Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lott:"Gun-Free Zones Magnets for Attacks"

JOHN LOTT: Gun-Free Zones Are a Magnet for Attacks Like the Tragedy In Binghamton -
Time after time multiple- victim public shootings occur in “gun free zones” — public places where citizens are not legally able to carry guns. The horrible attack today in Binghamton, New York is no different. Every multiple-victim public shooting that I have studied, where more than three people have been killed, has taken place where guns are banned.

You would think that it would be an important part of the news stories for a simple reason: Gun-free zones are a magnet for these attacks. Extensive discussions of these attacks can be found here and here. We want to keep people safe, but the problem is that it is the law-abiding good citizens, not the criminals, who obey these laws. We end up disarming the potential victims and not the criminals. Rather than making places safe for victims, we unintentionally make them safe for the criminal.

At some point, you would think the media would notice that something is going on here, that these murderers aren’t just picking their targets at random. And this pattern isn’t really too surprising. Most people understand that guns deter criminals.

If a killer were stalking your family, would you feel safer putting a sign out front announcing, “This home is a gun-free zone”? But that is what all these places did.

Even when attacks occur, having civilians with permitted concealed handguns limits the damage. A major factor in determining how many people are harmed by these killers is the amount of time that elapses between when the attack starts and someone is able to arrive on the scene with a gun.

For years I would tell news people about the fact that every single multiple victim public shooting in the US involving more than three people killed took place in one of these gun-free zones. The response was they might include this information as part of the story if I could get it to them fast enough so that it could be included as part of the news story. But when I started to do that I was told that it would be editorializing to include that information. My response has been that if news stories can contain long (often inaccurate) discussions of the type of gun used in the crime, why isn’t it also newsworthy to note one common characteristic that occurs in attack after attack?

When will this simple fact about gun-free zones become part of the news coverage itself? How different would the political debate about guns be if even once in a while a news story mentioned that there has been another multiple victim public shooting in a gun free zone?
John Lott is a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland and the author of Freedomnomics.

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