Not all ‘Gun Free Zones’ are Equal

On IVN this week, there was a very well-written article from Wendy Innes, a regular contributor to the network, about the irony that military bases are “gun free zones.” The article was written in response to the most recent shooting at Fort Hood, located in Killeen, TX.

While the investigation is ongoing, many are wondering just why it is that America’s military bases are so-called “gun free zones.” It seems incredibly counter-intuitive to say that we, as a nation, trust these men and women to handle weapons in order to defend the country and carry out the mission they are given, but they can’t be trusted to carry a weapon in accordance with their constitutional rights at home.

“The decision to make military bases ‘gun free’ was one of Bill Clinton’s first acts as president in March of 1993, in order to reduce violent crime on board military installations,” said military disability attorney John B. Gately. How effective the policy has been at reducing violent crime is drawn into question given the on-going sexual assault crisis in the military as well as the recent rash of shootings on military bases and one Navy ship.

After nearly 13 years of continuous combat, stories of soldiers coming home with broken bodies and broken minds are all too common and make mental illness the easy scapegoat when tragedies occur, followed quickly by the “blame the gun” ideology. But these high profile shootings seem to have increased just over the last 5 years.

Read the full article here.

Shootings at Fort Hood, the Navy Yard in Virginia, and other military installations have sparked a debate over whether or not military bases and installations should be “gun free zones.” However, the mistake that is often made in this debate is to treat all “gun free zones” like they are equal.

The article above does an excellent job at focusing specifically on military installations, but IVN is all about going beyond the headlines and standard, recycled talking points that people only see from most media outlets. This honest discussion on topics like guns and gun policy in America, however, is not seen on other networks.

There are several gun rights activists who want to do away with “gun free zones” completely, treating them like they are all the same. The exact same talking points were used after Aurora, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, the Navy Yard, and pretty much every mass shooting that has happened across the nation over the last few years. However, schools are not the same as military bases. Movie theaters are not the same as military bases.

If we are to examine eliminating the “gun free” status of military installations then we can’t make the mistake of treating the debate like it is the same as talking about the “gun free” status of elementary schools or any civilian location.

There is a good reason for schools to remain “gun free zones,” just like there is good reason to keep public locations where people are packed together like cattle for multiple hours, like a movie theater or sports arena/stadium, “gun free zones.” Most civilians do not have proper response training for crisis situations, including most people with concealed handgun licenses (CHLs).

CHLs do not mean an individual is prepared to act in the very, very remote chance they are present when a lone gunman or group of gunmen open fire in a public place. People have this image of the civilian hero who pulls out his gun to save the day, but chances are they would put more people at risk in a close-quarter situation than they would save. That is the simple truth most law enforcement professionals try to explain to people.

Military bases, however, are different. We are talking about trained soldiers who are taught how to respond in a situation where they suddenly come under fire. This type of response training would not only benefit them in a combat zone, but in a situation like the two shootings at Fort Hood. There is an argument to make to allow soldiers who have been licensed by the state to carry concealed handguns to be allowed to do so in military installations.

There is also a matter of security. How is it that a troubled individual was able to get a gun on what is already supposed to be a secure location after said location was the scene of a mass shooting incident a few years before? It seems that looking further into the security issue and making improvements would also be something to consider. After all, no one can open fire on an installation if they can’t get a gun into it.

Comments

  1. says

    You talk there are a couple but only mention one reason why to keep gun free zones; people with firearms might make the situation worse.

    Yet, the cases where CHL holders do respond to active shooter situations show on average fewer fatalities, fewer innocent bystanders shot and the situation is resolved quicker..

    Your perception isn’t reality.

    So I really have to ask; why do you want to keep areas marked off and known to criminals where the people are disarmed?

    Why give them every advantage possible?

    • Shawn M. Griffiths says

      “Yet, the cases where CHL holders do respond to active shooter situations show on average fewer fatalities, fewer innocent bystanders shot and the situation is resolved quicker.”

      It is always helpful to provide examples.

      I support CHL laws, and I believe people should be allowed to carry concealed handguns in certain places, but there are places where they shouldn’t be allowed.

      In a packed movie theater, there is little escape for people who are not already in an aisle seat and in a panic, it would look exactly like cattle stampeding when they have nowhere to go. In that situation, I wager a civilian with a CHL who is not a trained marksman or trained in proper response training would end up hitting more innocent people than the shooter. It is dark. In the situation in Aurora, smoke was used.

      You tell me how successful this person would be without putting more innocent bystanders at risk.

      This is exactly the problem I said exists within this debate. It is important not to treat every “gun free zone” the same. People will say that cases where a CHL holder responds to an active shooter show fewer fatalities without actually providing examples. Given the infinitesimally small percentage of the population that has permits or licenses, the odds are even slimmer than a active shooting occurring that there will be a permit holder around.

      In these examples I am sure you will provide for me, how many innocent bystanders were there around? Did any of these examples occur in a place where the law or place of business did not already allow concealed carry? The debate is whether or not such “zones” should exist in certain locations, not if these “zones” should exist at all.

      I even made an argument for why concealed carry should be allowed on military installations.

      • says

        New Life Church, Aurora Colorado — Jean Assam working as volunteer security engaged the killer and wounded him. Stopping his attack; the killer — as so many often do — committed suicide.

        Pearl Mississippi High School, Klackmas Mall, Appalachia Law School, Golden Market Shooting in Virginia.

        This blog post does a great job in pointing out the facts
        http://dailyanarchist.com/2012/07/31/auditing-shooting-rampage-statistics/

        Very few of the shootings happen in such conditions as the Aurora Theater shooting and even in that case, it is hard to see how having armed citizens could have made it worse. The idea the armed citizen would start shooting across a room, endangering others is a myth. Most people are smart enough to choose their shots, exercise good judgment.

        Given the infinitesimally small percentage of the population that has permits or licenses, the odds are even slimmer than a active shooting occurring that there will be a permit holder around.

        Given the fact that the Aurora Colorado shooter drove past several theaters that did allow concealed carry should be a clue. Yes the odds are small but let’s look at them. If a theater holds 300 people and only 1% of the population has a CHL; then there was still a chance 3 people in the audience could have been armed.

        Are you suggesting it is better to let a shooter keep killing until the police arrive rather than an armed citizen take an opportunity to stop the shooter?

      • Shawn M. Griffiths says

        “Are you suggesting it is better to let a shooter keep killing until the police arrive rather than an armed citizen take an opportunity to stop the shooter?”

        No, but I can understand why you would need to resort to this absurd question. People should not only feel safe when they go out, but they should not be worried about something that has a very, very small chance of happening. The odds that an individual would be in an incident like Aurora is very slim to none. People should have peace of mind when they go out, but why should we tell people they should live in so much fear all the time that they need to arm themselves everywhere they go?

        Perhaps we should also consider an incident like what happened in Florida where a former police officer shot and killed someone over texting in a theater. Do you think that will give people peace of mind when they go to a movie theater holding the uncertainty that their neighbor could or could not have a gun?

        “If a theater holds 300 people and only 1% of the population has a CHL; then there was still a chance 3 people in the audience could have been armed.”

        That is bad math, unless the population of the city also happens to be 300 and everyone is in the same movie theater. It is not 1% of the population wherever you happen to be. It is 1% of the total population, which is not going to be the same for every city. Some cities will be even less than that.

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