Steps Taken Toward the Elimination of Gun-Free Zones
By Sean Lally, Staff Writer
In January of 2016, Donald Trump made a bold promise on the campaign trail that he has yet to follow through on. While in Burlington, Vermont, he had this to say: “I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and — you have to — and on military bases. My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.” And though he has not signed a bill into law banning gun-free school zones, he has redoubled his conviction and expressed unwavering support for the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Support in the Cabinet and in Congress
That’s not to mention that the President’s pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, pledged her support for Trump’s plan to eliminate gun-free zones at schools. And the administration’s fervor on this issue is buttressed by Congressional Republicans, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), who introduced bills in January that would roll back restrictions on carrying concealed firearms. The former introduced a measure (HR 34) that would repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, and the latter authored a bill (HR 38) that would allow a “qualified individual” to carry a concealed firearm into another state that legally allows the toting of concealed handguns.
So what is the rationale behind the move to ban gun-free zones? Kerry Shaw of Trace.org, a non-profit news organization devoted to coverage of firearms, summarized one of the arguments in the following way: “Want to prevent the next mass shooting? Give everyone a gun, allow them to carry it everywhere, and hope they fend off the killer.”
That’s precisely the argument you see on pro-firearm websites like guns.com where you can find an article saying things like: “Gun free zones are counterproductive. The metal signs all around gun-free zones send a clear message of defenselessness.” In the same article, Donald Trump is cited in all earnestness as saying gun-free zones are “bait for sickos.” Rep. Massie made a similar argument in a press release (also cited by guns.com). He said, “Gun-free zones prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves, and create vulnerable populations that are targeted by criminals.” And of course, all of this is bolstered by gestures toward Second Amendment rights. After all, Trump did promise that he would create a Second Amendment coalition, although the group has not yet formally convened.
The argument coming from the Administration, Congressional Republicans and media outlets like guns.com, relies almost entirely on a belief promulgated by John Lott Jr., an economist and gun rights activist who claims that every mass shooting has occurred in an area where guns are prohibited, a phenomenon he claims goes back to the 1950s.
However, several studies (cited by Trace.org) have examined Lott’s data and arrived at completely opposite conclusions. For instance, research at Stanford showed “that right-to-carry gun laws are linked to an increase in violent crime” and another research team found “virtually no support for the hypothesis that the [concealed carry] laws increase or reduce the number of mass public shootings.”
As for the argument that more guns will lead to safer schools, Adam Lankford, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, has shown that this is most likely not the case. In his research he found that out of 171 countries, those with higher rates of gun ownership were more likely to have mass shootings.
Other studies show similar results, making it abundantly clear that Republicans are relying on thin data that could inevitably put more students at risk.