Want To Argue About Nothing? Try Concealed-Carry Or Gun-Free Zones.

One of the issues which can always get everyone hot and bothered on both sides of the gun debate is the issue of gun-free zones. On the one hand, proponents of armed, self-defense (John Lott, et. al.) argue that denying folks the right to carry their self-defense gun into a public space makes that space a likely target for any nut who wants to commit mass mayhem using a gun. On the other hand, maintaining and/or expanding gun-free zones is seen by Gun-control Nation as a fundamental strategy for reducing the 125,000+ injuries that we suffer each year from the use/abuse of guns.

I happen to believe that both arguments are bunk and do not, in any way, shape or form, align with the relevant facts. This is because we don’t know the relevant facts, nor has anyone even attempted to figure them out. But making arguments without any factual underpinnings is hardly a new approach when it comes to advocating for or against anything, particularly when it comes to advocating an issue as emotionally-laden as the issue of guns.

It just happens to be the case that most public spaces are gun-free zones, and that’s not about to change. The reason that John Lott says that most large-scale shootings occur in gun-free spaces is because prohibitions on carrying personal firearms are typical of shopping centers, auditoriums and stadiums, which happen to be the places where many people congregate at the same time. Federal law also designates all public K-12 schools as gun-free zones. 

The other problem in the gun-free zone universe is that the issue is confused because it’s often attached to a second gun argument which is equally mis-stated on both sides, namely, the issue of mass shootings which, by definition, occur in places where lots of people congregate at the same time. The commonly-accepted definition of a ‘mass shooting’ is an event in which four or more persons are killed, but this usually excludes shootings in private residences or shootings in the street between rival gangs. So, for example, the gunfire which erupted on May 17, 2015, between two motorcycle gangs in a Waco, TX restaurant parking lot wouldn’t necessarily make the mass-shooting hit list, even though 18 bikers and bystanders were injured and another 9 ended up dead.  And by the way, how come we don’t hear about this event as being the ‘proof’ that armed citizens can prevent crimes when just about everyone standing outside the Twin Peaks Restaurant that day was carrying a gun?

On the other hand, what makes my friends in Gun-control Nation crazy about expanding gun-free zones is that invariably this proposal is tied to the increase in concealed-carry licensing, which is on its way to covering more than 20 million gun owners at last count. But if you want to argue that an increase in armed citizens leads to an increase in gun injuries you’ll find yourself facing two facts which don’t bear this out.

First, although the latest numbers of CCW puts the national figure at 17.5 million, this figure may represent more than five times the number of people actually walking around on a regular basis with a loaded gun. Do these 3 million gun-toters represent a serious threat to community safety and health? To answer that question we turn to our friends at the Violence Policy Center whose report, Concealed Carry Killers, found that between 2007 and 2017, roughly 1,000 people shot themselves or others with legally-carried guns, the division between homicide and suicide about 50 percent. Over that same eleven-year period, more than 350,000 Americans overall died from gun homicides and suicides. Ok? Get it?

Nobody has yet to come up with a definitive explanation for whether or not shooters, particularly mass shooters, are attracted to gun-free zones. But as far as I’m concerned, the whole issue of concealed-carry and gun-free zones is a side-show when compared to figuring out what to do about the daily, run-of-the-mill shooting events that each year now claim more than 40,000 lives.

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School Shootings: Whose Numbers Do You Want To Believe?

Last week, the NRA’s favorite academic stooge, John Lott, exceeded even my expectations for the shabbiness of his research by publishing yet another screed on his favorite topic concerning the necessity to arm ourselves in order to protect each other from crime.  In this case he was talking about guns in schools and he took aim at a new report from Bloomberg which claimed that there was an average of 3 gun shootings a month since the 2013 carnage at Sandy Hook.  Here’s Lott’s criticism of the Bloomberg report:

 “their statistics are not what they seem. Included in the numbers are suicides. Also included are late night shootings taking place in school parking lots, on their grounds or even off school property, often involving gangs. As “shootings,” they also include any incident where shots were fired, even when nobody was injured.”

This comment doesn’t tell us what Lott figured out about Bloomie’s report.  It’s exactly what the report itself says.  And it says it right up front.  It says that it counted every time a gun went off in a school, whether someone was injured or not.  It says that it included suicides as well as homicides.  It says that it counted when shots were fired on school property even if the school-day had come to an end.  Lott isn’t telling his readers anything they can’t find out by simply reading the first page (actually mostly the first paragraph) of the report itself.

free schoolBut why bother to read the report?  After all, Lott has read it for you.  And he’s now told you that the report is “misleading” because it includes suicides, after-school shootings and shootings where nobody was hurt.  Now that would be “misleading” if the report simply announced that there had been 44 school shootings since Sandy Hook and Lott had actually done some real research to determine that what the report said was misleading or untrue. But Lott didn’t do any research at all.  Like me, he just read the first page of the report.

But Lott can’t just regurgitate what the Bloomberg report says and pretend he’s figured this out; he then has to throw in some of his own “research” to make his readers believe that he, as opposed to gun-grabbers like Bloomberg, has the inside track on the truth: “Contrary to what many people believe, high school shootings have been falling over the last two decades.”  Well, that may or may not be true, if only because Lott’s source for this information, the National School Safety Center, uses the same newspaper and media sources (not law enforcement) that Bloomberg used for his report.  And both the NSSC and Bloomberg admit that such data, by definition, is probably incomplete.

But notice that Lott wants you to believe that school shootings have declined even though he’s only counting shootings in high schools. nor do his numbers take suicides or shootings in elementary schools into account.  So he takes a slice of what Bloomberg counted, comes up with a smaller number and announces that his number is less!   And this isn’t shabby research?  This isn’t pandering to the NRA crowd?

I’d love to get John Lott on a stage and have a serious and public debate with him about guns.  For that matter, I’m willing to take on Lott and Mike Bloomberg at the same time.  Because both of them are playing to audiences that aren’t interested in what the other side wants to hear. And both use limited and often misleading data to score points in what never seems to be a genuinely honest debate.

Let me tell you the real problem we have with school gun violence and you won’t hear this from Mike Bloomberg or John Lott or anyone else except me.  The real problem is the number of kids who bring real guns into school but thank God they are taken away before a shot goes off. Ask any school safety administrator (as I have) when this pattern begins to appear and you’ll be told that it starts in middle school!  That’s right:  twelve-year-olds start bringing live guns into classrooms and showing them around. Twelve-year-olds.  Think about that.