Today, Mother Jones carried an article originally from the USA Today, busting one of the NRA's most popular myths and distractions from the debate over stricter gun laws. Confronted with more gun violence, and the worst year in mass shootings last year (it's early yet in 2013), the NRA cannot explain how more guns have made the American people safer. So, they choose to blame 'gun-free zones'.
Of course, the gun-free zone is another topic where the NRA has flip-flopped recently. But when they claim that such places attract would-be killers to do more damage than they would otherwise, study of the data shows that, yet again, the NRA's claims are wrong.
Politicians pass laws for Gun-Free School Zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And in so doing, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.This, by the way, was vintage Wayne's World from 1999, as ThinkProgress found.
First, we believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period … with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel.Yeah, so the NRA is run by hypocrites, breaking news it ain't. The worse problem is that this supposed danger gun-free zones pose is more NRA mythology. They are depicted as defenseless slaughterhouses, ripe for the picking by 'insane killers', where no 'good guy with a gun' will be present to pose any threat to them.
So, why did it take so long for anyone to examine the data we have on mass shootings to see if either of these ideas has anything to do with them?
Among the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns. To the contrary, in many of the cases there was clearly another motive for the choice of location. For example, 20 were workplace shootings, most of which involved perpetrators who felt wronged by employers and colleagues. Last September, when a troubled man working at a sign manufacturer in Minneapolis was told he would be let go, he pulled out a 9mm Glock and killed six people and injured another before putting a bullet in his own head. Similar tragedies unfolded at a beer distributor in Connecticut in 2010 and at a plastics factory in Kentucky in 2008.The article also busts a myth nurtured by Fox, that a Sikh temple was targeted by a white supremacist last year, supposedly because guns were banned there -- unfortunately for Fox (and the NRA), that gun ban never existed.
They also point out the penchant for mass shooters to take their own lives, or commit "suicide by cop," as this goes against the motive of finding a 'safe' place to commit mass murder. For my part, I don't know that this really means as much as the ability to do damage before the expected suicide/death by cop. It's not as if the Sandy Hook shooter needed much time to rack up a shocking body count.
A point more telling, I think, is the fact that no 'good guy with a gun' has come to save the day at any of these mass shootings.
No less a fantasy is the idea that gun-free zones prevent armed civilians from saving the day. Not one of the 62 mass shootings we documented was stopped this way. Veteran FBI, ATF, and police officials say that an armed citizen opening fire against an attacker in a panic-stricken movie theater or shopping mall is very likely to make matters worse. Law enforcement agents train rigorously for stopping active shooters, they say, a task that requires extraordinary skills honed under acute duress. In cases in Washington and Texas in 2005, would-be heroes who tried to take action with licensed firearms were gravely wounded and killed. In the Tucson mass shooting in 2011, an armed citizen admitted to coming within a split second of gunning down the wrong person—one of the bystanders who'd helped tackle and subdue the actual killer.Being from Tucson, I remember that story; the shooter there was foiled after fumbling his reload (if only he'd been forced to reload sooner) and the 'good guy with a gun' was irrelevant at best, dangerous at worst.
So, having raised the obvious question, it seems proper to end there. We've got about as many guns in this society as we have people now. We've had years of gun laws just getting more and more lax, more politicians pandering to the NRA. The results seem...incongruous.
All of which raises an obvious question: If more guns in more places is a solution to the bloodshed, then why did we just witness the worst year for mass shootings in recent history?