Gun-Free Zones

Another day, another atrocity.

Unless you have not been paying attention, you will by now have heard about the contemptible murder of four US Marines at a recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by a lone gunman who is likely an Islamic extremist of sorts.

Among the many pressing questions generally asked after an event like this, the one most interesting to me concerns why US servicemen are not allowed to carry personal weapons with which to protect themselves.

The recruiting station where the deadly shooting occurred, like Ford Hood and the Washington Navy Yard, was a gun-free zone. Or a near-gun-free zone. It is complicated. Military installations in the United States subscribe to very restrictive firearm policy, thanks to the Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 5210.56 of 1992.

I suspect that, as with many things of good intent and poor real-world execution, the Directive was supposed to have a beneficial security effect.

Anyone with sufficient intelligence to boil a kettle will however quite easily spot a rather obvious lapse: a gun free zone immediately stops being a gun free zone the moment a gunman walks in.

Now I am not inferring that active shooters, be they Islamic terrorists or deranged madmen (a redundant distinction perhaps), necessarily choose their target locales based on whether or not the said piece of real-estate happens to be a gun free zone. Goodness knows I do not possess the empirical data to remotely prove such an insinuation.

We know now of many reasons why James Holmes, the lunatic responsible for the Aurora cinema massacre, decided to choose that specific venue for perpetrating his mass-murder. However, the theatre being a gun-free zone was not one of them, as far as could be determined by a very in-depth investigation.

This revelation does not discount the incredibly detrimental effect that gun-free zones have on the safety of those that inhabit them. Obviously if no respectable citizen is allowed to carry a firearm in a gun-free zone, it stands to reason that any gunman of massacring ambition will face absolutely no meaningful armed resistance what so ever. Until the police arrive. By which time many, many people can likely be very, very dead.

Something which can be avoided by the presence and judicious actions of even one armed citizen.

This happens much more regularly than we are aware of, due to prevented mass-shootings not being as dramatic and newsworthy as actual mass-shootings. Examples include the timely interventions of an armed Uber driver, a church congregation member, and a Canadian Parliament Sergeant-at-Arms, among numerous others.

Unfortunately law-abiding armed citizens are a rare find in gun-free zones, meaning that they will not be there to interrupt an active shooter. Murderous gunmen, on the other hand, have absolutely no qualms about carrying multiple firearms, pipe bombs, and hand grenades into gun-free zones. None what so ever.

It makes sense, really. If you are planning to perpetrate the killing of numerous people, one would think that committing the rather minor offence of infringing upon the terms and conditions of a gun-free zone is not particularly off-putting. This anti-social behavioural trend is further exacerbated if the madman in question happens to be, um, mad.

It therefore comes as no surprise that of all public mass shootings that occurred between January 2009 and July 2014, approximately 92% took place in gun-free zones. That is according to the published findings of the Crime Prevention Research Centre (CPRC) – “Since 2009, only 8 percent of mass public shootings have occurred in places where civilians are allowed to defend themselves.”

I would venture to call that a significant statistic.

Gun-free zones provide nothing more than an illusion of safety at best, and a prepared killing-field at worst. One would have to be vastly naïve or unthinkably stupid to genuinely believe that a little “No Guns” sticker on a window or door somewhere is capable of acting as an actual safeguard.

It is past-time for us to start getting rid of these gun-free zones, and the silly little stickers that mark them out. Before it is the death of us all.

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