Dr. John Lott has a new op-ed in the Missoulian and Montana Standard newspapers.
Montana looks set to become the 24th state that allows citizens to carry guns in the state Capitol. The bill passed the House and is now before the Senate, eliminates more gun-free zones than just the state Capitol. But making Capitols gun-free zones has been a top state legislative priority for national gun control groups.
Supposedly, without such a ban, “the gun lobby [will] hold our democracy hostage by threatening voters and elected officials with deadly force,” claims John Feinblatt, president of Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.
But gun-control activists have been gradually losing this battle over eliminating gun-free zones. More state capitols currently allow carrying guns than ever before. Plus, at least four additional states officially ban guns on state capitol grounds, but they don’t check legislators — and some carry.
Despite carrying being allowed for decades in many of these statehouses, no one has ever been injured or killed. There have been no reported problems with civilians being able to carry on statehouse grounds.
Since 1950, 94% of America’s mass public shootings have occurred in places where the general public is banned from possessing guns. Over the same period in Europe, every major mass shooting has happened in a gun-free zone.
Police are critical. Indeed, they are probably the single most important factor in reducing crime. But uniformed police have an extremely difficult job stopping terrorists, as they are often the first targets in any attack. The U.S. Capitol tries to solve this problem by maintaining a large police presence, but anyone who has walked the halls of Congress knows that the police aren’t everywhere.
Advocates of gun-free zones claim that permit holders will accidentally shoot bystanders or that arriving police will shoot permit holders.
But in recent years, concealed carry permit holders have stopped dozens of what otherwise would have been mass public shootings in malls, churches, schools, universities, and busy downtown areas. These cases virtually never get national news coverage. Not once have these permit holders ever shot a bystander. And police virtually always arrive well after the attack has ended, so there isn’t confusion about who the target ought to be.
Congress saw firsthand the dangers of gun-free zones. Take the 2017 case in Virginia, when Republican lawmakers came under fire during a baseball practice. A tall fence, with only one exit blocked by the attacker, trapped the lawmakers. The Republican legislators only survived the shooting at their baseball practice because then-Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was there with his security detail, to which he was entitled as a member of House leadership.
At least five of the congressmen had concealed handgun permits from their home states, but the fact that D.C. banned concealed handguns meant they were all defenseless. At least one aide also had a permit and believed that he could have stopped the attack if he was armed. But as Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who was present at the attack, explained: “My residence is in the District of Columbia, which means that it would have been illegal for me to take my weapon… to the ballpark… it would have also been illegal for me to come from Virginia back into D.C. with my weapon.”
The problem with gun-free zones, which ban law-abiding civilians from carrying, is that they don’t scare off criminals. Indeed, just the opposite is true. Disarming everyone, including legislators or staffers, on their way to and from capitol buildings leaves them easy, attractive targets for prospective criminals and terrorists. The murderers have an incentive to disobey the law precisely because the law-abiding obey it.John R. Lott, Jr., “Bill will allow guns in Montana’s Capitol,” Missoulian, January 27, 2021 and The Montana Standard, January 27, 2021.