LAF NOTE: This commentary was originally published in November of 2013 as Commentary No. 13. Now we’re half-way thru the final year of Barak Obama’s reign and he seems determined to ban gun ownership by law-abiding citizens before he leaves office. If he can’t ban ownership outright, he wants to make it as difficult as possible for private citizens to buy guns and ammunition to defend themselves and their loved ones against criminals and terrorists.
It seemed like a good time to update this commentary and reissue it.
“The only thing that will stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.”
~ Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the National Rifle Association
In the wake of the mass murder of defenseless revelers at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL, the anti-gun forces in and out of the federal government are once again pushing for more restrictions on gun ownership by law-abiding private citizens—never mind what the Constitution says.
As it happens, in 1996 two well-known academics, William Landes at the University of Chicago and John Lott at Yale, published a massive study of multiple-victim public shootings in the United States between 1977 and 1995, to see how various legal changes affected their frequency and death toll. In 2000 they updated their study to include cases thru 1999 and to look specifically at several states (including Texas) that had passed concealed-carry laws since the first study was published.
Landes and Lott examined many of the very policies being proposed right now in response to the Orlando massacre…gun registration; waiting periods; background checks; increased use of the death penalty; increased penalties for committing a crime with a gun; limiting magazine capacities; restricting the availability of certain types of guns. They found that none of these policies had any effect on the frequency of, or casualties from, multiple-victim shootings.
The only public policy that has ever been shown to reduce the death rate from such crimes is concealed-carry laws.
The effect of concealed-carry laws in deterring mass public shootings was even greater than the impact of such laws on the murder rate in general. Someone planning to commit a single murder in a concealed-carry state only has to weigh the odds that one person—his intended victim—might be armed. But someone planning to commit mass murder in a public place has to worry that anyone—or multiple people—in the target area might have a gun.
You may have noticed that most multiple-victim shootings occur in so-called “gun-free zones.” They happen in public schools, churches, post offices, movie theaters, restaurants, and the Portland, Oregon mall where a maniac gunned down shoppers in December of 2012. Guns are banned in all those places.
Here’s a news flash for the idiots who think “gun-free zones” work. Mass killers may be crazy, but they’re not stupid. They know where they can count on people being unarmed and defenseless.
If the deterrent effect of concealed-carry laws seems surprising to you, it’s because the mainstream media doesn’t report stories of armed citizens stopping mass shooters.
In the Portland shooting, for example, the mainstream media only reported that the shooter killed two people before taking his own life. That’s rather strange, considering that it happened in a crowded mall during the busy Christmas shopping season—what military fighter pilots call “a target-rich environment.” How was it that a shooter brought multiple weapons and a large quantity of ammunition, then only killed two people before killing himself?
What the mainstream media refused to report is that Mr. Nick Meli was shopping in the mall that day with his girlfriend. Mr. Meli held an Oregon concealed-carry permit, but he failed to notice the “handguns prohibited” sign at the entrance to the mall. His gun was in a holster under his coat and he took it inside. When the shooting started, Mr. Meli took cover behind a column, pointed his gun at the shooter, and shouted for the shooter to drop his weapon. The would-be mass murderer responded by putting the gun to his own head and killing himself.
The local and national media gave lots of publicity to the shooter (whose name I refuse to print in this commentary). For the next two weeks his name and picture, interviews with friends and family, and a wealth of biographical information were carried on almost every local and national newscast. The level of publicity they gave him probably encouraged a few other crazy people to get their own fifteen minutes of fame by staging another mass murder.
But only a few politically conservative media outlets mentioned that what could have been a horrendous massacre was stopped by an armed private citizen.
In a “study” that went around the Internet in 2013, Mother Jones Magazine claimed to have studied all mass public shootings between 1982 and 2012. They concluded that “…in not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.”
That claim came as a surprise to me and other shooters who know something about the subject, so we investigated further. It turns out the magazine reached its conclusion by defining “mass public shooting” as an event in which four or more people were killed. In other words, they only included cases where the shooter wasn’t stopped.
That’s sort of like reporting on the effectiveness of weed killers but only including cases in which the weeds didn’t die. That would allow you to present “proof” that weed killers were ineffective in controlling weeds.
If we care about reducing the number of people killed in mass shootings, shouldn’t we pay particular attention to the cases where the aspiring mass murderer was prevented from getting off more than two or three shots? In addition to the Portland mall case, here are a few more examples that were excluded from the Mother Jones “study.”
- San Antonio, TX, 2013: An illegal immigrant fired shots at a movie theater, a police car and bystanders from the China Garden Restaurant, then ran to a nearby movie theater. As he entered the theater with guns blazing, an armed off-duty policewoman shot him four times, stopping the attack. Total dead: only the assailant.
- Winnemucca, NV, 2008: A man opened fire in a crowded restaurant. A concealed-carry licensee shot him dead. Total dead: two, plus the assailant.
- Appalachian School of Law, Grundy, VA, 2002: A crazed former student shot the dean and a professor, then began shooting students. When he stopped to reload, two armed students pointed their guns at him, allowing a third to tackle him. Total dead: three.
- Santana High School, Santee, CA, 2001: A student began shooting at his classmates. He also shot the (unarmed) “trained campus supervisor” whose job it was to “prevent campus violence.” An off-duty policeman who happened to be bringing his daughter to school that day held the shooter at gunpoint until more police arrived. Total dead: two.
- Parker Middle School, Edinboro, PA, 1998: A student started shooting at people attending a middle-school dance being held at a restaurant. The restaurant owner pulled out his shotgun and stopped the gunman. Total dead: one.
- Pearl High School, Pearl, MS, 1997: After shooting several people at the high school, a student headed to the junior high school next door. The assistant principal retrieved a pistol from his car and pointed it at the gunman, ending the murder spree. Total dead: two.
By contrast, the shootings in which an armed citizen doesn’t intervene invariably result in far higher casualty numbers.
- Sikh Temple, Oak Creek, WS – six dead, four wounded.
- Century Movie Theater, Aurora, CO – twelve dead, seventy wounded.
- Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA – 32 dead, seventeen wounded.
- Columbine High School, Columbine, CO – thirteen dead, 23 wounded.
- West Nickel Mines Amish School, Lancaster County, PA – five little girls dead, five more wounded.
- Westside Middle School in Craighead County, AR – five dead, ten wounded.
- Heath High School, West Paducah, KY – three dead, five wounded.
- Westside Elementary School, Jonesboro, AR – five dead, ten wounded.
- A Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, TX – 23 dead, 33 wounded.
- Cleveland Elementary School, Stockton, CA – five dead, 29 wounded.
- Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, CT – 26 dead, twenty of them children.
- Pulse nightclub, Orlando, FL – 49 dead, 53 wounded.
- San Bernardo, CA – fourteen dead.
- Fort Hood, TX – thirteen dead, 32 wounded.
- Binghamton, NY – thirteen dead, four wounded.
- Washington Navy Yard – twelve dead.
- Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, OR – nine dead, nine wounded.
- Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC – nine dead.
- Red Lake High School, Red Lake, MN – nine dead.
LAF NOTE: In addition to updating this list for events since 2012, I have included terrorist shootings, which the original list did not.
On the other hand, I’ve not included cases of obvious domestic violence, in which (for example) a man kills his estranged wife and her lover. You and I don’t have to worry about getting caught up in those situations.
All these shootings took place in “gun-free zones.” They resulted in 263 deaths and 330 wounded. All of them that occurred before 2013 were included in the Mother Jones study as “proof” that allowing private citizens to carry guns does nothing to stop mass murders.
If what we care about is saving the lives of innocent people by reducing the number of mass public shootings, only one policy has ever been shown to work: concealed-carry laws.
On the other hand, if all we care about is self-indulgent grandstanding and to hell with hundreds of innocent people being murdered in cold blood, let’s have more gun control and more gun-free zones.