My heart goes out to the families mourning the death of their loved ones in the wake of the Friday shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children and six adults were killed. This tragedy is amplified by the possibility that it needn’t have happened in the first place.
Study after study has shown that criminals avoid places where their victims might be armed.[i] Schools are a prime target for “rampage shootings,” because they rarely permit firearms. When states change their laws to allow responsible adults to easily carry a concealed weapon, the number of people killed in such shootings drops by 90%![ii] Since the ban on guns within 1000 feet of schools took place in 1996, school shootings have increased—and so have the number of innocent children slaughtered. Criminals don’t obey the law, so they aren’t deterred by “gun free zone” signs; indeed, they are encouraged.
When I talk with people who want more gun control and claim that they themselves would never own a firearm, I sometimes ask if they would be willing to put a sign in their front yard saying “This home is a gun-free zone.” Generally, I get silence and a stunned look; occasionally, I get an outright refusal. No one wants to put such a sign in front of their home; they know intuitively that such a sign marks them as an easy target for thieves, rapists, or murderers.
As long as we refuse to let our teachers and other responsible adults carry concealed weapons in our schools, as long as we advertise their defenselessness by posting “gun free zone” signs, we are painting a bull’s eye on the backs of our beloved children. We send our troops overseas to “protect American interests,” but demand that the future of America—her youth—be undefended. When we transport money, we do so in an armored vehicle with gun-toting guards to deter would be thieves. Aren’t our children more precious than our money? Shouldn’t we protect their lives even more zealously than we guard our property?
We would never demand that all men be castrated so that rape can never happen; we understand that rape is not a consequence of the male anatomy, but of the way it is used to either pleasure, procreate, or harm. Similarly, guns are tools: they can protect and defend or they can kill the innocent. In both cases, we do more harm than good by holding the hardware responsible for how it is wielded.
Unfortunately, if we continue to advertise our schools as “gun-free zones,” we are inviting a repeat of what just happened in Newtown, Connecticut. If we learn the lesson that these tragic deaths teach, and permit the responsible adults in our schools to defend our most precious blood, perhaps less of it will be spilled in the future. The families in mourning will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that their loved ones, in dying Friday, may have protected others from sharing their fate.
[i]See Chapter 16 of Healing Our World. The 1993 edition is available under the “Free Library Access” tab.
[ii] JR Lott, Jr. and WM Landes, “Multiple Victim Public Shootings,” John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper, #73 (Chicago: University of Chicago Law School, 2000), http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=161637, accessed December 16, 2012.