Why People Die in Gun Free Zones

I Think Alexander Went Too Easy on the schools in a story this week. First, let’s start with the story, from True’s 23 February 2014 issue:

Stuck on Zero Tolerance

Principal Theresa Nolan finds it “bothersome” to have the drawing of a gun displayed at Tinley Park (Ill.) High School. “You can’t look at this [sticker] and not think about Sandy Hook,” she said. But she can’t expel anyone for the black silhouette of a gun with a red line through it: it was designed by the Illinois State Police, and mandated by the state legislature to warn holders of concealed-carry permits that they can’t pack on school property, or anywhere else where a property owner displays it. Other school officials in the state have said the outline drawing is “frightening.” Nolan says she “would have appreciated something more subtle, yet still recognizable — a logo, perhaps, not a gun.” (AC/Tinley Park Southtown Star) …It’s subtle, but recognizable, that she’s more dangerous than that picture.

Here’s what that sticker looks like:

Sticker 'prohibiting' guns pursuant to Illinois law
Adults — adults that we think are smart and responsible enough to take care of our children during the better part of their waking hours — are trembling at the outline of a gun on a sticker like that. To paraphrase a meme, stickers don’t kill people, students enraged that school officials did nothing about bullying do.

But I want to take it wider: I actually avoid places that exercise their right to dictate “No Guns Allowed” — and here’s why, helpfully illustrated by one example of many images that have been “going around” online (seen, for instance, on Facebook):

Sign says neighbor has no guns
If you can’t read that clearly, the sign in someone’s front yard says, “My next door neighbor wants to BAN ALL GUNS! Their house is NOT ARMED!” And in smaller print it notes, “Out of respect for their opinions I promise NOT to use MY GUNS to protect THEM!” An arrow points to the next house.


It’s an amusing way to make a point — the sign is literally advertising to any criminals checking out the neighborhood that the safest place to rob is the one with no guns, and certainly not the house with the sign that notes they do have guns, and they’re willing to use them to protect themselves.

If that sign was pointing at your house, you should probably be terrified. Criminals are being invited to attack with impunity. (Yes, there are other ways to protect a home than just guns. Calling the police is the most common suggestion. The gun folks have a saying for that, too: “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” At my house, in the middle of the night I can expect a deputy to show up to an urgent call for help in a mere 30 minutes …if he’s not already busy elsewhere.)

While that sign is obviously a joke, the ones on businesses aren’t. When a restaurant, or movie theater, or other place puts signs on the doors saying “No Guns Allowed” I go elsewhere, for the exact same reason: it’s an invitation for robbers to come right in. Someone intent on committing a felony isn’t going to pay attention to the sign, they’ll just view it as the most opportune place to rob, because the only people who will obey that sign are …honest, law-abiding citizens.

It Makes Things Worse

For the same reason, having a sticker on the door of every school is a false sense of security. Someone going to a school to murder children is going to be turned away by a sticker? Riiiight. All that sticker means is no one will be able to fight back until the cops arrive. And you can be sure they will have guns.

The anti-gun folks say that most mass shootings (apart from schools) are workplace incidents, and the gunman is going there regardless — they’re certainly not choosing a place just because it’s gun-free. Certainly! So the sign on the door helped …how? Well, it certainly helped the gunman prolong the incident and take out more people because his victims weren’t allowed to have the means to fight back! The sticker sure didn’t stop him.

Not Just a Theory

Sometimes gunmen do specifically choose gun-free places to strike. The 2012 Colorado movie theater shooting is one clear example. There were seven theaters showing Batman within 20 minutes of the killer’s house, but he didn’t choose the closest one. Rather, he chose the only one of the seven that had a no guns rule. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

After that shooting, economist John Lott, who is ironically from Illinois (and has appeared in True previously), noted, “With just one single exception — the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011 — 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.” You know, like schools.

Simply put, gun-free zones don’t protect innocent people; they put them at higher risk.

Some will say it’s disgusting to think that good-ol’-boys with guns might think it’s up to them to protect others. Surely that will result in “wild west shootouts” where the people most likely to be shot are innocent bystanders.

Yet that simply doesn’t happen. In fact, studies show that the police are much more likely to shoot innocent bystanders than armed citizens are. Either way, if I’m in a place where a gunman is trying to kill as many innocent people as he can, I want an honest citizen next to me who has a permit (which means s/he has some training) and is in fact carrying their gun. It greatly increases the odds that I’ll get out of there alive.

So if you want to patronize gun-free restaurants, theaters, and other establishments, by all means, do so. I won’t be joining you.

– – –

Some Related Essays

- - -

This page is an example of Randy Cassingham’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. His This is True is an email newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition in an entertaining way. If that sounds good, click here to open a subscribe form.

To really support This is True, you’re invited to sign up for a subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:

One Year Upgrade

Why People Die in Gun Free Zones
(More upgrade options here.)

Q: Why would I want to pay more than the regular rate?

A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online: this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.

71 Comments on “Why People Die in Gun Free Zones

  1. Excellent commentary. But the anti-gun people as true of all “antis” are impervious to truth.

    Thanks, but I think there’s been some denial on the “pro” side too. -rc

  2. One common definition of mass murder, shooting spree, or whatever you want to call it, is four victims. Here’s an interesting analysis from a different angle: public shootings stopped by an outsider — not by suicide after killing his family, or after killing his boss and leaving, for instance. He purposely does not require 4 dead, and guess what? More public killers are stopped by ordinary people than police. The reason the standard definition of 4 dead shows more stopped by police is because it takes the police several minutes to get to the scene, whereas CCW holders are already on scene.

  3. I’ve been saying this for years. Keep preaching it — the more people see it the better. (Full disclosure: I’m a concealed carry instructor.)

    Teach them well. -rc

  4. Is your following quote in percentage or absolute numbers? “In fact, studies show that the police are much more likely to shoot innocent bystanders than armed citizens are.”

    Also, how many people are killed per year in mass homicides (3 or more shot at one time) and how many are killed by guns in single or double homicides? In the heat of an argument? And how many by accident? Your conclusion may be correct, but it sounds like you reached the conclusion first and then just looked at supporting facts. You usually do better.

    Percentage. I think I’ve linked to the stat elsewhere, but I was running late and needed to get it done so the Premium issue could go out. As for your second point, I can’t argue all the aspects of this very complex issue in every essay, or they would be too long to read. I’m only addressing one aspect, and you’re welcome to read other aspects at your leisure — which still won’t cover all the aspects of this issue. To help, after posting this I’ll add links to the end for some related essays. -rc

  5. I live on a ranch, where it is, IMO, irresponsible *not* to have and be proficient in the use of at least one firearm. Rabid coyotes, skunks, and raccoons are abundant here. In all fairness, however, it’s not much different than living in the city, which has its own breed of rabid predators. In fact, the ones out here on the edge of nowhere are more predictable than their urban counterparts.

  6. “Yes, there are other ways to protect a home than just guns.”

    And one great way is posting that sign even when you don’t have guns.

  7. My office, in Illinois, has a no guns sticker. …And armed security officers who are exempt from the prohibition. At some point, it is a question if liability. If there is a gun incident, and we get sued, whether accurate or not, the belief is that we are more likely to be held liable if we could have asked people not to bring guns and didn’t. Realistically, short of metal detectors as well, a sticker is not going to stop someone from bringing a gun in, but in light of a somewhat silly law that had to be passed in a hurry due to a court decision that said existing prohibitions on concealed carry were unconstitutional, putting up the stickers is seen by many as the “safest” response in our overly litigious society.

    I understand your point. However, it’s just as easy to be sued because you “prohibited law-abiding permit holders to carry in the building, and they could have saved my husband from that crazed killer!” In fact, as time goes by, I see that as more and more likely. -rc

  8. I can see where the presence of guns might dissuade home invasions, where people are in the home at the time, but I wonder if burglars might actually target homes *for* their guns if they know some are stored there. Theft is a major source of illegal guns, or so I’ve read.

    I’m glad guns aren’t as contentious a subject here, though we do have our moments.

    You raise a good point. I definitely don’t suggest people post such signs in their yards. It’s more of a thought-provoking meme. -rc

  9. You stated ” I want an honest citizen next to me who has a permit, which means s/he has some training, and is in fact carrying their gun.” Can you truthfully say that every state with a CCW law requires training before obtaining a permit? True’s pages are full of idiots with guns (as well as idiots teaching gun training classes), and I’d prefer to not have them near me either.

    Consider too that otherwise-law-abiding citizens ignore that sign and carry their weapons inside gun-free zones, so chances are you’ll not be in a truly weapon-free zone (again, at least one moviegoer wound up in True for this).
    I’d rather have trained carrying safety officers (police, reserve police, retired military volunteers, whatever) in schools than random parents with guns, thanks.

    On the other hand, full zero-tolerance of anything firearms-related (LEGOs, drawings, kids pointing poptarts) isn’t good either.

    And before you say anything, I am a gun owner.

    I indeed have not studied the laws of every U.S. state and territory, but every state that I’ve actually looked at did have a training requirement. TRUE is indeed full of idiot-with-a-gun stories — usually in the context of them being arrested because they’ve been acting illegally with them. It’s extremely rare that they are permit holders who have gone through training and background checks. -rc

  10. It continues to amaze me how parochially we think in the US about complex issues, without ever bothering to look outside and perhaps learn from other countries and cultures. Paranoia and fear of anything that *might* attack us leads us to contortions such as your argument. There are stupid criminals, as your publication plentifully attests, but when it comes to simple robbery, I seriously doubt that a robber pays attention to a gun sticker — they pay attention to the fact whether the property is occupied or not.

    For every gun defendant, there’s the rest of the world which bans the free-carrying of guns or their ownership, because of their tendency to create more problems than solve them. And your argument that people on the scene are taking matters into their own hands before the police arrives conveniently forgets one detail: were they armed? I’d stipulate that most of the time, the heroes who confront an attacker do it without reaching for their concealed gun.

    The frontier has closed in 1890, but we still live in this country the ethos of those 19th century pioneers. No, a gun is not a solution to crime and avoiding establishments that prohibit them, because they “might attract” a criminal is delusional. Show me statistics that crime is higher in places that prohibit guns and I’ll believe you. There are plenty of statistics showing crime MUCH lower than in the US in countries than ban gun ownership, like most of Europe.

    Unlike Europe, we have a Constitutional right to self-defense, including owning firearms. Our situation is our situation; the question is, given our reality (which again, is not Europe’s), what is the best solution? “If only we didn’t need guns” is a nice thought, but ignores our reality in favor of pie-in-the-sky wishes. I indeed hope someone is compiling the statistics you hope for, but I’m not sure you’d believe them. -rc

  11. It is a federal law. The Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)) is a federal United States law that states guns are not allowed in schools. The sign simply informs law-abiding citizens that they cannot carry (either concealed or open carry) weapons in those premises.

    My question is, do you ever visit schools? To give lectures on your activities? Or in performance of you ‘other’ job (Medic)? Or will you refuse to go there based on your refusal to enter other establishments that display the sign (whether or not required by law)?

    I am, in fact, uncomfortable at schools, and have worked to encourage events to be held elsewhere because of federal law. That said, if permit holders need to be “informed” that their permits are not valid at schools, they deserve to be arrested and lose their permits, because they’re idiots. Still, the point here is that schools are freaking out because of a sticker showing an outline of a gun with a red slash through it, because they’re so brainwashed as to be freaked out by that. That’s childish and stupid; they’re reacting to a cartoon rather than the actual threats around them. -rc

  12. Like Ron I live on a farm and a gun is a necessity in the middle of the night when a calf is taken down by the coyotes. If you grow up with guns you have a different attitude than people who think that pot is OK but guns are scary. No, wait, even pictures of guns are scary. What those people should do is buy a few subscriptions to the NRA. They will send you a zillion stickers to put on your windows and doors showing a gun pointed at the assailant and the words Member: NRA. You will be safe and secure as no moron is going to try you on for size with those stickers visible. No guns, just the illusion of guns, and they do so love their illusions.

  13. You’re right, for two reasons. One is because gun ownership is all but a fact of life in your country. The other is, because the former is true, there is no way you can get enough restrictions in place to make the criminal element in your society feel they can commit a crime without having a certain amount of firepower at hand. It’s a feedback loop of your own making, imo.

    As you know, over here (Belgium/Western Europe), private gun ownership is heavily restricted, in terms of what you can own as a member of a target range (where your weapon is stored there) and, even more restrictive, what you can keep at your own home. Yet the impact of this “lack of defence” in American terms is negligible on our crime statistics, because, at the end of the day, criminals are people too. They don’t enjoy taking another human’s life either.

    I guess you have a better class of criminal! But seriously, your analysis is correct: you recognize that our realities are different, and the question is, what’s best when considered in light of the reality? You apply thought, rather than hysterics. Kudos. -rc

  14. No unreasoned, emotional, political or hysterical ravings, just well reasoned arguments. That’s what I really appreciate about your views.

    BTW, much more violence (the real issue) is perpetrated by knives, bats, and fists than by firearms, but where is the clamor to ban them?

    In Britain! Seriously, after banning guns, “knife crime” went on a huge upswing there, and now they want to ban other weapons, too. I wrote an essay talking about how the real problem isn’t the weapon(s) involved, but rather “the real issue” (as you state) is violence, which really isn’t being addressed. -rc

  15. I guess visiting Canada is out of the question. If a dutchbag neighbor (making it as PG I can) pointed that at my house and something does happen from an unwanted visitor(s), he can be rest assured he’d be the first I’d hit with a lawsuit. My thanks for directing the malicious types to pay me a visit.

  16. The lunacy of the “no guns allowed” signs is that if a person is carrying a CONCEALED weapon, how are you going to know that they are breaking law of bringing a weapon on site if it is concealed! If they show it, they certainly don’t care one bit about the sign, do they?

  17. Kudos for a great blog. Yes, I have a concealed carry permit, and my husband is a certified instructor (his “spare time” occupation). When we lived in a town of 11,000 two of our most high-profile citizens were murdered in their home. They had been very vocal about their anti-gun stance, and the perp had overheard them.

    America is not Europe. Western Europeans have only recently had to deal with the extreme ethnic diversity that we have since the Spanish “converses” arrived in the southwest. We also have wide open spaces in the southwest with mountain lions, aggressive javelinas, rabid animals, and other dangers.

    I grew up in a rural area, where literally everyone was armed, and we had no violent crime. As one of the other comments said, there is a lot of violence done by other means, and it’s amazing how inventive a criminal can be: bats, cast iron frying pans, knitting needles, golf clubs, and in one case in northern Arizona, a large, heavy condiment bottle!

  18. Randy, as usual, your observations are spot on.

    Certainly, this is an issue too complex to be solved by a social media meme. However, the truism remains. Since the early 80s, I’ve been some flavor of law enforcement, from US Army military police, to small town police officer, to correctional officer, to deputy sheriff. Over the past 3ish decades, I’ve met all manner of cops. Cops, as a general rule, are a pragmatic people, seeing things as they are, not as they should be. With very few exceptions (mostly cops turned politicians), LEOs believe that a citizen who lawfully owns and carries a firearm is an asset to whichever community they are in.

    Let me restate that in other words: most cops support citizens who lawfully own and carry firearms. And that is indeed true. Those who are doubtful should think about why cops would have that stance! -rc

  19. I’m from Australia and it always does my head in to read, not the arguments per se, but rather the fear argued in each side. The pro-gun side say “It invites criminals in, INVITING the crime!”. The gun-control side say “Do you want more children to die? More school massacres?!”

    We reduced/destroyed our gun culture in the 1990’s (John Howard buy-back scheme) and you can argue over the stats over whether crime has gone up or down (and whether this caused it), but regardless, there has been no crime-driven Armageddon-like carnage here. And we live happily without them. No one I know wants one. I’m not exaggerating.

    I think it has to do with Australia having no gun-producing industry. The USA gun industry sells to criminals AND the public (i.e. creating the demand) and want it to stay that way…. too much money being made.

    I don’t think any gun manufacturer wants criminals using their wares. If nothing else, it’s bad publicity. Just ask Bushmaster after Newtown. -rc

  20. If you google “deadliest school massacre”, you find the Bath School in 1927 (obviously, Google is focused on the U.S., as I saw no mention of Beslan in the first few results). While the perpetrator used a gun to set off a later explosion, the deaths were caused by explosives, not guns.

    You don’t have to Google it: it’s discussed on my Thinking About Newtown page. -rc

  21. I’d like to see a study comparing guns to cell phones, as I suspect a much higher percentage of cell phones are used to perpetuate violence as guns, *especially* among those under 21. Just because a social media post Isn’t physical, the resulting bullying, mob beating or suicide is no less real. Or deadly. Not to mention the mundane cheating and classroom disruption phones allow. But just try to ban cell phones from school….

  22. Someone asked how many people die in shooting accidents.

    Using the CDC’s WISQARS fatal injury data for 2010, looking only at unintentional firearm deaths, there were 606 deaths out of a population of 308,745,538.

    The highest rates were in the 15-19 and 20-24 yo age groups, having 72 & 73 respectively.

    That question was in the context of vs. how many crimes stopped by guns. That number is 800,000-2,500,000 crimes are stopped each year (depending on which study you consult) by honest citizens with guns, and in the vast majority of cases, not a shot is fired. -rc

  23. “The Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)) is a federal United States law that states guns are not allowed in schools.”

    Read a bit further and you’ll see the exceptions to that law, which include having permission from a school official, having a state-issued ccl, participating in a school-approved program (such as a hunter’s safety class or a rifle team), or having it unloaded & encased. There are a couple others, but those are the ones that would most often apply to normal citizens.

  24. “There are plenty of statistics showing crime MUCH lower than in the US in countries than ban gun ownership, like most of Europe.”

    Except that they don’t.

    “Countries with the strictest gun-control laws also tended to have the highest homicide rates.” –Violence, Guns and Drugs: A Cross-Country Analysis, Jeffery A. Miron, Department of Economics, Boston University, University of Chicago Press Journal of Law & Economics, October 2001.

    “According to the U.N., as of 2005, Scotland was the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America.” –Scotland tops list of world’s most violent countries, The Times, September 19, 2005

    “In 2003, Canada had a violent crime rate more than double that of the U.S. (963 vs. 475 per 100,000).” –Juristat: Crime Statistics in Canada, 2004 and FBI Uniform Crime Statistics online.

    “Many of the countries with the strictest gun control have the highest rates of violent crime. Australia and England, which have virtually banned gun ownership, have the highest rates of robbery, sexual assault, and assault with force of the top 17 industrialized countries.” –Criminal Victimization in Seventeen Industrialized Countries, Dutch Ministry of Justice, 2001.

    “firearm use in crimes in the UK has doubled in the decade since handguns were banned.” –Weapons sell for just £50 as suspects and victims grow ever younger, The Times, August 24, 2007.

    “In 2008, Britain had a violent crime rate nearly five times higher than the United States (2034 vs. 446 per 100,000 population).” –The most violent country in Europe: Britain is also worse than South Africa and U.S., Daily Mail, July 3, 2009, citing a joint report of the European Commission and United Nations.

    “From the inception of firearm confiscation to March 27, 2000, the crime numbers in Australia are:
    + Firearm-related murders were up 19%
    + Armed robberies were up 69%
    + Home invasions were up 21%

    The sad part is that in the 15 years before the national gun confiscation:

    + Firearm-related homicides dropped nearly 66%
    + Firearm-related deaths fell 50%”
    –Crime and Justice – Crimes Recorded by Police, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2000.

    and Report #46: Homicide in Australia, 2001-2002, Australian Institute of Criminology, April 2003.

  25. Regarding the comment about bad publicity for Bushmaster after the Newtown shooting; I recall reading several articles about how the same gun used in the massacre was selling in droves following the shooting.

    Not because people approved of, or appreciated the weapon any more, but they were afraid it would be banned and they wanted to get one while it was still available.

    Bad for publicity, good for sales. A cruel twist of irony. I believe the same phenomenon happened with high capacity handgun magazines after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.

  26. While I agree that local gun bans aren’t worthwhile, I also wonder to what extent this truly has on public safety either way?

    A crazy guy gunning down people in a theater is a tragedy, but thankfully it’s uncommon. I’d wager that whether you’re likely to get injured or killed in any given location has much larger factors than local gun rules. There’s more to staying alive than not getting shot.

    Absolutely. Noticing “gun-free zones” is just part of my assessing risk on an ongoing basis. I think that’s a good part of why I’ve never been robbed, assaulted, burned in a bad fire, been in a serious car crash, etc. — while I read daily about people blindly wandering into bad situations and getting injured or killed. I look into a store before walking in, for instance, and if there’s a band of masked guys holding shotguns and everyone has their hands up, I know not to walk in. It might be my early law enforcement training, or just that I’m more aware of my surroundings than the average person, but it has kept me out of trouble. -rc

  27. I don’t own a gun, and have never used one. I live in Chicago… I have no idea how a gun would help me in my life, and several thoughts as to how it could end up with me in serious trouble. I was raised in a household that was immensely in favor of gun control.

    I find myself on both sides of this issue — I think people ARE entitled to own guns. It can’t actually be that much more dangerous, once accidents are accounted for, than the many people in this country who are behind the wheel of a car and shouldn’t be. Besides, not only is it pointless to blame the weapon, but virtually anything can be a weapon in the right hands. The only thing that makes guns unique is that they are effective with minimal knowledge and training; it takes some intelligence and creativity to be dangerous with a lighter, for instance. It’s no less a weapon.

    But I am in favor of gun CONTROL. Strong licensing, required training, maintenance (possibly even enforced in some way), proper storage — you name it. It just happens that I suspect most people agree with me that these are common-sense laws, or at least not too far off. (I’m happy to debate any particular issue… I’m not wedded to my current, relatively uneducated thoughts.)

    It’s such a shame that everything ends up so absurdly polarized; “You’re WITH us or AGAINST us”, in everything. I worry that the disappearance of the middle ground in public discourse sets us back on many issues, this one among them.

  28. To those invoking Europe, I’d like them to take a look at Switzerland.

    It’s not about guns, it’s about people. I wish I’ll live to see the shift to curing the base problem instead of symptoms, but I am not too optimistic, despite being quite young with decades still (probably.)

  29. Interesting logic. I just wonder how do people survive in countries where guns are not normally carried by bystanders? And even be happy, if I can believe all kind of rankings (UN, Oxfam, etc)

    And though I can fully imagine that in a house in bear-country you want/need to have a gun around, I do have a feeling that this is a self perpetuating situation: because everybody is allowed weapons, everybody else needs to be armed to protect against madmen/angry persons/criminals. How do you end such an arms race?

    You’re being disingenuous. How do people survive when no one has guns? By being aware! They don’t walk into burning theaters, because they notice the smoke. Yet they’re still sometimes robbed by thugs with knives, or who are simply bigger than they are.

    And you understand that bears are dangerous, but then dismiss that because we wouldn’t need guns around bears except that bears have guns, and therefore it’s an arms race?

    Though maybe there’s a language barrier here! Again, the point is the situation we’re in, with “the right to bear arms” being just that: a right. Are there some problems and responsibilities that come with that right? You bet. Is there a minority abusing that right? Absolutely. So the question becomes what to do about it within that context. As we’ve seen again and again, taking away the right doesn’t solve the problems, it makes them worse. So we must ask the right questions if we’re to make progress toward a solution to those problems. -rc

  30. A lot of this comes down to cultural norms. The entire UK is a gun-free zone. By the logic of the argument here, it should be awash with criminals robbing and looting without concern or hindrance. But it isn’t. And although we’ve had, unfortunately, our share of the crazies unleashing at innocents, it is a rarer occurrence here for sure.

    That said, if your societal norms are such that self protection means guns, it’s not as simple as saying you can switch overnight to the societal norms that would find that aberrant. As someone brought up in a society where guns are not the norm, I look at the US and scratch my head at the bizarre ideology around guns, because it does come across as more ideological than pragmatic whenever the issue is debated.

    Indeed, that sign pointing to a neighbour’s house is a reflection of this. So someone has a political opinion you disagree with, so you’re going to publicly attack them like that? What kind of neighbour is that, whose actions you’re celebrating here?

    The problem is America is so polarised these days on so many issues — deep bitter division — it’s hard to see how pragmatic politics that looks for evidence of the best policy solutions to change things for the better could come to hold sway again. In spite of that, lots of people aspire to live in the ‘land of the free’. Much though I love and respect the friends I have in the US, I’m certainly not one of them.

    Yes, violent crime is rarer in the U.K., but only because you have a much smaller population. Your violent crime rate, however, is higher than in the U.S., as has been repeated in these pages again and again, including on this page.

    And again, the sign is a meme, not something you actually see in front of houses every day. It’s there to get its picture taken to make a point, and I made note of that point, not “celebrated” it. I’ve never seen such a thing in real life. But yes, the polarization has grown to absurd levels, and I look forward to the swing back toward pragmatism. -rc

  31. If a police officer opens fire in an attempt to stop a crime and hits a bystander by mistake, the criminal he is shooting at is charged with an additional crime on the theory that the bystander would not have been shot if the officer hadn’t been forced by the criminal to open fire. The officer is not considered at fault for missing or misidentifying his target.

    Police are additionally shielded from civil liability for actions in the line of duty. A bystander (or his/her family) will face an uphill battle if they try to sue anyone involved in the shooting of that bystander other than the criminal the officer was shooting at.

    If an armed citizen who is not a police officer shoots a bystander in those exact circumstances, that armed citizen is almost certainly going to prison on manslaughter charges, and possibly even second degree murder charges. It’s not impossible for the DA to file first degree murder charges, though a conviction is unlikely. Whether or not the citizen is convicted or not, he has full liability if the bystander or bystander’s family sues.

    Aside from the rare idiot, most carry permit holders are fully aware of these facts. They don’t shoot unless they are sure of their shot, they hold fire (even to the point that it gives their attacker a huge advantage) if the background isn’t clear or they lack a clear shot, and they don’t spray bullets — they make careful, measured shots.

    As a result, you’re currently something on the order of 8-9 times more likely to be shot by accident or in error by a police officer than an armed private citizen. But for some reason, all the anti-gun nuts want to disarm non-police and exempt police from having to obey the gun control law du jour.

    I believe you’re mistaken that the police officer is completely exonerated, and the police department can’t be successfully sued. But your larger point is correct: as noted on another page in this blog, “Newsweek magazine found that the error rate in shootings by police is 11% — they shot the wrong (innocent) person 11% of the time, which is shockingly high. When civilians shoot someone in an attempt to stop crime (which is rare: they usually don’t have to actually shoot at all), they get the wrong person 2% of the time.” -rc

  32. Although a European, I’m comfortable round guns having had training and experience and I fully appreciate their uses in farming and hunting. With that, into the fire….

    On one side, I agree with RC’s statements that a gun for self-protection is a valuable asset and that there are legitimate scientific studies that support this view. I can’t find the references to hand but I’m fairly surely RC has covered them previously too.

    However, I struggle to see how this situation doesn’t simply end up in an arms race over time. If a criminal expects to meet armed resistance, he’ll bring the most powerful weapon he can. It escalates from handguns to semis to armour-piercing rounds. Personal nukes? I jest but you can see how the argument goes.

    Most robberies here in the UK are not armed robberies, i.e. guns are not used because criminals don’t need them — knives / hammers / baseball bats work just fine — and the penalties if you are caught with a gun during a crime are much stiffer. Gun crime hasn’t escalated because there’s no expectation of meeting an armed response from either the people or the police (though there are armed response units that can be deployed if needed).

    I know that the situation is complex, but I do think that there is something to be learning. I don’t have a solution to the American “gun problem” — I think the US’s problems run much deeper and “the gun” is a symptom rather than the a cause. I wish you every success in working towards a resolution (and I’m looking forward to refreshing my skills the next time I’m over!)

    Or, as I’ve argued before, it’s not that we (Americans and Brits) have a gun problem, we have a violence problem. Take away guns (as you have), and criminals turn to knives. Take away knives, and they turn to bats, or bricks, or broken bottles, just as you say. All the taking away has not addressed the actual problem, but it has deprived the innocents of their self defense, and thus favors the criminal. The U.S., then, says, “That doesn’t work for us. So what else have you got?” -rc

  33. When I hear of a shooting at a school by a student I wonder what is wrong with the parents and adults working in that school. When I was in school during the 50’s and 60’s we never thought about weapons. We had other means. We had our parents and teachers. If you were picked on they would get the attention of the one/s doing it. Today the teachers and other adults don’t intervene. A few parents didn’t correct their kids so I was picked on until I got in High School because I didn’t fight back very hard. Most of the time it wasn’t on school property or during school time. What changed was me when I started the 9th grade. There were more people from other areas of the county with parents that wouldn’t do anything to them. I decided to start fighting back and did so with a vengeance. If someone hit me I put them on the ground hard. Since it was self defense I never got in any trouble. By the end of the second six weeks no one picked on me because they knew that I would give them more than they gave me. The bullies didn’t like it when we fought and I refused to back down and used any way possible to get them down. During hunting season some of us that walked to school took guns to school so we could hunt on our way home after school. No one was shocked or afraid of it. We carried the guns in the open and they stayed in our lockers until school ended for the day. Some of my current neighbors have had their homes burglarized but mine has been left alone. One was hit 2 times between 9am and 1pm when the husband and wife were working and both times guns were the main things taken. The idiots were caught both times. I live a half mile from the main road in the middle of the woods and have only had one would-be thief show up. He was terrified off my property when I unloaded in his direction and has never been back. I know a lot of the people that will steal and they are all afraid of me. I made it clear to them that if I get hit I will use the cops to find them years before I moved here. Then they will disappear one night or find themselves unable to use a leg or arm with no evidence pointing at me. They are more afraid of what I will do to them than they are of the law and jail or prison. They don’t want to die or get crippled so they leave me alone.

    You state more thoroughly the idea I started with: “stickers don’t kill people, students enraged that school officials did nothing about bullying do.” That has been a big factor in school shootings, yet not much has changed. -rc

  34. My concern about the person next to me owning a gun is much like my concern about them owning a dangerous animal, running a manufacturing operation, etc.– how can I be reasonably assured that their ‘right’ to do this will not impinge on my rights?

    If you have the knowledge and skills, liability coverage and other protocols, needed to do whatever it is in a way that is safe and follows the best practices for that activity, then by all means, carry that gun, keep that venomous snake, make your own fireworks, or whatever else you want.

    The thing is that there are still too many idiots out there with proper paperwork for my peace of mind.

    I’ve gotta ask though… if you avoid ‘no guns’ places, would you go to a place that had a posted ‘guns required’ policy?

    Nebraska? Odds are, the guy next to you does have guns. Without more info, I would probably avoid a “guns required” place because it’s so weird, it would probably attract weirdos, and hence increase risk. -rc

  35. I think John Lott is wrong. The Giffords was not an exception. Since she was/is a Anti-Gun Democrat and her followers would be the same way, it was a de facto gun ban, if not a de jure. If that had been a pro gun politician there, there probably would have been someone armed in the audience.

    My recollection is there was someone armed in the audience, but he judged that it wasn’t safe to shoot back, and therefore didn’t. The gunman was jumped when he paused to reload. -rc

  36. I always think of two situations when this subject comes up: First is the Luby’s Massacre in Killeen, TX in 1991, where Suzanna Hupp watched both her parents get killed by the gunman and was powerless to stop it because she had obeyed the law and left her weapon in her car.

    The second is the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, there has never been a mass shooting (and, probably, never even an attempted robbery) at a gun show. In fact, I don’t recall even hearing about an attempted robbery of a gun store…and I read “True” where such an obliviot would be prime fodder!

    Hupp’s testimony about the Luby’s incident is fascinating, and sobering, to watch. But yes, I’ve seen reports of attempted gun store robberies (and I’d think one or two made it into TRUE) — they tend to end very badly for the robber! -rc

  37. @Krysta, Milwaukee: Nice cherry picking of the data, but you are wrong:

    Historically, the violent crime rate in Canada is far lower than that of the U.S. and this continues to be the case. For example, in 2000 the United States’ rate for robberies was 65 percent higher, its rate for aggravated assault was more than double, and its murder rate was triple that of Canada. However, the rate of some property crime types is lower in the U.S. than in Canada. For example, in 2006, the rates of vehicle theft were 22% higher in Canada than in the US.

    Canada has a much lower violent crime rate than the US, the only number that may be different is the sexual assault rate, as Canada and the US use different criteria.

    I have said this before, I live in a city of 250,000 people, do you know how many were murdered last year? 4….

    The US has a culture of fear, Randy won’t go to a location that does not allow CCW, I never ever worry about it. I just don’t understand why he is afraid of his fellow man.

    Read what I actually said, rather than putting words into my mouth, OK? It’s rather obvious when you misquote me on the very page I published my essay. -rc

  38. Many years ago, a female relative of mine carried her gun in her bra. It did not show as she was very well-endowed. She was licensed for concealed carry. She made a quilted, floral print holster that was just lovely. It was around the time of a mass shooting in a McDonald’s. When discussing that shooting, she stated that if she had been in that McDonald’s at that moment, there would have been many fewer casualties. She did not want to kill the shooter, just wound him and stop the slaughter. I agreed with her. The gun did not kill those victims. The person killed the victims.

    The point of defense with a weapon is not to kill, it’s to stop the perpetrator. To “shoot to wound” with a deadly weapon is a bit of a misnomer, though, as it’s not proper to use a deadly weapon unless deadly force is justified. Still, the point isn’t to kill, it’s to stop the killer. The difference is subtle, but important. -rc

  39. Most criminals do not think of the punishment or consequences of their actions. They just want the money/retribution/goods. If they are caught, then they worry about what may happen to them. I don’t think a criminal says “how many years in jail will I get?” They just do the crime. They just want the money, revenge or “stuff” now. It does not matter if they have a gun, bat, brick or knife.

    But I do feel those who have guns should receive instruction in not only how to use it but also how to keep it safe. We lock our house and car, why not our guns?

    And keeping guns out of the hands of insane people, we do need background checks. If this means a delay in getting a gun, so be it. Do you need that gun today? And registration of guns; we register cars, pets and marriages; why not guns? Don’t give me the “government will know who has guns” argument, they have tanks, drones and nukes.

  40. To anyone who thinks of an “arms race” in the case of guns:

    Here’s the thing: an arms race occurs between two countries (or other groups) who need better armaments and the like to one-up the other.

    The problem is, almost all criminal acts are individual decisions. The “criminal element” as a whole doesn’t choose to go rob someone’s home, one or two do. A pistol will kill a criminal just as dead as a rifle, or “assault weapon”, or anything else. The criminal (and the homeowner) do not need to one-up each other — if both have guns, they have roughly the same chance of killing each other. Period.

    Further, you have to remember that the criminal is the initiator of the confrontation. A law-abiding citizen is not about to walk into a criminal’s home and rob him at gunpoint. Thus, the criminal has the choice *not* to commit the act (except in rare cases).

    The practical upshot of this is that a criminal can see a target and then choose whether to attack or not. If the defender has a gun, the criminal is going to either risk dying no matter what he brings to the crime scene, or he’s going to choose to back off. In the majority of cases, he’s going to choose to back off, simply because even criminals like being alive.

  41. The conversation seems to have gone off in pursuit of the overall gun debate. I want to say something about gun-free zones (at least some of them) that doesn’t seem to be considered in any of the debates I have seen.

    In an urban setting, there are many places (schools, clubs, events) that will expect to have potentially armed gang members or people that are not directly a member, but are dealing with gangs in their daily life. Guns in these situations are a game changer. How can you expect a school to conduct it’s regular activities with the threat of armed violence. It is not realistic in those situations to expect the venue to try to sort out permitted guns from non. That is the tough thing about policy-making. You need to come to a rule that is applied equally within the jurisdiction of the policy maker. For schools, that is the entire district. In those situations, I think a no-gun policy is good judgement, and has been cited as effective in helping the situation. Ultimately, I question the stats on higher violence rates in gun free areas. I think such an analysis would suffer from the exact same difficulties as the numbers that show a higher rate of violence in houses that have guns, as well as most of the studies that try to tie some aspect of gun violence to a specific law. There are simply too many variables to draw reliable conclusions.

    Also, I am not at all sold on gun bans, but am interested in statistics. I recently tried to find numbers on violence that is conducted in the US with fully automatic weapons. I came up pretty dry. My general impression is that they are not a real factor there. If that is correct, that would imply that gun bans can work. I wish we had better numbers. Perhaps if the CDC were not legally prevented from compiling them.

    So, you think criminal gangs, who carry guns illegally, will turn back because the establishment they want to enter has a “no guns” sticker on the door? Really? And sure, schools’ “no guns” policies are “cited as effective” since, as we have seen, there have been no school shootings since the federal gun-free-zone laws went into effect. Seriously: have you read your own argument? -rc

  42. Regarding the figures that police are more likely than lawfully armed citizens to shoot the wrong person, I wonder if there’s a breakdown of the circumstances of the police shootings. The general public, I assume, will only be stopping crimes when they are in progress. Police may be searching for a suspect at large, they may be raiding a premises based on intelligence, or doing any other operation with a greater risk of targeting an innocent person.

    House raids in particular strike me as asking for disaster. Anyone can get some reasonably-convincing dress, and barge down a door yelling “POLICE”. What’s a resident supposed to do? Roll over and get robbed or worse when it’s criminals, or stand and fight and get shot when it’s really the police?

    There is definitely some apples vs oranges differences here. Civilians in gun classes are taught to avoid bad situations and, if they cannot, to escape the situation. Cops don’t have that privilege: it’s their duty to confront the situation, and that can get hairy. And indeed, cops are busting down doors going after what they hope are criminals, but sometimes are honest homeowners who grab guns to repel the unknown intruders. Messy, to be sure, so I don’t completely blame cops for their far-worse statistic. The point is, anti-gunners “assume” that civilians will be much, much worse at it, but the statistics from the real world proves they’re not. -rc

  43. Aren’t you engaging in a bit of a tunnel vision, Randy? You ask for suggestions, but despite quite a few listed in the comments, you keep going back to the “it’s the US, what can we do?” defense. That’s a bit disingenuous. We are a civil society and we organize ourselves like one. Despite your EMT training, which I fully understand why it comes in handy where you live, most people do not feel the need to be trained as ones. Nor are do we train ourselves as police, plumbers, contractors, accountants, physicians, farmers, or any other profession whose services we might need. Some of those services are provided to us by government services for which we pay as taxes and some we pay out of our own pockets. We rely on others to do their job. And it’s the same with crime: the answer to crime is not guns, it’s the intersection of good laws and good enforcement. I’m really surprised that as an ex-policeman you are rejecting this as a starting point of the discussion.

    I do not want to re-open the debate on the 2nd amendment, but I would like to point out that there are a few other rights spelled out in the Constitution, yet we have nowhere near the level of fanatical debate about restrictions on those rights. And yes, one of the answers to more crime in the US is more restrictions, like the rest of the world is showing us.

    Please do not hide behind the Constitution. I’m not advocating banning of arms, but there’s a reasonable debate to be had about making it harder for the average person to obtain and keep them. The example of Australia is extremely apropos to the US, where there’s the same free-wheeling mix of urban and pioneer spirit, vast expanses of land and shady past of some its early settlers. I live in New York City, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and no federal prosecutor has sued those restrictions as being unconstitutional. Doesn’t that say something about a potential solution?

    Lastly, I’m really surprised at the line of your argument that if guns are banned, criminals switch to knives & bats and crimes committed with them skyrocket. What tools are used is irrelevant to someone who is hell-bent on committing a murder, but it’s unequivocally a very different situation to find a robber holding a bat than a gun. Crime is a crime, regardless of the tool, but the answer to a knife is not necessarily a gun, but an effective police response.
    You live in an area that has been romanticized in media and movies, but which has NO relevance to the 98% of the non-farm engaged US population. I’d bet that there are more people living at the 4 residential buildings on the nearest intersection to my place in Manhattan than reside in your entire county. The issues and problems faced by rural America are NOT representative of the country at large. The future of the guns in this country will be decided by the urban voters, not you, and they are already turning overwhelmingly against the “all gun restrictions are unconstitutional” attitude of the NRA.

    I’m on the road, and completely fried, so I may be missing something. Or maybe you are: what “suggestions” did I ask for? -rc

  44. It is this ridiculous fear of guns that has led to a modern culture without common knowledge of how to handle a firearm and protect themselves. Where I grew up, we were all taught from an early age to respect guns, and to handle them properly. But if a parent’s response to questions about guns is, “Oh, ick, horrible things, stay away,” do you really think that will work? Because the one thing almost all kids have in common is to experience things forbidden by their parents. If, however, that curiosity is guided in a safe environment, then it becomes much safer, and by learning to handle guns properly, the chances of accidents go down significantly.

    I mean seriously, who wants to be educated, or have their children educated, by someone who becomes so upset over a picture,for crying out loud.

  45. I am Australian, and had to give up my single-shot air-rifle in the Great Disarmament … or register it, pay licences and spend money on secure storage, etc. It didn’t seem worth the trouble.

    Thank God our benevolent government saved me the anguish of ever considering the murder of a lot of people to “fix” something in my life. I could have been a high-risk individual, as I was bullied unmercifully for some of my views.

    I note that “glassing” (slashing with broken glass), king-hitting (striking without warning, usually from behind), and kicking a helpless, sometimes unconscious victim are now almost commonplace. All of these acts were considered cowardly and “un-Australian”, even by the most unruly types, when I was younger.

    They’re still cowardly, even if they are becoming common. -rc

  46. Two things from the conversation:

    Sadly, in Washington state, training is not required to get a Concealed Carry License.

    Here is a classic self defense story from yesterday.

    Very surprising. (The first part, not the second.) -rc

  47. I’ve never even noticed “No Guns Allowed” stickers or signs before. Am I just not looking for them, or are they more prevalent in some parts of the country than others?

    They vary. They’re extremely rare in Colorado, but I’ve seen them in other states. I would think you’d see them in Mass., but maybe not if there are few concealed weapons permits there. -rc

  48. I live in Illinois, where we have just enacted a concealed-carry law. Now the church of which I am currently president needs to decide whether we want to post a no-guns-allowed sign or not. I would like to think of the church as a no-weapon zone — it’s church, after all! — but then if we post a sign saying that we are a weapon-free zone, are we making things more dangerous for ourselves?

    The interesting thing to me is that before Illinois allowed concealed carry this was not an issue; now that we do I feel less safe in my church, whether or not we post a sign. I live in a small suburban town with a low crime rate, and gun violence has so far been rare. It will be interesting to see how things develop over the next several years.

    Be absolutely sure you read the brief “Guns in Church” sidebar noted in the “Related Essays” at the end. -rc

  49. Just this week, a mall in Midland TX posted “No Gun” signs at some of its entrances.

    This is a real issue for this area enjoying a boomtown economy that has brought lots of money, people and crime. One of the highest crime rates in the country. And local law enforcement simply can’t keep up any more than the housing supply. It becomes a very real concern for a cc license holder who is trained (required in Texas) to consider leaving his/her gun in their vehicle to traverse large parking lots unprotected. Such attacks occurred during the holidays, even before the signs were posted.

    No, this isn’t New York. Nor is it appropriate for someone in New York to legislate self-defense here and vice versa. I spent many years in a major metropolitan city (Seattle) and never felt the need to carry or even own a handgun, although I grew up with handguns, rifles and shotguns. Here, I am working on my cc license, having a job that requires carrying large amounts of cash and a police response time of at least 15 min — if I’m lucky. Our neighborhood is known for being armed and being watched, so we are rarely bothered by the local criminal element. But there are so many newcomers from both sides of the border that the threat is real.

    I’m a big proponent of education. I firmly believe: Know and understand the tool; train and regulate the user. And I’m baffled that some one would find a gun in a No Guns sign threatening. That a supposed educator is the one in hysterics is even more disturbing. What would she do if faced with the real thing? Not someone I could trust with the safety of my child.

  50. I wanted to clear up a few stats posted above. I see for example that someone showed stats from 2004 that makes it look like Canada has a higher violent crime rate per capita than the US. I have looked at stats going back the last 7 years and see this is not in any way true. For example in 2011 the crime rated per capita in Canada was about half that of the US. Look at strictly homicide rates and in 2012 Canada had one third the rate (per capita) that the US had. Where I live there were a total of 42 homicides last year and that included gang violence, etc in a population of over 2,000,000.

    We have gun control here and it works well for us. That being said because of the prevalence of guns in the US our laws would not work in the US.

    I have nothing against guns having had military training and being a marksman in many different types of weapons. That being said I still do not see the need to have things like automatic weapons, machine guns etc out in the general public. I would be in favor of some type of control in the US (first and foremost anyone needing to have shown a proficiency of some sort before being allowed to purchase a gun), banning of assault type weapons etc. I really do not think when the 2nd amendment was written that they would not have had some type of exclusion in it if they could have foreseen the types of weapons that are available today.

    Just my opinion.

  51. I’ve always found the notion that someone will not go to a place that does not permit firearms odd, and a bit paranoid. Maybe I grew up in a different world or something, but never once have I felt that I wanted to have a firearm on me, or was happy to know that others were carrying around me. It is simply something that I do not think about, pretty much ever. And I grew up and live in some of the higher-crime areas of the US, and I currently live next door to a very low income apartment complex which has provided some criminal elements. Still, it was just never an issue for me.

    And I’m happy that way. I’m glad that this sort of paranoia doesn’t follow me everywhere I go, impacting every decision I make, and directing where I go. In fact, the only time the thought of firearms enters my head is when I read about them on forums, or in situations like this. People who are all about the guns shout “Freedom!”, but it seems almost like they are a slave to this thing. It really seems that I’m more free by not being shackled into a world that I choose to avoid.

    Before you think I’m anti-gun, however, note that, that is not true. While I haven’t ever owned one, and have no intention of ever owning one, I don’t begrudge others for owning them, to a point (the people who stockpile arsenals of weapons and closets of ammunition for “self-protection” get a side-eye). It’s more the sinister attitude that many have about it. However, I don’t believe in this free-for-all, gun-for-anyone world that many pro-gun enthusiasts describe. To even own a gun should require classes on the safe handling, use, and storage of the firearm. To carry a gun in public should require repeated intense training and testing.

    After that, then by all means. But I have no intention of ever supporting just anyone who wants to, to be able to carry in public. And anyone who reads this publication I would hope would think the same.

    Your starting argument is obliviotic: if you have a fire extinguisher, you’re paranoid — but if you don’t, you’re stupidly endangering your family, right? Being aware and considering danger is not paranoid, it is understanding the reality of life. Just as I would really pause and think about going into a nightclub that uses pyrotechnics …yet chains the exit doors closed “so that people don’t sneak in,” I’m aware of other dangers too. If you’re saying you never consider dangers before going in to a place, I feel pretty sorry for your children.

    Now, all that said, as you suggest it’s also smart, safety-wise, to insist that people who carry guns do so responsibly (responsibility being the flip-side of the coin to “right”), which includes training. Other rights have responsibilities on the other side, such as free speech, which requires that you don’t slander or falsely yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. -rc

  52. I am slightly worried about your assertion that Violent crime is much higher in England. The statistics don’t show “much higher”, they show “different ways of counting”. The murder rate in the US is over three times higher than England & Wales. Personally I’d rather be assaulted or robbed than killed but it is not clear from the real numbers (not idiotic headlines in certain over the top publications on both sides of the pond) where that would be the case. Please can we stop headline grabbing about statistics to make an argument. As far as I can see the UK has never been a gun carrying society, the USA has always been one. Both societies have to live with the consequences of that, and you can’t compare them meaningfully in EITHER direction! (Source)

    “The UK has never been a gun carrying society”?!!? Seriously: you flunked history, didn’t you? Anyway, the US/UK violent crime stats have already been …well… beaten to death in this forum, and the UK lost (just one example. For another, copying a comment from another page on this blog: “After a quick search, I easily found a brief 2008 report from the New York Sun, which notes that “Londoners are six times more likely to be robbed or assaulted than New Yorkers”. The report is based on a 116-page follow-up to a 2000 study done by the New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, the Urban Land Institute, and — yes! — London South Bank University. While the brief didn’t define what ‘assault’ means, I’d be willing to bet the 7-volume study does.”

    And another: “And yes, the U.S.’s murder rate is high — but it is coming down as state after state liberalize gun laws, as first discussed on this site in 1998.” I could go on, but what’s the point of repeating already-settled issues again and again and again?) -rc

  53. I am horrified by your reasoning, because it seems faultless. Yet in a situation where guns are drawn in anger, it is difficult to find a resolution in which nobody gets hurt. Each person is thinking that he needs to shoot the other before the other shoots him. The winner will usually be the more trigger-happy one, not necessarily the “good guy”.
    And when feelings run hot, as is likely to be the case when guns are out, it is easier for people to act in a way they will later regret.

    For this reason I think I would feel safer without a gun, rather than with one.

    I am grateful to be living in a place where guns have not got out of control. I have seen guns in museums, on soldiers, at firing ranges, on licensed hunters, and never anywhere else in this country, including on police (although police do carry them locked in their car boots). Shooting incidents do occur, but they are rare. And I think I would be safer in Canada, with its tighter gun laws, than in the US, with its higher rate of shooting deaths.

    Your fear and ignorance is causing great bias. In the vast, Vast, VAST majority of situations were guns are drawn to prevent crime, a shot is never fired — more than a million times per year in the U.S. So how, exactly, are people “getting hurt”? -rc

  54. I agree with your blog. I live in nearly-impossible-to-carry NJ, and while I am not personally a gun enthusiast, I fully support the right to carry. We all know that criminals are not going to obey the sign, and I fully believe that we should level the playing field.

    Similar to what you stated about the movie theater shooting, N. Carolina had a robbery at a local convenience store, and it was picked because the robber knew that the other local stores had regulars with guns there.

    I understand both sides of the argument. Unfortunately, I feel that the Florida “Stand your ground” rule has hurt too many people by overzealous shooters. Yes, laws need to be changed for the idiots out there. But both sides — the easy-going Florida and the ultra-strict NJ — need to move towards the middle to create laws in which reasonable people can safely carry guns in order to protect against those that flaunt the law and kill innocent people in the process.

  55. Dave, Niceville, FL: I think John Lott is wrong. The Giffords was not an exception. Since she was/is a Anti-Gun Democrat and her followers would be the same way, it was a de facto gun ban, if not a de jure. If that had been a pro gun politician there, there probably would have been someone armed in the audience.

    And here is one reason it is hard to have a reasonable discussion. Gabby Giffords is indeed a Democrat. But she was not and is not anti-gun.She both owned and shot guns before the attack, and has continued to do so since then. But because she is a Democrat, she is obviously just ANTI-GUN.

    The meeting where she was shot was in the parking lot of a grocery store. Completely open to anyone that wanted to be there, whether they were carrying or not. Only one man involved was armed, but he did not arrive until after the shooting was over, so did not pull his firearm.

    Giffords is a strong believer in the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms. But she also believes that we need to close the background check loophole and make it a more robust system. And that also makes her ANTI-GUN.

    There are people on the gun control side that are just as knee-jerk and ignorant. As long as we let the extremists on both sides control the conversation, there is no progress.

  56. I am worried by such a “radical” opinion from you. Sure, you need a rifle to defend your farm from rabid coyotes, hungry bears and, maybe, human intruders. I can follow that. I can’t understand why would you need a CCW for that. You won’t be shooting out of a pistol to kill a coyote, let alone a bear. And, generally, bears don’t show up in shopping malls.

    Why guns would be the solution for all the problems, when they actually are at the root of the problem, it’s beyond me. Guns are so problematic because they give you the opportunity to kill several people in a short amount of time and with minimal effort. Short of guns, you can stab people to death, shatter their heads with a baseball bat, bang their heads against a concrete wall, or choke them barehanded. Problem is that all these methods need time, force and a direct contact with your victim and their blood splattering you. With guns it’s “simple”: bang! bang! and then you move on, while, in the same time, you keep the others far enough away from you. It took somewhere between 5 and 10 men armed with knives and axes to kill the 33 chinese people in Kunming. That’s pretty much similar to the numbers of victims in the Virgina Tech, Sandy Hook or Newtown shootings, with the significant difference that in the latter three cases there was only one perpetrator, not a handfull of them. Most gun-related crimes here in Germany happened either when lawful gun owners snapped, or they failed to securely store their weapons at home (as required by the law) and their kids snapped and left with the guns.

    Secondly, the main argument of “it’s written in the Constitution” disregards the historical backgrounds 200+ years ago. That’s two centuries! Plenty of things changed since. In other constitutions there was a right to have black slaves and the whites did not yield that right until they were defeated.

    Thirdly, the stats Felix is pointing at prove that it’s not guns which stop guns: most civilians overpowering gunners did so not only without shooting, but without even having a gun. The analysis points that if you are brave (and smart) enough (and you cooperate with others) you can stop the villains without having to carry a weapon.

    Last and most important, the main problem are not guns, but people snapping and using them (if we discuss shooting sprees) or poverty and lack of perspective which lead to violent crime “in cold blood”. It may be that the US is “not Europe”, but maybe one should think about the core of the problem, and that is not gun control per se, but not pushing the people over the edge.

    Anyways, I feel more than happy to live in a corner of the world where I do not have to worry about “should I carry or not a gun”. Funny enough, living really close to the czech border, where buying a weapon from vietnamese “tradesman” is really easy, we still don’t have to worry about armed people raiding houses!

    What is “radical” in Europe may not be “radical” here (and vice versa, and as discussed in the comments already). NO ONE has said that guns are “the solution for all the problems,” and it’s ridiculous to suggest that. Clearly, you are reacting emotionally, rather than thinking about the points raised here.

    Yes, our Constitution is two centuries old. What part of free speech do you think is outmoded? What part of freedom of the press and to reign in overreaching governmental power do you think is antiquated? Surely after two centuries we no longer need the right to a fair trial, judged by our peers, right? Tinkering with basic human rights is not trivial, and throwing away the freedoms we fought and died to have enshrined as rights is not something I take lightly. There are many reasons that this right has not been changed over the centuries, but you don’t even stop to consider that there might be great reasons as to why. Look at previous comments, for instance, to see how well that worked in Australia.

    Finally, this page is absolutely not about having “to worry about ‘should I carry or not a gun’.” I suggest you take off your blinders and READ IT CAREFULLY to see what it is about: that declaring that a place is a “gun-free zone” not only doesn’t make that place safer, it makes it more dangerous. Simple as that. -rc

  57. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate notes:
    US @ #13 by per 100,000

    while http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country notes:
    US @ #1

    But Canada has 1/3 the gun ownership, and < 1/4 the death rate.

    Which suggests that US psychology may play a part.

    Can’t find a summary of INJURY rate by country.

    The fervent desire to carry guns probably comes back to the origin of the US.

    The proliferation of weapons that are “easy” to use and “easy” to obtain that are near par to military weapons has historically formed the fundamental requirement for “democracy”.

    The loss of that balance has inevitably lead to tyranny/monarchy/theocracy based control.

    That is of course the situation the US is headed into with the development of things like fighters, bombers, WDM, crowd suppression weapons, etc.

    The fact that the major of military personnel are “poor” in origin currently helps counterbalance that.

    On the other hand, I have seen estimates by both US military and by a Nobel prize winning statistician that indicate an 80% likelihood that the US will be in a civil war by 2030, so I’d recommend trying to retain weapons control until then.

    My previous essays (e.g., this one from more than a decade ago) really pound on the “psychology” you bring up. Such as, “As ‘no-gun’ cities such as Washington D.C. and Chicago clearly demonstrate, the elimination of guns does not reduce the murder rate. In addition to illegal guns, people substitute other weapons such as knives, clubs and cars. It’s a lot easier to say ‘guns are to blame’ than to face up to the actual fact: that there’s something wrong with our society which provokes violence as a ‘solution’.” -rc

  58. “(S)tudies show that the police are much more likely to shoot innocent bystanders than armed citizens are. Either way, if I’m in a place where a gunman is trying to kill as many innocent people as he can, I want an honest citizen next to me who has a permit, which means s/he has some training, and is in fact carrying their gun.”

    So we have the cops who, despite hours of training in the use of small arms, manage to shoot innocent bystanders, but you trust some pistol-packin’ Mama with “some” training defending you in case some bad guy shows up packin’ heat.

    Okay, you’ve sold me.

    Think about it, Gerry. A group of people are invaded by a gunman. He herds them into a back room to rob them. If it becomes necessary to use deadly force to stop him (say, he shot one of his victims because she “took too long” to find her wallet in her purse), who is more likely to shoot the correct guy, rather than a panicked innocent bystander? Someone who has been there the entire time, watching this unfold, or a cop bursting in and having to size things up and make a split-second decision? I’d put my money on the former every time — which, by the way, is not a slam on my former colleagues. -rc

  59. Agree it’s stupid to advertise you don’t have guns, but that’s not a reason to own any. There is a correlation between % of gun ownership by state and gun deaths. See second graph here:


    Based on that graph, I feel that people in Montana, Wyoming and Alaska are giving themselves a false sense of security.

    That’s a good example of “lying with statistics” (as someone already pointed out on another page here), as it includes suicide and such crime as gang-on-gang violence. -rc

  60. As I found out after a gun massacre in England when I lived there, the imposition of laws governing the ownership and safe-keeping of guns will not be followed by those who break the law. It just causes hassles for those who DO follow their legal obligations. So,sadly, you will never be able to stop those fully intent on law-breaking. What worries me more though, given the subject of most of the stories in This Is True, is firearms in the hands of those idiots. Each week we read about the stupidity of so many members of our society, and thinking that they might also wield a lethal weapon frightens the bejesus out of me! But making guns more difficult for them to obtain just might make them not bother. And while I accept that almost anything can be used as a weapon, not that many things have the ability to kill from a distance in the way guns can.

  61. What I despair for in Americia is the “middle ground”.

    Concealed carry permits for the average citizen here in Australia is unthinkable. As are assault rifles and machine guns which whilst I am sure are fun I think the downsides outweigh the benefits.

    But America is different, you have the 2nd amendment, but where is the middle ground?

    I don’t understand why the following sort of restrictions can’t be enforced
    – Mandatory background checks with a waiting period, eg. a month
    – A national database of all guns and all owners so police can track stolen guns. OK, the NSA probably has that 🙁
    – Compulsory gun safes at home

    and perhaps a legitimate use like we must have in Oz, usually
    – work related: farmer, security
    – sports: must be a member of a gun club, shoot X times per year

    In Australia If you don’t meet ALL conditions you lose you gun, the same way you use your car licence if you drink and drive (0.05 BAC).

    Off course in Australia, a gun is not a right (no 2nd amendment) it is a privilege. Our laws are more modelled on the UK.

    Speed cameras are everywhere, as are red light cameras 🙁

    and don’t dare use your mobile phone whilst driving (actually a good ban, too many idiots not watching what they’re doing).

    Middle ground is lost the way politics work here (at least lately). You’ve got two extreme sides. One gives in for some “middle ground” — which moves the middle, so the other side pushes to bring it to the “new middle” …on and on. So both sides have learned never to give in, and I can’t blame either side for that. -rc

  62. For those who like to banter statistics back and forth, some interesting ones can be found in the crime numbers compiled each year by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. The pertinent facts for this discussion are:

    • The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership – and even the number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer – 54.8 per 100 people

    • But the US does not have the worst firearm murder rate – that prize belongs to Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. In fact, the US is number 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people

    • Puerto Rico tops the world’s table for firearms murders as a percentage of all homicides – 94.8%. It’s followed by Sierra Leone in Africa and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean

    The complete data-set can be found here.

  63. I suspect that the individual with the gun, “herded into a back room” is probably not going to be able to pull heat without the gunman noticing.

    Do the cops have poor aim only when they burst into a room or does the inaccurate shooting also occur out in public?

    I believe the statistic is all shootings combined. -rc

  64. @Gerry: Cops, like almost everyone else, have poor aim most of the time under non-target-shooting conditions.

    High adrenaline, life at risk, bad lighting, moving targets, short time frame.

    In addition, it was a long time until they figured out a lot of cops were dying due to having carried the same bullets around for their entire career.

    Go to range, put new bullets in gun, shoot bullets, load old bullets back into gun. Oops, my bullets are ten years old and don’t fire properly when I need them to.

    About the only people who react well are SpecOps, and even then they prefer to have rehearsed the scenarios out dozens of times before going in if at all possible.

    Yet this only covers one side of the equation. You explained at least part of why the error rate in shootings by police is 11%, but didn’t tackle why the civilian shooting error rate is only 2%. I’m sure at least part of it is, civilians have the luxury of being able to retreat at least part of the time, but cops have a duty to go in and handle things. -rc

  65. I might be misinterpreting but I feel you are somehow insinuating that the right to establish gun free zones should be abolished.

    You might associate guns with safety but there are people who have had very different experiences. I think of my friend’s father a restaurateur who was a refugee from Sierra Leone. He was forced to watch the execution of half his family. For him guns are associated with war and death, he can’t even sit through an action film without breaking out in sweats. If he lived in America he would want one of those stickers, if he was told he no longer had the choice of patronage he would close up shop. In my opinion that is incongruously unfair.

    As much as the USA constitution protects the right to bear arms surely the right to choose to be free of firearms should also be respected and I get it is an ethical dilemma of safety vs people’s right to choice but if you start imposing on everyone firearms then it becomes a nanny state and once that happens I’d say the criminals have won.

    Nowhere in my essay do I even suggest that the “right” to make one’s property a “gun-free zone” should be abolished. I merely said that it creates more danger, not safety, and thus I choose to avoid them when I have a choice. (I cannot avoid them and fly on airlines, so I deal with it.) I’m not sure why anyone would find that stance threatening. -rc

  66. As you wrote, “if that sign was pointing at your house, you should probably be terrified.”

    In other words, it is merely an act of mean bullying, which you gleefully turned into a mindless chuckle for gun advocates. Like all issues (even those that are emotionally charged), gun control can be debated intelligently and with respect for the other parties. But, hey, why waste time doing so when one can instead intimidate our disagreeing neighbors and, even better, poke fun at them in the process?

    The true social commentary, here, is that, no matter how much one spends time pondering the mistakes of others, one remains always prompt to do just the same as soon as one’s self interests are at stake.

    With regards, hd.

    That was indeed clear social commentary. It points out how even sincerely held convictions might endanger you if someone else knows about it. In other words, holding that opinion in public might put you at great risk, and maybe that’s a good reason to think about it some more, and consider there is another side to it. I think most grasped that, but obviously not everyone actually thinks about the unintended consequences of taking a position. (And that’s true of both sides.) -rc

  67. Sorry about reviving an old post but it is being overlooked that the sign in the yard was placed there after the neighbor complained that she saw the sign placer’s weapon (he has a CCW), not just because of an ideological dispute about gun ownership.

    As I said in a comment to someone else, “And again, the sign is a meme, not something you actually see in front of houses every day. It’s there to get its picture taken to make a point, and I made note of that point, not ‘celebrated’ it. I’ve never seen such a thing in real life.” But I have, in fact, seen photos of that very sign in a lot of different yards — not because it was displayed in all those places, but because someone has photoshopped it in to a variety of scenes. When I created this page a year ago, I had my choice of several, and I grabbed the one that was quite close up, so it was more readable. If you have a link to it actually for-sure being posted in someone’s yard, I want to see that link! -rc

  68. I know it’s an old post but still a valid discussion.

    I just wondered, when you travel abroad I guess you can’t take your firearms with you. Do you feel safe then, for example if you’re in a restuarant or hotel in the UK?

    And if you do feel safe (because you should) wouldn’t you like to get to that same situation in the USA?

    After multiple terrorist incidents in the U.K. and France, no: I don’t feel as safe there. And again, it’s not about other countries, it’s about the situation here. And it’s not about me carrying guns, as you’re arguing; it’s about disallowing firearms in public places that are still accessible to those who would do harm, because it encourages the “bad guys” to actively choose such places over others …which you would know if you had actually read the point here. Take much more time to consider the essay, especially from “It Makes Things Worse” down.

  69. OK, my error was in assuming that you wouldn’t patronise an establishment with a “No guns” sign was because you wanted to carry a gun. My mistake and appologies for that. I realise now that I’ve got into a situation thinking if someone is pro-gun it’s because they want to carry one.

    However, you really disappoint me with your comment about “multiple terrorist incidents” in the UK and France. I really held you up to be someone supporting truth and reason. Sure we’ve had a few but it’s really not that many and if you look at them (and I confess I’ve not analysed them all in detail) in very few would guns have been either a deterrent or a defense; and anyway that’s really off topic as we’re talking gun crime and not terrorism.

    My point is that we have very little gun crime here, and most of that is inter gang related, so we really do feel safe here when out in public places, and you should too. I’d have thought that this was a situation the USA would aspire to be in. Maybe there’s a pain barrier you have to go through to get there but then you’d need to see the long game; because you really are out of step with the modern world.

    First things first: YOU asked ME about whether I would feel safe in the UK, and I told you why I would in fact not (or, especially, in France). For you to then object that it’s not relevant to the point of the page is complete bullshit. (Pardon me, you’re a Brit: “bollocks”.) “A few”?! This list has a hell of a lot more than that.

    But yes: assuming that anyone argues that responsible, trained people should be able to defend themselves with a gun as a right is not thinking it through, and I’m glad that’s dawning on you. Taking away rights without due process is part of what led us to split from you in the first place. As for your assumption “that you wouldn’t patronise an establishment with a ‘no guns’ sign was because you wanted to carry a gun,” you didn’t read — or at list didn’t even try to understand, the entire theme of this essay. Try reading it with an open mind to see if you can grasp what I am saying.

    Meanwhile, I do understand your final point — but you’re still missing mine. Obviously you have less gun crime there, but you have much more violent crime there, as criminals have turned to other weapons for their mayhem, and honest citizens are disarmed and, worse, have been prohibited from defending themselves. As I’ve argued again and again and again in these pages, “the problem” we need to solve isn’t guns, it’s the propensity toward violence. The “anti-gun” crowd has focused on the former and ignored the actual problem: the latter. And that’s a tragedy as it has led to many, many more crime, injury, and death. -rc


Leave a Comment