The Fallacy of ‘Gun Free’ Zones

by Reid K Smith on January 8, 2013

A good friend of mine is a school social worker. She knows I think ‘gun free’ zones are a fallacy, but she wasn’t quite convinced. She wasn’t anti-gun, but she wouldn’t have felt comfortable with them in a school. A few years ago, she was interning at a school and sent me an interesting message, which I’ve paraphrased below:

Someone called in a threat at my school today – they said they were on their way to the school with a gun to kill everyone. The staff told us that they would lock the doors. My first thought was, ‘yeah, I’m sure that a locked door will stop him.’ Then I realized that you’ve been right all along.

My friend understood from that day forward that ‘gun free’ zones mean nothing to someone intent on breaking laws far more serious and with far greater consequences. When she realized criminals have no respect for ‘gun free’ zones, she realized that a door lock wasn’t at the top of her list of preferred countermeasures.

Her experience provided me with another question that I now ask opponents: “If an insane gunman rushes into your classroom intending to murder you and your classmates, what would you rather have – a law that says he can’t have that gun here, or another gun?” I have yet to hear someone respond with, “Trick question! He won’t be able to get that gun into my classroom, because it’s a gun free zone!” When even the people that support ‘gun free’ zones don’t attempt to deny their ineffectiveness, you wonder why they persist in the belief that they’re a necessity. They’ve admitted that such zones don’t keep the “bad guys with guns” out, but they’re still too afraid of the “good guys with guns” to abolish the zones. Ironic.

Many armed rapes and assaults on college campuses happen in these ‘gun free’ zones; violations of which prosecutors aren’t even going to bother including in their list of charges. (Side note: That’s not the prosecutor’s fault. Concealed Pistol Licenses exist for a reason – it’s illegal to conceal a firearm on your person without one. In many states, ‘gun free’ zones are a condition of a CPL. Ironically, if you don’t have a license, the zones don’t apply. Thus, many ‘gun free’ zones don’t apply to the criminals – legally or practically.) Many colleges do a good job of telling their students how to defend against a rape – kicks to the groin, fingers to the eyes, and so on. I wonder why this has yet to cause a national uproar – colleges are arming our young adults with martial arts techniques that could incapacitate an innocent person! The response to this question from a ‘gun free’ zone supporter would likely be, “of course, but these techniques would only be used for self-defense.” Oh, of course. If only there were tools that could even the odds even more in favor of the victim.

Opponents will often argue with me that, in the event of any violent crime – a robbery, assault, or even mass shooter – a CPL-holder with a gun will just complicate matters for the police who respond. I suppose that’s true, in that a living, armed, CPL-holder will take longer to clear than a dead CPL-holder who left their gun at home. That situation is decidedly less agreeable to the CPL-holder, however. And that’s the problem with this argument – ultimately, I’d much rather take my chances with the police, or “the good guys with guns,” than the sociopathic criminals, or “the bad guys with guns.” At the least, I’ve seen a lot of movies where police yell “put your hands up or I’ll shoot!” I haven’t heard of many murderers offering the same choice.

Let’s get back to my friend. Growing up, she saw guns as an instrument of destruction, used for all the wrong purposes. At best, they could go off on accident. At worst, they would be used by criminals to destroy innocent lives. In that mindset, guns do not prevent crime – they cause it. Any theories to the contrary – “CPL-holders are law-abiding citizens,” “the police can’t be everywhere at once,” “signs won’t stop criminals” – fell on deaf ears, because they didn’t address the root of my friends’ opposition – the belief that guns only harm. To prevent the implosion of that belief, my friend engaged in some cognitive dissonance. This belief that guns harm was so deeply ingrained that, without an emotional event powerful enough to shatter it, my friend never seriously reconsidered it. At least, not until she was faced with the likelihood of encountering one of the rare gun-carrying citizens out to do her harm, and realized there was nothing else that could give her a fair chance. In other words, she realized that a firearm is a tool of self-defense against those that haven’t bought into the laws of our society yet.

Any college policy prohibiting the use of kicks to the groin while defending against a rape or assault would, rightfully, be met with derision and ridicule. And yet, thousands of colleges continue to ban an even more effective form of self-defense – the firearm – despite the guarantee that any potential owners will be trained at their own expense and have no criminal record. Who decided what forms of self-defense were simply ‘too effective,’ and what sort of Kafkaesque rating system did they devise to do so? If there was no rating system, why did they arbitrarily exclude firearms from the victim’s armamentarium but decide that kicks to the groin could stay? Are effective tools for studying next on the ban list?

‘Gun free’ zones have a unique history as one of the most illogical, dangerous, and senseless policies pushed by gun control advocates. That means that you – armed with logic – have a very good chance of changing some of your friends beliefs with a few simple questions. I’ve seen it happen many, many times. So get out there, and ask your friends a few questions.

Reid K Smith serves as the Director of Development for Students for Concealed Carry, and the State Director for Michigan Students for Concealed Carry. He attends medical school in Downtown Detroit, where he has the privilege of commuting on foot to his choice of ‘gun free’ zones – hospitals or classrooms. This post was originally published on the Students for Concealed Carry national blog. 

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