In the wake of another cluster of shootings, the issue of firearms regulations have come back to the forefront. Unfortunately, most of the discussion seems to center on whether or not to double down on bad ideas.
It’s time that we as a society woke up to this simple fact: there’s no such thing as a gun-free zone. In a time when we cover our schools with signs, lock them down for umbrella sightings, and even suspend a child for chewing a Pop-Tart into a shape that resembles that of a firearm, all of our efforts have been fruitless. Since 2009, there have been twenty-six mass public shootings in the United States, and a vast majority of them took place in areas where firearms were prohibited.
What is to be done about this? Should we put up more signs? One idea that the presumably well-intentioned people who administer these areas may not have entertained is that criminals simply do not follow laws or obey signs. Shocking, I know, but given the sheer number of times that weapons policies have failed, along with the inconvenient fact that there has not been one documented case of a sign generating a magical force field capable of repelling weapons, it might be time to come to terms with the possibility.
“Surely,” you might say, “these policies must have some consequence.” You’d be right. They have a profound effect on the law-abiding. Much as it is part of the criminal’s nature to break laws, it is part of the obedient’s nature to follow them. This creates something of a problem. Violent criminals need targets to carry out their crimes, and nobody makes a better target than an unarmed person, but the trouble is that it’s not always easy to tell who is armed and who is unarmed, so where will the criminals go to carry out their crimes? They will go to places where weapons are not allowed.
Now, the truly dangerous thing that has happened is that we have designated many of our most target-rich areas (shopping malls, movie theaters, universities, etc.) as “weapon-free” zones. These policies are likely created out of fear of something terrible involving weapons taking place in a busy area, but logic, and indeed, statistics, seem to suggest that they have the unfortunate side-effect of attracting the very situations that they were created to prevent. Look at the tragedy that occurred in Aurora, Colorado. Out of all of the movie theaters within twenty miles of the killer’s apartment, he chose the one theater where weapons were banned.
Take the horrific shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon last month as another example. The incident began inside a school building, where weapons were prohibited. Following the tragedy in Oregon, Bonnie Schaan, the mother of Cheyenne Fitzgerald, one of the nine students who were killed, was asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper what she would bring up with President Obama if she got the chance to speak with him, and she said, “I feel that our children should be able to protect themselves somehow.” Of course, at UCC and at colleges and universities across the country, students, an overwhelming majority of whom are legally adults, are not allowed the means to defend themselves against bodily harm. They are told instead that they can call 9-1-1 and wait for the police to arrive. And yet, this was not enough to stop the massacre at UCC, and it hasn’t been enough to stop the thousands of violent crimes that occur on America’s college campuses every year.
What does all of this mean? It means that we have bought a shameful lie because of the false promise of security that it provides. It means that the people who make the rules for your “gun-free” college, university, or workplace are either woefully ignorant or don’t really care about your safety. No matter what the politicians, university administrators, and public relations personnel try to tell you, gun-free zones don’t protect you, they just make you a natural target.
Violence is a problem. Mass shootings need to stop. Let’s start with not placing students at greatest risk.