to speculate.
4.22.2008 8:23pm
Vinnie (mail):
1. School Shootings.
2. Workplace Shootings.
3. Family/Neighbor Shootings
4. Criminals shooting criminals/Drug-related Shootings
5. Complete random victim targets.

It seems that for 1 and 2, the gun-free nature of the scene is likely to be irrelevant to almost all of these shooters.



1 and 2 are most relevant to me because they are areas I am most likely to be disarmed by policy.
4.22.2008 8:25pm
Bama 1L:
Well, since the arrest rate for CHL holders is lower than the arrest rate for off-duty police officers, I guess we can easily decide who ought to be disarmed first, can't we?

I bet the arrest rate for mass shooters is even lower!

Trolley Square Mall would almost certainly have been worse had there not been an armed off-duty police officer dining there. He pinned the shooter down for the minutes it took for (on-duty) police to respond.
4.22.2008 8:28pm
anym_avey (mail):
If the attacker simply wants to die, no. But then he can accomplish that without leaving home, via suicide. OTOH if he wants the notoriety of killing a large number of random people, then he'll pick a gun-free zone. Particularly now that the media passed over the shooter at the New Life Church to write about the CHL.

Bingo. Even a madman usually has a logic to his madness. If the goal is suicide, that is easily achieved at home by many convenient means. If the goal is suicide with publicity, jumping off the city belltower after a long standoff usually does the trick.

If the goal is to take down as many as you can on your way out of this life, an area where minimal resistance will be encountered is usually the first choice. CCW throws a monkey wrench into this by leaving the nutcase completely uncertain as to whether the plan will succeed. He (less commonly, she) may try it anyway, but is less likely to try it in a densely-populated room or open space where the resistance variables are high.

Even the 9/11 hijackers understood the root principle of this; the flights they yanked were generally lightly filled and occupied primarily by business travelers, i.e., minimum probability of resistance that could interfere with the plan.
4.22.2008 8:46pm
Dan M.:
Phillistine, your claim that the gun-free nature of 1 and 2 is irrelevant, but it certainly can't be said that these things would happen if schools were not "gun free."

The same could be said of workplace shootings, where if an employee or former employee was aware that or had reason to suspect some of his employees carried guns, he might simply lose his nerve.

As for 3, how many 'mass shootings' occur in a home by someone other than a member of the household who is acutely aware of the gun-carrying habits of the other occupants. No one intent on just killing lots of people just walks into a home, unless he's a serial killer, which don't seem as common anymore, at least in the US. How often have people ever gone to random homes just for the sake of killing a stranger? It's not something I ever remember seeing in the news. It's not something I find relevant to this discussion at all, though I could be wrong.

As for 4, I would surmise that in gang-related shootings I would surmise that they often expect their victims to be armed and plan accordingly, just as someone who wants to kill a lot of people would plan accordingly where best to accomplish that goal. Like I said, even on a college campus that allowed concealed carry, I'd just look up English 101 and blast away with no fear that I'd be stopped before I tired of killing.

As for 5, which should include campus shootings, and shootings at school by non-students, I don't think it's out of the question to consider how many of these there are, and how few there are in places that don't restrict guns.

One example I can think of, however, is Charles Whitman, who likely did not care about the numerous people who had hunting rifles all the time (many of whom fired at him alongside police, which assisted the officers who were ascending the tower, and likely helped to distract him enough to reduce the further lethality of his assault). That fact could have influenced his decision to take a sniper rifle into the tower as opposed to a more direct assault. He may have simply not thought about it.
4.22.2008 8:46pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Nathan_M:

On the other hand, 99.9999% of the time there is no crazy person with a gun who wants to kill people. If someone randomly becomes angry and violent they're a lot less dangerous if they're unarmed.

seadrive:

The question about having a high number people carrying guns is not so much how many psycho killers they can intercept as how many of them will get high or drunk and kill someone.

If either of you had ever carried a gun you'd realize how sobering it is. a CCW holder is very careful to keep his or her temper because the consequences of losing it are so serious.
4.22.2008 9:06pm
Philistine (mail):

Phillistine, your claim that the gun-free nature of 1 and 2 is irrelevant, but it certainly can't be said that these things would happen if schools were not "gun free."



Why can't it be said?

Most mass shooters appear to be prepared to eventually be shot and killed (or will kill themselves). while I agree they may try to maximize the time they've got--what leads you to believe that not having schools be "gun free zones" would have any effect on whether or not someone decides to go on a spree?

Certainly there is an argument that allowing guns may cut short the rampage--but I've seen nothing that suggests that a school was chosen (at least by students or employees) because of the lack of guns.



The same could be said of workplace shootings, where if an employee or former employee was aware that or had reason to suspect some of his employees carried guns, he might simply lose his nerve.



I suppose so--but again most of these end in the death of the shooter--by design. So I'm not particularly buying the deterrence argument.


No one intent on just killing lots of people just walks into a home, unless he's a serial killer, which don't seem as common anymore, at least in the US.



From my link above, two happened in February: "Bristol, Tennessee. February 27, 2008. A man angry about a breakup with an exgirlfriend killed her mother, current boyfriend, friend, and neighbor. He fled the scene but later killed himself as police closed in on his location.

Baldwin Park, California. February 25, 2008. A man with a history of serious mental illness fatally shot his mother with a handgun and then went to his neighbor's home, where he killed a woman and a four-year-old girl, and wounded two other children."

But I agree 3 (which probably accounts for the majority of mass killings) has nothing to do with gun-free zones. That was kind of my point. (Same as with 4).
4.22.2008 10:47pm
Mike99 (mail):
As a retired police officer/SWAT troop and certified firearm instructor, pehaps I can shed a bit of light on this. While Dr. Lott's article relies on "anectdotal evidence," he's not presenting a peer reviewed study, but writing an op ed piece. In such cases the standard is a convincing argument. That, he has presented.

Those who have followed Dr. Lott's work know that his research is always ground breaking and meticulous, frequently forcing his opponents--those who are intellectually honest--to admit that while they don't like his conclusions regarding the value and utility of firearms and the lack of value and utility of gun control laws, they cannot fault his methods. Dr. Lott is also one of the few researchers in the field of gun control issues who not only provides his data sets and research freely to other scientists, but who commonly proactively offers that information to his opponents, most of whom turn him down and refuse to read his research, but nonetheless issue press releases calling it flawed.

That said, a few observations of my own, based on decades of experience. Mass shootings in America occur almost exclusively in gun free zones such as schools, mall, churches, and similar places. There are very few exceptions and they do nothing more than prove the rule. In these mass shooting incidents, the police--particularly in school shootings--almost never play a role in ending the killing. The killer commonly kills himself or is stopped or killed by an armed civilian, such as the school principal in Pearl, Mississipi who ran a quarter mile to his car to retreive a handgun that he used to stop an adolescent killer who was on his way to a second school. While the police love to catch bad guys in the act, there are few of them, particularly during daytime hours when school is in session, and they have no legal responsibility to protect individuals (this one has gone all the way to the US Supreme Court). Most people would be utterly shocked to learn how few officers are on patrol in their communities, particularly during the lightly staffed day shift, and how long it would take them to respond to a shooting emergency.

When a mass public shooting in a school or other place occurs, seconds count, and the police will not be able to respond for very long minutes. A police reponse in the 6 minute range virtually anywhere would be extraordinarily rapid. And by response time, I mean the first officer arriving in the school parking lot after the dispatcher receives the first call, not a SWAT team ending a shooting spree. In that time, untold damage can be done, and has been done on many occasions. Unless there are armed, trained and capable people present, the only issue will be how many innocents will die. How many deaths are we willing to accept so that we can "feel safe" behind gun free school zone signs as the foolish administrator at Virginia Tech so proudly chirped not long before the attack on that campus? I wonder how safe he feels these days?

Perhaps the greatest benefit of concealed carry by school staff, for example, is the deterrant effect. I know from experience, and from research, that criminals do indeed fear armed citizens and take great pains to avoid them and seek softer targets. If school district A publicizes the fact that their staff is armed, but does not identify who or in which buildings, and school district B hides proudly behind gun free school zone signs, secure in the knowledge that they are making a statement and feeling safe, which school district is most likely to be attacked by a school shooter? But school shooters are insane; that wouldn't matter! Not so. They are deterred only when they believe they won't be successful, and in such cases, they seek out soft targets that will ensure their success and their fame, which the media will be only too pleased to provide while lobbying yet again for making murder and using guns in a murder even more illegal.

Anyone arguing that we're better off unarmed, protected by signs, good intentions and superior intellect had better hope that those less socially aware than themselves are around to save their lives should the need arise, for it will take better men and women than they to save their lives and the lives of genuine innocents.
4.22.2008 10:57pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Dear Philistine:

I am not sure that I understand your description of whether right-to-carry laws and gun free zones matters. Deterrence matters. Being able to take away or significantly reduce the carnage that these killers want to accomplish can take away their incentives to commit the attack. In any case, whether you believe in deterrence is an empirical question. The point that I have made in my work is that when you have a lot of potential victims present even if the probability that anyone individual has a permit is low, there is a high probability that at least someone unknown to the attacker who will be armed. This is quite different than group 5 (complete random victim targets), where the probability that an individual is armed is low and you wouldn't expect a large deterrent effect.

The key point that I have tried to make in my work is that if you are talking about a group of 50 people even if the probability is only 2 percent that any individual victim is armed, the probability that someone will be armed is essentially 100 percent. The greater the probability that someone is there with a gun the greater the deterrence.

Shootings in a person's home is not the same thing as these multiple victim public shootings because family or neighbors are likely to know who if anyone has a weapon for defense. It is more equivalent to an open carry rule.

As to the fourth group, you have fighting even if both groups are armed because with drugs there is so much at stake that the groups are willing to fight against each other to obtain it.

The paper with Landes goes through these points.
4.22.2008 11:04pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

There have been some rouge cops who used their gun to kill, but I have yet to read of any permit holders who have. We also have to consider that this is a huge sample population since millions have permits.

Perhaps someone knows of cases in any of the 40 states with permits where permit holders have become high or drunk and killed someone with their gun? Prior to 1995 this may have been a reasonable hypothesis, but now that we have lots of real data, there is no more need to speculate.
There have been such cases--but very few. I don't think that I have read of more than a dozen cases--and we are now talking a population of permit holders that measures in the tens of millions over a period now approaching almost two decades.

Even the cases where permit holders have engaged in criminal acts tend to be the premeditated crimes where it is hard to imagine that not having a permit would have changed anything. One Texas CHL holder was a jewel theft (yes, there really are such) who used his gun during one of these crimes. Another was a Florida permitholder who invited his estranged wife to a restaurant, killed her, then committed suicide. It is hard to imagine that he would have not done what he did without a permit. Interestingly enough, Florida had just changed its law in the previous session to disqualify people like him who had felony convictions that had been sealed--his permit was going to expire shortly.

I know of one permit holder that fits the drunk or angry and loses it image: he was a 21 year old here in Idaho. He was at a party, drunk, got into an argument, and murdered another student. The shooter had a drunk driving conviction a few months before he turned 21, and at the time that this came out, I tried to get my representative in the lower house to introduce a bill adding drunk driving to the list of five year misdemeanor disqualifiers. My theory is that a person who isn't responsible with alcohol and a deadly machine with four wheels isn't likely to be responsible with alcohol and a deadly machine with a trigger. But I was unable to persuade my representative--he obviously saw me as some sort of gun control advocate. If I get elected, I may make some efforts the revive this question.
4.22.2008 11:25pm
ithaqua (mail):
"The key point that I have tried to make in my work is that if you are talking about a group of 50 people even if the probability is only 2 percent that any individual victim is armed, the probability that someone will be armed is essentially 100 percent."

If there are 50 people, each with a 98% chance of being unarmed, the probability of all of them being simultaneously unarmed is 0.98^50, approximately 36.4% :)

"Those who have followed Dr. Lott's work know that his research is always ground breaking and meticulous, frequently forcing his opponents--those who are intellectually honest--to admit that while they don't like his conclusions regarding the value and utility of firearms and the lack of value and utility of gun control laws, they cannot fault his methods."

Mary Rosh? Is that you?

On a serious note, while I absolutely support the Second Amendment right of any citizen to carry a gun, concealed or openly, in public or in government offices (that's what 'shall not be infringed' means in plain English, after all) I'd be very dubious at attempts to link school shootings to the absence of an armed citizenry. As was said more eloquently above, spree killing is, in most cases, simply a more violent form of suicide; the killer, often suicidally depressed or consumed by atheistic nihilism, turns his guns on the people he blames for driving him to this point. The student targets his fellow students, the worker his place of work, and so on; often they kill their families first. A 'gun-free zone' makes it more difficult to stop a shooter, yes, but claiming that they "spawn attacks", as if a 'No Guns Allowed' sign suddenly transforms an ordinary student into a spree killer, is as silly as making the same claim about concealed carry permits.
4.22.2008 11:49pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
I think that the evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, on the question of whether Gun-Free Zones are more likely to attract crazy killers is pretty well settled - Gun-Free Zones are the more dangerous venue.

As for the deterrent effect of firearms ownership on violent crime, we can look at the negative proof from the Massachusetts experience over the last fourteen years. In 1994, MA started keeping statistics on injuries and deaths caused by criminal activity. From 1994 to 1998, the rate of gun injuries/deaths was on a downward curve which paralleled the experience of the other New England states.

In 1998, MA passed new, stricter gun laws that over the last ten years have resulted in a drop in licensed gun owners from about 1.2 million to about 250 thousand. The reasons for the drop are many and somewhat complicated; suffice it to say that the anti-gun media have gleefully publicized the drop. Over the last ten years, the violent crime rate as measured by gun injuries and deaths has doubled in MA while the rate for the rest of New England has either continued to decrease or held steady.

Make of this information what you will (for further info, have a look at www.goal.org).
4.23.2008 12:41am
SenatorX (mail):
Which begs the question: why are legislators so afraid of honest citizens being armed?

I wonder if it's psychological in nature. Something to do with people once they are position of authority to look down at people who are not. 'The average common man is where he is because of his lacking qualities, otherwise he would be in a position of authority'. You are either in a position of authority in which case you deserve power or you are a member of the passive herd looking to authority. The individual who wants power for themselves outside the authoritarian structure is not acceptable. It's almost the definition of morality and immorality throught history.

I think guns aren't even the real issue. The core ideology is a hatred of individuals and their arrogance to assume they know how to act appropriately without being directed.

For the passive who look to authority for everything(Daddy issues?) the individual who doesn't is an insult. A living example reflecting back the realization of submission. This is why the anti-gun folk can't listen to rational arguments about self-defense or a backstop against governmental abuse. Logic is fluff compared to the visceral reaction.
4.23.2008 1:27am
LarryA (mail) (www):
Even at a college with concealed carry, the likelihood of success as essentially the same. Students over 21 do not represent a majority at many colleges, and even among these, only a couple percent would be like concealed carry holders. Course schedules are easily found online. All a potential killer would have to do is look online for when and where a section of English 101 or College Algebra is being taught and you've effectively avoided almost any chance of confrontation with an armed student.
Except for grad students, the older non-traditional students common on campus, the professors, and other staff. There could also be an advanced class next door.

Allowing concealed carry doesn't guarantee a CHL response. But banning it guarantees there won't be one, and you'll have to wait until an armed officer arrives, assesses the situation, and reacts.
Are peaceful, law-abiding permit-holders *so* peaceful and law-abiding that they always disarm themselves when going to the mall?
Of course not. They simply go to a mall that isn't posted.
As far as I know all the businesses can do is ask you to leave and you commit no crime so long as you then comply.
In Texas if a business is properly posted entering is a Class A Misdemeanor; a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Other states may vary, but it's usually treated as criminal armed tresspass.
A 'gun-free zone' makes it more difficult to stop a shooter, yes, but claiming that they "spawn attacks", as if a 'No Guns Allowed' sign suddenly transforms an ordinary student into a spree killer, is as silly as making the same claim about concealed carry permits.
You've misquoted the argument. Lott never said gun-free zones encourage killers. He said that once a killer decides to act he's very likely to choose a gun-free zone. If that's not true, how do you explain the fact that almost all of the random multiple murder-suicides take place in gun-free zones?
Which begs the question: why are legislators so afraid of honest citizens being armed?
They all aren't. Here in Texas when I go to the state capital building I go through metal detectors. When asked for ID I present my driver's license and concealed handgun license, as required when I'm carrying. The guards wish me a good day, and I proceed about my business, still armed. This includes while I'm sitting in the gallery watching the Legislature tinker with the law.
4.23.2008 1:44am
Vinnie (mail):
when I'm carrying. The guards wish me a good day, and I proceed about my business, still armed. This includes while I'm sitting in the gallery watching the Legislature tinker with the law.

Proof positive that ccw's won't go nuts and start shooting even under extreme provocation.
4.23.2008 4:01am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Proof positive that ccw's won't go nuts and start shooting even under extreme provocation."

The Texas legislature meets in regular session on the second Tuesday in January of each odd-numbered year.[1] The Texas Constitution limits the regular session to 140 calendar days.

Now if you want extreme provocation try the California Legislature. It meets for much longer every year. It regulates and taxes everything. Take a look at the size of the California Criminal Code-- it's the size of a Manhattan Telephone Directory.
4.23.2008 5:26am
Dan M.:
Phillistine

What is at issue here is whether mass killers take into account issues which will affect their apparent goal of maximum destruction. They might not think about it if it's the place they already wanted to go and it was a gun free zone, but there's no saying what deterrent effect there would be if they could potentially face armed resistance in schools or in the workplace. And people who murder their family and gangbangers know the people that they are killing and whether or not they are armed but they have different goals to begin with. But regardless they still likely take into account the firearm situation and their tactical considerations.
4.23.2008 5:54am
Dan M.:
"Except for grad students, the older non-traditional students common on campus, the professors, and other staff. There could also be an advanced class next door.

Allowing concealed carry doesn't guarantee a CHL response. But banning it guarantees there won't be one, and you'll have to wait until an armed officer arrives, assesses the situation, and reacts."

Oh, I'm not condemning concealed carry on campus, I'm a campus leader for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. It's absolutely a step in the right direction for all sorts of reasons. But if you are narrowly looking at just the mass shooting issue I think the issue that 50% of students wouldn't even be eligible, and 95% of the rest would be indifferent. And online course schedules that make it easy to target underclassmen make it clear to me that, at least from that perspective, it's not enough. In states where open carry is unrestricted something like this might slip by and technically allow 18 year old students to openly carry. But then if that happened either no one would carry and it wouldn't matter or the university might get wise and take it to court. I wonder how they'd try to paint "A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, and for lawful hunting and recreational use" (in WV's Constitution) as ambiguous.
4.23.2008 6:04am
AntonK (mail):

"Prior to the 1995 Safe School Zone Act, states with right-to-carry laws let teachers or others carry concealed handguns at school, and several states still allow this today. And there is not a single instance that I or others have found where this produced a single problem."

"With all the news media coverage of the types of guns used and how the criminal obtained the gun, at some point the news media might begin to mention the one common feature of these attacks: they keep occurring in gun-free zones."
Indeed!
4.23.2008 9:48am
ParatrooperJJ (mail):
It is only common sense.
4.23.2008 9:57am
Virginian:

Anyone arguing that we're better off unarmed, protected by signs, good intentions and superior intellect had better hope that those less socially aware than themselves are around to save their lives should the need arise, for it will take better men and women than they to save their lives and the lives of genuine innocents.


Bravo!

The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. If you have to wait 6 minutes (an incredibly fast PD response time) or 30 minutes (not at all unusual in rural areas) for an armed good guy to arrive, people are going to die needlessly.
4.23.2008 10:39am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Which begs the question: why are legislators so afraid of honest citizens being armed?
I wonder if it's psychological in nature. Something to do with people once they are position of authority to look down at people who are not. 'The average common man is where he is because of his lacking qualities, otherwise he would be in a position of authority'. You are either in a position of authority in which case you deserve power or you are a member of the passive herd looking to authority. The individual who wants power for themselves outside the authoritarian structure is not acceptable. It's almost the definition of morality and immorality through out history.
I think maybe some of that. Obama sure seemed to be an elitist in PA in his bitter comments on guns and religion.

I would suggest that another part of this is that guns are tied closely to our Revolution. We can partially thank the fact that our forefathers were well armed in 1776 for our Independence. That fact was (IMHO) enshrined in the 2nd Amdt. A population that is well armed is far less likely to submit to tyranny than is one that is accustomed to not being armed.
I think guns aren't even the real issue. The core ideology is a hatred of individuals and their arrogance to assume they know how to act appropriately without being directed.
I am not sure if it is really a hatred of the individual, or rather a belief that the community is more important than the individual. I am not the least bit surprised that there is decent correlation between belief in communal or collectivist solutions, and even socialism, and gun control. And you really get down to the question of when is self defense justified in view of the needs of the majority. The individualist would argue that self defense and defense of one's loved ones, is a fundamental human right (see Declaration of Independence and which right was listed first).
For the passive who look to authority for everything(Daddy issues?) the individual who doesn't is an insult. A living example reflecting back the realization of submission. This is why the anti-gun folk can't listen to rational arguments about self-defense or a backstop against governmental abuse. Logic is fluff compared to the visceral reaction.
I would rather suggest that the issue is between a Utopian view of man and a realistic vision of man. The Utopian vision is the basis of socialism and other collectivist solutions, whereas a realistic view is the basis of individualism.
4.23.2008 11:12am
Archon (mail):
If you were a homicidal man looking to kill as many people as possible with a gun or guns what location would you choose?

A. Police Station
B. NRA Headquarters
C. Local Gun Convention
D. Gun Free Local University that advertises this fact
4.23.2008 11:20am
Uh_Clem (mail):
Dr. Lott is also one of the few researchers in the field of gun control issues who not only provides his data sets and research freely to other scientists.

Is this supposed to be satire? If so, well done.
4.23.2008 11:21am
LarryA (mail) (www):
If there are 50 people, each with a 98% chance of being unarmed, the probability of all of them being simultaneously unarmed is 0.98^50, approximately 36.4% :)
If your calculation is correct, the chance that someone is armed is about 63.6%. Much better than 0.00%.
Oh, I'm not condemning concealed carry on campus, I'm a campus leader for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.
Thank you. I'm a director of the Texas Concealed Handgun Association, and we've established liaison with a group here in Texas. We're scheduling our 2009 convention near their college. We'll see what we can learn from each other.

Now a question. The anti self-defense folks tell us that if college students carry they'll get enraged during classroom discussions and shoot each other. Now, I don't remember any classroom discussions that volatile, but it's been several decades since I graduated. Do many classroom discussions in today's colleges actually end violently? Back in my university days the biggest student problem in class was staying awake.
For 4, the assumption whether or not someplace is a gun free zone is also irrelevant.
Actually any gathering of criminals and/or illegal drug dealers is just as much of a "gun-free zone" as a public school, in that no one there can legally possess a firearm. ;-)

A little more seriously, contrary to TV criminals don't tend to carry guns on their person. Too much chance of getting busted. They have guns close by, of course, as when their girlfriends carry for them.

Note the result. When such gatherings get shot up the rival gang members don't park, enter the gathering, and proceed to methodically eliminate their rivals. Instead they do a drive-by and get away before their victims can access weaponry.

Thanks for bringing this up. It illustrates exactly what we've been saying.
4.23.2008 11:29am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
If anyone can find one of these attacks where the point of the crime is to kill and harm people (not a gang fight or as a result of another crime such as a robbery) where more than three people have been killed in a public shooting and it occurred in an area where permitted concealed handguns were allowed, they should try to provide it

Gee Mr. Lott, I live in New Orleans and within the last two years we have had several such killings--with as many as five people killed in one incident. Now, I know you will try and weasel out of it and say that there was some other underlying crime--like revenge for some slight or argument over drug turf--but the fact remains that these were not arguments or fights that escalated to murder but cold-blooded premeditated murder.

If you limit your research to "nice upstanding middle class people are at most risk of getting killed in a mass shooting in a gun-free zone" then your "research" might pass the smell test.
4.23.2008 11:58am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Hey Clayton, while we're on the subject of "responsible" CCW permit holders, did you include the story about that U.S. Air pilot on your site. You know, the one who for some reason fired his pistol in the middle of the flight and put a hole through the cockpit. Isn't it wonderful how these most responsible pilots with their extensive training would never screw around with their guns if we gave them the right to carry them on planes.
4.23.2008 12:01pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Actually any gathering of criminals and/or illegal drug dealers is just as much of a "gun-free zone" as a public school, in that no one there can legally possess a firearm. ;-)

Only if they have been convicted and tried and their right to own firearms suspended. Heck, the only laws the NIU shooter broke before killing those students were those you consider illegitimate.
4.23.2008 12:05pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Thomas, it's illegal to own a gun while using or distributing drugs, regardless of conviction status. No need for a trial.

You know, the one who for some reason fired his pistol in the middle of the flight and put a hole through the cockpit. Isn't it wonderful how these most responsible pilots with their extensive training would never screw around with their guns if we gave them the right to carry them on planes.


The shot was fired during approach, not "the middle of the flight", during a time fiddling with the firearm was legally mandated, and almost certainly occurred due to idiotic TSA policy.

But continue with the misrepresentations. They make your arguments seem ever so strong.
4.23.2008 12:30pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The shot was fired during approach, not "the middle of the flight", during a time fiddling with the firearm was legally mandated, and almost certainly occurred due to idiotic TSA policy.

Waahh! The highly trained pilot may have not properly used the holster and locking device he had supposedly been extensively trained on. Waaahh!
4.23.2008 1:03pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
You guys are all for personal responsibility except when you can blame the government.
4.23.2008 1:04pm
Archon (mail):
JF -

Little known fact - Illinois has some the strictest gun regulations in the nation. The NIU shooter not only got preclearance to buy his guns, but also went through a waiting period before collecting them after the purchase (and to think those waiting periods were supposed to stop people like him.)

So, the question is how much more gun control do we need to stop people who are willing the go through preclearance checks to get a license to purchase the gun and then go through another 5 day waiting period?
4.23.2008 1:26pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
So, the question is how much more gun control do we need to stop people who are willing the go through preclearance checks to get a license to purchase the gun and then go through another 5 day waiting period?

Don't ask me, you guys are the ones who are constantly assuring us that "law abiding" gun owners never, ever shoot anyone in a fit of rage or because they find their wife in bed with another man (even though this is a much more likely scenario than an actual self-defense use), wave them at some asshole who cut them off in traffic or brandish them recklessly after a night of drinking. You are the ones who find any regulation of firearms onerous and a violation of some fundamental right to arm yourself to the teeth.
4.23.2008 1:37pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I am not sure if it is really a hatred of the individual, or rather a belief that the community is more important than the individual. I am not the least bit surprised that there is decent correlation between belief in communal or collectivist solutions, and even socialism, and gun control.

If by "communal", "collectivist", and "socialist", you mean living in a well ordered civilized society where the rule of law and social order has replaced brute force and intimidation as the method for resolving conflict, then I guess this is an accurate statement.

Living, or even envisioning a society, where it is prudent for citizens to walk around with firearms while conducting their day to day business is not a good or healthy society.

I realize a few months ago there was a post on this site about what a perfect libertarian paradise Somalia has become. Maybe Ilya, Eugene, and Clayton would like to live there. To me it seems like hell on earth.
4.23.2008 2:45pm
zippypinhead:
Larry A wrote:
Which begs the question: why are legislators so afraid of honest citizens being armed?

They all aren't. Here in Texas when I go to the state capital building I go through metal detectors. When asked for ID I present my driver's license and concealed handgun license, as required when I'm carrying. The guards wish me a good day, and I proceed about my business, still armed. This includes while I'm sitting in the gallery watching the Legislature tinker with the law.
Wow, they make people with guns walk through a metal detector? You must live is a socialist paradise down there in Texas! I recall several years ago when I chaperoned a 4th grade class trip to the Virginia state capital building, they made all the little kids walk thru the metal detector when they entered. Meanwhile, there was a steady parade of folks going AROUND the metal detector, pausing just long enough to waive their CCW permits at the guards (some, but not all, being legislators). Go figure...

On a lighter note (or not): Partisans on both sides of the "gun free zone" debate will undoubtedly note the significance of there only having been one unlawful discharge of a firearm in the Va. state capital in recent years. As the governor noted afterwards, fortunately the victim was wearing kevlar... [/irony off]
4.23.2008 3:09pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Justin made a good point about no one attacking Marine barracks or NRA conventions. That's a slam dunk!
4.23.2008 3:23pm
Vinnie (mail):
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Living, or even envisioning a society, where it is prudent for citizens to walk around with firearms while conducting their day to day business is not a good or healthy society.




Why the gun is civilization.

Wish I could write like that.
4.23.2008 5:33pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

Living, or even envisioning a society, where it is prudent for citizens to walk around with firearms while conducting their day to day business is not a good or healthy society.

My cousin did just that, for his entire working career. Of course he was a policeman. Never had to shoot anybody, so I guess he could have left his gun at home.
4.23.2008 5:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
J.F. pretends people want a situation where guns are useful/necessary.
Doesn't he ever get tired of being busted for misrepresenting others' words?
4.23.2008 5:42pm
Deoxy (mail):
J. F. Thomas:
Living, or even envisioning a society, where it is prudent for citizens to walk around with firearms while conducting their day to day business is not a good or healthy society.


You do realize that much of the history of the US would fit into this, right? What, we were not a "good or healthy society" until the last 50 years?

While you could answer that in the negative based on institutionalised racism, you could not point almost any of that to guns.
4.23.2008 6:02pm
SenatorX (mail):
Bruce I pretty much agree with you but I do keep running into the hatred of individuals when I argue with socialists. What typically happens at some point in the argument is they bust out with a view that individuals cannot be trusted to monitor themselves. That man left his own decisions will be a raping, murdering, thief and therefore always needs coercive guidance "to do the right thing". To me this seems like a fundamental difference between socialists and libertarians. That one views the individual as a negative and the other a positive. I guess I could probably use a different word than hatred though.

JFT do you even know what the rule of law means? It's an enlightenment philosophy having to do with people being free when they know the law and can adjust their actions accordingly. The opposite is what you get in socialist countries like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, or Russia where the rulers can arbitrarily change the rules of the game at any time. I'm not sure there is a collectivist society yet that obeyed the rule of law.

In regards to gun control I wonder if any socialist societies have ever been ok with empowering citizens to defend themselves. I've never looked into it but I would bet that where socialist ideology gains, individuals' rights to self defense diminish.
4.23.2008 6:51pm
Dan M.:
"Now a question. The anti self-defense folks tell us that if college students carry they'll get enraged during classroom discussions and shoot each other. Now, I don't remember any classroom discussions that volatile, but it's been several decades since I graduated. Do many classroom discussions in today's colleges actually end violently? Back in my university days the biggest student problem in class was staying awake."

I've never even witnessed an argument that came to blows. And most of the bickering I've witnessed has been in the lounge among professors.

It is my opinion that anyone for whom an argument could escalate into lethal violence is probably someone for whom violent arguments are common, and such a person probably has something on his record (like aggravated assault in relation to a prior disagreement) which would preclude him from having a concealed handgun license.
4.24.2008 2:38am
LarryA (mail) (www):
Thanks, Dan M. It's pretty much what I've heard elsewhere. ;-)
Wow, they make people with guns walk through a metal detector?
Oops. I should have said walk to the detector.
Meanwhile, there was a steady parade of folks going AROUND the metal detector, pausing just long enough to waive their CCW permits at the guards (some, but not all, being legislators).
Wow. Another benefit of having a license: not having to wait in the security line. Just like being able to buy a gun without the clerk having to call the FBI. A CHL is indeed a "good-guy card."
4.24.2008 12:33pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Dear Uh_Clem:

If you have something specific to claim about me not giving out data, you should say it. But I have given out my data on lots of projects even before I have had papers using the data published. Regarding the Right-to-carry data in my original research with David Mustard, when it was lost, the academics that David and I had given it to would not return a copy to us and David and I spent six months replacing it so that we could then give it out to others. I think that David and I have gone well beyond what virtually anyone else has done to make sure that the data was available to others. I have also made my data in other studies available.

Dear J.F. Thomas:

If you can specifically point to such a case, please do so. But I don't think that you can provide cases as I discussed above.

By the way, my website did cover the US Air pilot case here. By the way, commercial pilots were required to carry a handgun with them up until 1963 and were allowed to do so up until 1979 and I know of no problems over that entire period. As I explained on my blog, the bizarre locking rules from the TSA was responsible for the accidental discharge. Second, the horror stories by those who opposed pilots carrying guns of depressurization or other problems did not occur. This was something I and others had discussed extensively during the debate.
4.24.2008 1:25pm
K Parker (mail):
There have been some rouge cops
See? Commies, I tell you!
4.26.2008 4:46am