Our research cited extensively in the Philadelphia Inquirer: Eliminating gun-free zones: A way to deter mass shooters?

Jun 17, 2019 | Featured

George Parry, a former federal and state prosecutor, had a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 5th, where he relied heavily on our research. We have added notes below where the links that were provided were to the Crime Prevention Research Center, though even in the one link that wasn’t directly to our research, it was to a case that we had discovered and discussed on our website. Here is part of his piece.

A modest proposal

So what can be done in the here and now to prevent another massacre? I have a modest proposal. How about outlawing and eliminating so-called “gun-free zones.”

The Virginia Beach shooting took place in the city government’s Operations Building. Virginia Beach prohibits its employees from carrying firearms (the link is to Crime Prevention Research Center). This means that the shooter knew that his coworkers at the location would have no effective means of countering his intended use of deadly force. In that regard, this massacre followed the modus operandi of mass shooters.

According to the Crime Prevention and Research Center, between 1950 and 2018, 97.8 percent of all mass public shootings occurred in gun-free zones (the link is to Crime Prevention Research Center). Similarly, in the 20 states that allow teachers to be armed, there have been no school shootings (as well as no accidents or injuries caused by firearms possessed by teachers) (the link is to Crime Prevention Research Center).

There is also anecdotal proof that mass-casualty shooters prefer gun-free zones. For example, in 2016, Dearborn Heights, Mich., ISIS supporter Khalil Abu-Rayyan had an online discussion with an undercover FBI agent in which he discussed his plan for a “martyrdom operation” by attacking a Detroit church. He told the agent that this would be an easy target because “people are not allowed to carry guns in church.

Similarly, in 2015, Elliot Ridge murdered six people in a Santa Barbara, Calif., gun-free zone. In his 141-page “manifesto,” he explained that in planning his attack he had decided against launching it in other locations where someone with a gun might be present to cut short his killing spree (the link is to Crime Prevention Research Center).

In the 2012 Aurora, Colo., theater massacre, the killer’s diary showed that he had decided against attacking an airport because of its “substantial security” (the link is to Crime Prevention Research Center). And, of the seven movie theaters within 20 minutes of the shooter’s home, he chose the only one that had posted signs declaring it to be a gun-free zone.

Worth a try

Given this record, anyone concerned with eliminating — or at least substantially reducing — mass public shootings must ask whether or not gun-free zones pose a danger to the public by attracting killers who prefer an unarmed victim pool and should give serious consideration to the following propositions:

  1. First, however well-intended, gun-free zones do not work. While they might provide symbolic or emotional comfort to those who fear firearms, they have no real-world practical effect other than to encourage law-abiding armed citizens to stay away.
  2. Mass-casualty shooters have overwhelmingly elected to carry out their attacks in gun-free zones.
  3. Relative to all of the other proposed solutions to the problem of mass public shootings, the elimination of gun-free zones would be comparatively simple and inexpensive.
  4. Eliminating the demonstrably ineffective gun-free zones would cause no permanent or substantial damage or loss to owners of such properties.

The elimination of gun-free zones may not prove to be the definitive answer, but the evidence indicates that it should be tried. Otherwise we will continue to attempt the same old failed solutions over and over again while expecting a different result.

But to continue doing that is the very definition of insanity.




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