CPRC in the News Sentinel (Knoxville,TN): Gun-free zones easy targets for would-be killers

9 Feb , 2017  

In a piece last Friday in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN), Mark Harmon, a professor of journalism at the University of Tennessee and a member of the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee, had an article attacking Dr. John Lott and the Crime Prevention Research Center.  Dr. Lott used the first part of his column as an opportunity to explain the dangers of gun-free zones, something that Harmon addresses only tangentially since his attack is really an attack on Lott and the CPRC. In the second half of his article, Lott addresses Harmon’s attacks on us.  The piece is as follows:

. . . To criminals, gun-free zones just look like easy targets. But in a recent column for the News Sentinel, Mark Harmon argues that killers pay no attention to gun-free zones. He incorrectly claims that this is the “consensus view” of academic research.

Since 1950, over 98% of public mass shootings in America have taken place where citizens are banned from carrying guns. In Europe, every mass public shooting in history has occurred in a gun-free zone. And Europe is no stranger to mass public shootings. In the past eight years, it has experienced a per-capita casualty rate 50% higher than that of the US.

With permit holders preventing dozens of mass public shootings in recent years, it is unsurprising that killers try to avoid resistance.

Last year, a young Islamic State sympathizer planned a shooting at one of the largest churches in Detroit. A FBI wiretap recorded his reasons for picking the church: “It’s easy, and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus it would make the news.”

These killers might be crazy, but they aren’t stupid. Picking defenseless targets means being able to kill more people. A long list of killers explicitly have stated this reasoning, including the 2015 Charleston, S.C., church shooting, the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., and the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, Calif.

In late 2013, Interpol Secretary General Ron Noble warned that even “extraordinary security” is unlikely to be enough to keep weapons out of soft targets. As a result, only the terrorists would have weapons.

In March 2013, 86 percent of police officers surveyed by PoliceOne, the 450,000-member private organization of police, said that casualties would have been prevented if legally-armed citizens had been able to carry guns in places such as Newtown and Aurora.

But Harmon insists that I am outside the “consensus view” of academics. To show this, he cites a survey by David Hemenway.  But this survey primarily focuses on public health researchers, relatively few of whom have Ph.D.s and many of whom never have done any empirical research on guns.

Last summer, professor Gary Mauser and I released a survey of all economists and criminologists who had published peer-reviewed empirical research on firearms. The results were very different.

By 66 percent to 32 percent, economists and criminologists answer that gun-free zones are “more likely to attract criminals than they are to deter them.” A 60 percent to 40 percent margin thinks that guns in the home do not increase suicides. And a 62 percent to 35 percent spread says that guns are used in self-defense to stop crime more often than in the commission of crime.

Harmon personally attacks a few of the Crime Prevention Research Center’s 10-member board of academic advisers. He doesn’t mention that these researchers hail from universities such as Harvard, the Wharton Business School, the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan. In one attack, it is just dishonest to suggest that those who fund academic chairs get to decide who holds the chair, let alone successive people who hold the chair.

Gun-free zones are magnets for murderers. Even the most ardent gun-control advocate — presumably even Harmon — would never put “Gun-Free Zone” signs on his home. Let’s stop putting them elsewhere.

The entire piece is available here.  Comments welcome at the News Sentinel page.


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