Gun-Free School Zones must go away.
If that is the first response to the Newton tragedy, our children will be safer tomorrow than they are today.
For many of you, this sounds like the opposite of a sane statement. You may be thinking, "Surely we need to find a way to keep guns away from schools; even more so now." But, let's examine what you are asking.
Today the law is that, with a few exceptions, firearms are restricted not only on school property, but within a designated area around the schools. Yet, despite this law, guns were brought illegally onto campus. So the question is, what type of new gun law would have prevented this murderer from bringing guns to the Sandy Hook school?
There are three different paths we can go:
1. Ban sale of certain types of firearms such as assault rifle, or ammo, etc.
2. Restrict access to guns for certain people.
3. Confiscate all firearms and repeal 2nd amendment.
Looking at the evidence, we can immediately see that 1. and 2. would not have, and have not previously been effective in eliminating shooting rampages at schools. During the 1990's, there was an assault weapons ban in place and access to firearms was restricted somewhat by the waiting period to purchase a firearm. Despite these laws, gun violence still happened on school grounds in equal or greater numbers as it had prior to the new laws.
Over the past two decades, total gun violence has decreased and shooting rampages are no more prevalent than they have been in the past century. In surveying the statistics of all mass murder incidents, the US had 42 in the 1990's and 26 in the 2000's. There is and has been no uptick in such violence since Congress allowed the Assault Weapons ban to expire well over a decade ago.
So, banned or not banned, this murderer brought guns that did belong to him illegally into a location with the intent of murdering small children. The truth is there is one law and only one gun law that would have kept him from bringing a gun to that school with any degree of certainty. That's a total ban on all firearms along with forced confiscation of all 300 million firearms currently held in private possession in the US.
Unless you are offering that as your new gun law, then understand that you have very little chance of preventing the next madman from stepping up to the school house door with evil in his heart and a gun in his hand.
Now, I don't say that to mock anyone. But let's be realistic. In an America, in a land of such bountiful private ownership of firearms, you are limited in what you can do to prevent someone from walking around armed to the hilt, with a mindset of seek and destroy. That's the reality.
Now, as I discussed after the Aurora shooting, we can do better in how we identify or treat the mentally ill. Statistics show that about 50% of rampage killings are by those who have displayed signs of mental health problems. I'm all for loosening many of the restrictions that have been put in place over the past 50 years intervene, identify and treat mental illness.
But that still leaves the other 50%. What do we do about them?
Be vigilant and prepared.
There are two key actions that will do more to keep our students safe than all other actions.
1. Repeal the Gun Free School Zones law
2. Bring firearms into the schools by arming the proper people.
First, the notion of a gun free zone has no basis in reality. Its only gun free from those who respect the law. No person who chooses to harm students will look at such a law and see an impediment. Its a meaningless designation. Let each school district & municipality craft its own reasonable law.
Second, with one excepton, "every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns."
Even law enforcement understand that gun free zones are counterproductive. “Guns are already banned in schools. That is why the shootings happen in schools. A school is a ‘helpless-victim zone", says Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff. “Preventing any adult at a school from having access to a firearm eliminates any chance the killer can be stopped in time to prevent a rampage,” Jim Kouri, the public-information officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police.
Economists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed. Lott noted that the Aurora shooter, who killed twelve people earlier this year, had a choice of seven movie theaters that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. All were within a 20-minute drive of his home. The Cinemark Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals. All of the other theaters allowed the approximately 4 percent of Colorado adults who have a concealed-handgun permit to enter with their weapons.
The grim truth is that sooner or later a madman will take up a handgun, a rifle or even a whole arsenal, and seek a path of self-destruction that will seek to take as many lives with him/her as possible. Given the abundance of evidence, the only rational response is to allow our local schools to staff armed guards and/or arm certain staff members so as to deter a shooter away from schools and if that fails, to put an end to their plans with a quick on-site response.
I've spoken to a couple of our local school board members to voice my support for moving in this direction. Whether it means bringing in local police on site, hiring armed security guards or having members of their current staff seek and obtain CCW permits, each school district can find the solution that will work best for its own individual situation. Its a small expense for our schools to prevent or limit the senseless murder of our children. Without some credible action, we may move our child to a private school in the fall.
No one seeks to protect their home by putting out a sign that reads, "Beware! No guns are present on this property." People can be so intent on deterring criminals, that I've seen some post, "Beware of Dog" signs outside their homes despite the fact that they didn't own a dog.
How much safer will our children be when we take down the "Gun-Free Zone" signs and put up one that reads,
"BEWARE! This school is protected by Smith & Wesson."?