This morning’s news contained an op-ed in the Daily Camera out of Boulder, CO, concerning the decision of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to relax its rules on CCW and allow armed visitors to stroll through the museum’s halls. The decision, according to the Museum, was made to bring the DMNS into compliance with Colorado’s concealed-carry law, passed in 2003, which gives state residents the right to take their personal weapons into most public spaces, although CCW is not allowed in schools.
Want to know the most bizarre statement of all coming out of this mess? According to the op-ed, authored by three leaders of Colorado GVP groups, a spokesperson for the Museum, Maureen O’Neal, defended the new policy by stating that a ‘deciding factor” was the desire of the Museum to keep its visitors “safe during the holiday season.” Does this woman have any idea how dumb she is? Does the Museum have any idea that someone so stupid is actually speaking on behalf of an institution where education takes place?
And make no mistake about it – the Denver Museum, like all natural history museums, is first and foremost an educational institution, not just in terms of how exhibits are developed and displayed, but by the character and numbers of their visitors who, more often than not, are children from surrounding schools. My children were all educated in New York City public schools and they all made frequent class trips to the Museum of Natural History (founded by Teddy Roosevelt’s father) located on Manhattan’s Central Park West. I know about these trips because I often accompanied my kid’s class as a parent-chaperone, and not a single visit occurred without the children spending time in the educational area being given a lesson by a member of the Museum’s education staff.
Think it’s any different at the Denver Museum? Take a look at their education website, which contains all kinds of resources for teachers and students, and note the 2014 Annual Report which claims that the Museum served as a resource that year for 299,000 teachers and kids. Total attendance in 2014 was 1.4 million, which means that the educational component of the operation served the needs of more than one-fifth of the total number of visitors who walked through the Museum’s doors.
So when we talk about this museum and its role in the educational environment of Denver and surrounding communities, we’re not talking about Old Macdonald’s Farm. We’re talking about an institution that provides a needed educational component for school-age kids. The fact is that when schoolchildren and teachers walk into that museum to study the exhibits and listen to a staff member explain what’s going on, they are as much in a classroom as they would be if they were sitting in their own school.
All that is needed is to classify the museum as constituting part of a school which is engaging in distance learning but is offering educational resources that kids receive when they are in class. Obviously, the Colorado legislators who voted for CCW did not believe that armed civilians enhanced school security – so let’s just slightly enlarge the definition of what constitutes a ‘school.’
By creating a gun-free zone, the particular institution is saying that bringing a gun into the area does not enhance safety or security at all. And despite the contrary statement by the Museum’s spokeswoman, there is absolutely no credible evidence pointing to an enhancement of public safety in areas where civilians can walk around armed. The claim that armed citizens protect us from millions of crimes each year is nonsense, and anecdotal evidence simply cannot overcome the fact that virtually all gun homicides occur in places where people own or have access to guns. The NRA is determined to root out gun-free zones because this makes gun ownership more accepted as a normal state of affairs. And right now the Denver Museum is going along with their plan.