William Katz:  Urgent Agenda






CONNECTICUT – AT 10:14 A.M. ET:  As we try to absorb the shock of yesterday's massacre, we must also be wary of glib, instant solutions being proposed by glib, shallow politicians.  There have been a few thoughtful comments made since the news broke – the most thoughtful involving the need to address the fact that most of these atrocities are committed by people with known mental-health issues.

Some other thoughtful comments deal with the stupid things we've done in the name of "safety," steps often designed to make people feel good about themselves.  Glenn Harlan Reynolds, who is also InstaPundit, and who is a law professor, makes the point that many horrors are committed in so-called "gun-free zones," which really aren't.  From USA Today:

"After a shooting spree," author William Burroughs once said, "they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it." Burroughs continued: "I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military."


One of the interesting characteristics of mass shootings is that they generally occur in places where firearms are banned: malls, schools, etc. That was the finding of a famous 1999 study by John Lott of the University of Maryland and William Landes of the University of Chicago, and it appears to have been borne out by experience since then as well.

In a way, this is no surprise. If there's someone present with a gun when a mass shooting begins, the shooter is likely to be shot himself. And, in fact, many mass shootings — from the high school shooting by Luke Woodham in Pearl, Miss., to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo., where an armed volunteer shot the attacker — have been terminated when someone retrieved a gun from a car or elsewhere and confronted the shooter.

That may be a painful reality, but it's a reality.

After the Virginia Tech shooting a few years ago, one of my students asked me if we could move class off campus, because she felt unsafe being unarmed. I certainly would have felt perfectly safe having her carry a gun in my presence; she was, and is, a responsible adult. I feel the same way about the other law students I know who have carry permits.

Gun-free zones are premised on a lie: that murderers will follow rules, and that people like my student are a greater danger to those around them than crazed killers. That's an insult to honest people. Sometimes, it's a deadly one. The notion that more guns mean more crime is wrong. In fact, as gun ownership has expanded over the past decade, crime has gone down.


Given that gun-free zones seem to be a magnet for mass shooters, maybe we should be working to shrink or eliminate them, rather than expand them. As they say, if it saves just one life, it's worth it.

COMMENT:  Reynolds is, of course, correct.  The gun-free zone is an open call to killers to "come and do it."  The mass murderer needs these things to commit his despicable act:  He needs the will to do it, he needs the weapons and the knowledge to use them, and he needs to survive.  Yes, he may commit suicide after the act is completed, but he has done the deed.

But what if he feared he wouldn't survive?  He probably wouldn't try, at least some of these disturbed people wouldn't.  That is called deterrence, and it works very well in many circumstances.  It's the reason why you rarely see a police station attacked. 

As I've written here, as a legitimate gun owner I have no problem with thoughtful, effective steps that might stem this violence.  A gun-free zone is not one of them.  It's the opposite.

December 15,  2012