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Gun Free Zones
An Examination of Policy Brian M. Kern University of North Texas CJUS 4901 Senior Seminar Dr. Lisa Muftić
“Dominic: What do you think will happen, Inspector? Inspector Finch: What usually happens when people without guns stand up to people with guns.” - V for Vendetta
Gun Free Zones
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” – Second Amendment of the United States Constitution
Every 22.2 seconds a violent crime is committed somewhere in the United States. Every 36.6 seconds an aggravated assault occurs somewhere in the United States. Every 1.2 minutes a robbery occurs somewhere in the United States, and every 30.9 minutes there is a murder. (UCR, 2006) These statistics, taken from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report, present a frightening picture of criminal activity in America, but most importantly, underline the deep and pervasive role violence and criminal activity have on our society. According to one National Institute of Justice survey of convicted felons, 68% of all robberies are committed with handguns. (Kates, 2003) Or as Carlisle Moody put it, “A criminal with a gun is a more efficient criminal.” (Moody, 2003) In an effort to reduce the harmful effects of firearms, a vast number of policies and laws have been considered, and some even adopted, by the United States in order to curb what some see as a historical “bloodiness”, or the American heritage of violence. From the early years of its inception the United States has been a country that has espoused the very foundations of violent response. Even its very birth was founded in bloodshed and gunpowder. The United States has fought in over twenty one armed conflicts in the course of a little more than two hundred years, projecting force from the barrel of a gun. The United States leads the world in military advancement and might and the United States leads the world with the largest armed populace,
Gun Free Zones owning 270 million of the world’s 875 million known firearms. (MacInnis, 2007) As Mao Tse Tung so aptly put it, “political power comes from the barrel of a gun.” One of the most important policies that have been enacted in the United States is the creation of the “Gun-Free Zone”. These zones, initially proposed by gun control advocates who modeled these programs based upon the relatively successful “Drug-Free Zones” of the early 1980s, were implemented with the intention of increasing the severity of the consequences of bringing or using a firearm in or around a school. Gun Free Zones were initially designed to reduce the levels of violence in the testosterone charged atmosphere of high school. Two important issues appear with the creation of Gun Free Zones. First, in the bloody aftermath of school shootings, does the deterrent and incapacitation values of Gun Free Zones stand steady against gun rights activists who point to the mass casualties of Gun Free Zone shootings? Are Gun Free Zones actually helping to reduce violence? Or do they merely enable criminals and homicidal nuts to create a higher casualty count? The second issue is more
prosaic, and involves an American concept of personal responsibility. Does the government and private property owners have the right to declare a public place a Gun Free Zone, thus preventing law-abiding citizens who are licensed to legally carry a weapon, from doing so? The Constitutional right to bear arms has been a hotly debated issue for decades, and one that is not the issue of this examination, but we must acknowledge that the foundation for both anti-gun laws and the right to bear arms comes from the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Standard bearers for both the “collective” and “individualistic” view of the Second Amendment come saddled with political bias. But what can not be argued against is the belief of our founding fathers, who felt that personal responsibility in the face of adversity is one of the most desirable traits of not just Americans, but mankind. The Constitutional framers clearly
Gun Free Zones believed in the concept of personal responsibility in the face of aggression and tyranny, and the right of the people to defend themselves against all aggressors, including the government. (Kates, 2003) In 1759, Benjamin Franklin said “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain
a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” (Franklin, 1759) Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense wrote:
“The peaceable part of mankind will be continually overrun by the vile and abandoned while they neglect the means of self defense. The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world. All would be wonderful if evil men would disarm, but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. Horrid mischief would ensue; the weak would become prey to the strong.” (Kates, 2003)
And yet as our country continues its technological and cultural advancement, many more citizens actively promote this abdication of personal responsibility, wanting instead to relinquish their rights, their safety, their liberty, to the government. Gun Control Advocates state correctly that firearms are the only “widely available consumer products designed to kill.” (Doyle, 2005) Over 28,000 Americans die every year to gun violence. (Doyle, 2005) But as experiments in gun-free nations such as Great Britain have shown, controlling guns by removing them from the populace only places law-abiding citizens (or subjects) in danger. Following the 1997 UK handgun ban, felony crimes committed with pistols rose by 40 percent, and the upward trend has continued. (Malcom, 2000) Other interesting facts also reveal themselves; for example, in the
Gun Free Zones United States, most home burglaries are committed when no one is at home. In Great Britain, 32% of home invasions are committed during the evening, when families are present. A
frightening 30% take place on the weekends! (SecureOne, 2008) The psychology behind this is easy to deduce. American burglars are worried about getting shot. British ones are not. Just as any tool or technology can be used for purposes that support the common good, firearms are an almost “made-to-order” recipe for the criminal element. Violence in the United States has always been higher in comparison to other western nations, with or without guns. But our propensity and reputation to solve problems with a gun, to “shoot first and ask questions later” and the massive number of firearms held by the American public, certainly provokes important questions concerning the wisdom behind the Second Amendment. The debate over gun control is a raging firestorm of statistics, intentions, crime reports, and high emotions. Advocates of gun control point to the possibilities of reduced crime, less violence, and fewer accidental shootings. The National Rifle Association points out the number of violent crimes STOPPED by armed citizens is much higher than the reduction of crime caused by gun bans. Great Britain 1997 Gun Control Policy established one of western civilization’s most restrictive handgun bans, promoting the concept of “domestic defense”. Unfortunately, with gun crime on the rise in Great Britain, armed criminals are becoming more prevalent and the London Metropolitan Police are looking to NYPD for advice. (Malcom, 2000) Today, the ownership of guns is a constitutionally protected individual right, supported by the Supreme Court, but that has not stopped gun-control advocates from imposing their own viewpoints concerning firearms on our nation, irregardless of court cases and constitutional amendments. Throughout the last ten years, gun-control forces have proposed and made into law the expansion of “gun-free zones”, to include not just primary and secondary education facilities,
Gun Free Zones but other areas around children, hospitals, and other businesses. These weapons free zones
serve dual purpose: too increase the penalty for criminals who use or carry firearms while within the gun-free zone, and to prevent those who carry handguns legally, with a government licensed permit, from entering the zone with their gun. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, gun free zones were initially designed to deter youths from bringing or using a gun at school. This concept, based loosely on the “drug-free” programs of the 1980’s has actually been effective in reducing firearm possession and violence at high schools around the country. (NCPC, 2008) While there has been no specific research done directly on the effects of Gun Free Zones, for fairness sake we must analyze separately Gun Free Zones at high schools compared to private businesses, government offices, and universities. According to research studies, the primary reason juveniles carry a weapon was for protections. (Shelley, This, plus correlates between criminal behavior and gun possession, especially of automatic or semi-automatic handguns, sawn-off shotguns, and revolvers, demonstrate a real need for comprehensive gun control policy. With the creation of Gun Free Zones at high schools, incarceration rates increased as juveniles in possession of weapons received greater sentences. Researchers were unable to determine if there was an increased deterrent value. (Sheley, 1998) However successful Gun Free Zones have been at the secondary education level, they have failed miserably at the university and private business levels. Starting in 1966 at the University of Texas in Austin where Charles Joseph Whitman killed 14 people from the observation deck of school’s administration building, the litany of school killings are vast. Kent State University: 4 dead. Jackson State University: 2 dead. California State University: 7 dead. University of Iowa: 6 dead. Lindhurst High School: 4 dead. Simon’s Rock College of Bard: 2
Gun Free Zones dead. Columbine High School: 15 dead. Rocori High School: 2 dead. Lancaster, Pennsylvania Amish School: 6 dead. Virginia Tech: 33 dead. Delaware State University: 1 dead. Success
Tech Academy, Cleveland, Ohio: 1 dead. Louisiana Technical College: 3 dead. Northern Illinois State University: 6 dead. The entire list of mass murder incidents in the previous paragraph were already identified as “gun-free zones” or currently are “gun-free zones” thanks to the deranged individuals who violated the holy halls of learning. Obviously, the existence of “gun-free zones” did nothing to deter these disturbed individuals who committed these atrocities. Yet equally stunning is the determination of so many individuals to keep “gun-free zones” despite the increasingly obvious fact that they do not deter criminals. The media has also played an important role in establishing “gun-free zones” by ignoring or downplaying incidents in which a legally armed citizen prevented or stopped a shooting. On March 5, 2001, Charles Andrew Williams opened fire at Santana High School in Santee, California. The school sent in an unarmed “trained campus supervisor” to negotiate with Williams which resulted in the supervisor’s death. An armed off-duty police officer, who was dropping off his daughter at the school, kept Williams at bay until more police could arrive. 2 dead. (Freydis, 2008) At the Appalachian School of Law in 2002, a student began shooting at his classmates. Two other students retrieved their personal weapons from their vehicles and forced Peter Odighizuwa to drop his weapon. 3 dead. (Freydis, 2008) On October 1st, 1997 Luke Woodham began a shooting spree at Pearl High School in Mississippi. After killing his former girlfriend and another student, he went on to shoot seven others. Joel Myrick, the assistant principal retrieved his handgun from his car and subdued
Gun Free Zones Woodham. 2 dead. (Freydis, 2008) Perhaps Ann Coulter said it best: “When you need a gun, nothing else will do.” (Coulter, 125) Currently, the State of Texas prohibits a variety of different weapons, including handguns, from being actively carried upon one’s person, irregardless of whether a person is standing in a Gun or Weapons Free Zone. (Texas Penal Code, Sec 46.01-02) (Bender, 2005) The only exception to this law is for citizens who possess a concealed weapons permit. The Texas Concealed Weapons Permit allows citizens who are legal residents of Texas, who are qualified to purchase a handgun under state and federal laws, with relatively clear criminal background histories with no felony convictions and only a few allowed misdemeanor convictions can even apply for a license. Other factors such as pending court proceedings, alcohol problems, and certain types of mental illnesses, restraining or protective orders, non-
payment of government taxes, governmental fees, student loans and child support, all play major roles in our government’s suitability requirements. Additionally, citizen’s who wish to become licensed to carry a concealed weapon must attend a training course which covers firearm safety, risk assessment, law, and situational ethics. (Texas Department of Public Safety, 2008) The
State of Texas also actively bars a licensed weapons holder from entering any clearly marked or established “Gun Free Zone” with their weapon. A major question arises when a private business, government building, or school, in which the public is invited onto the premises, declares the property to be a Gun Free Zone, and then does nothing to ensure the safety of those who are invited. As mentioned earlier in this paper, the concept of personal responsibility in the face of adversity is an American trait, one in which our forefathers felt was in the best interests of our country. Gun Free Zones obviously do nothing to deter the mentally disturbed individual and merely unarm law-abiding citizens. Do
Gun Free Zones schools such as Virginia Tech, which suffered a mass casualty shooting in 2008 have a responsibility to the safety of their students if they disarm them?
At the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, one must pass through a metal detector and a bag search before being allowed to enter the facility. The Supreme Court has ruled that searches such as these and those at the airport, are not a violation of a citizen’s right against unreasonable search and seizure. Entry to these facilities comes with the understanding that you will be searched. But citizens possessing a concealed weapons license accept being disarmed under such circumstance for one reason: the facility has accepted the burden of providing for the general safety of those under its wing. The policy concept behind gun-free zones is based on public fear and “feel good morality”, rather than statistics. Gun owners who are licensed to carry their handguns argue that gun free zones merely disarm everyone within, except the criminal element, who has no intention of obeying the law in the first place. Oddly enough, the vast majority of mass shootings that have taken place in the last seven years have all occurred in “gun-free zones”. Unfortunately, most of those have been schools. John Lott, Jr and William Landes conducted a study that found that states passing right-to-carry laws saw violent criminal attacks fall by as much as sixty percent. Violent deaths and injuries from multiple-victim public shootings fell by an astonishing 78 percent. (Lott, 2005) Proponents of gun free zones, especially at universities and private businesses quote most frequently their fears of being assaulted or harmed by ANY person with a gun, including those who are legally carrying. It is a well known fact that many murders are crimes of “passion”, rather than premeditation, and the ready availability with a gun makes for a recipe of instant violence. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety Regulatory Licensing Service,
Gun Free Zones
Concealed Weapons Permit Holders are a relatively non-criminal bunch. In 2005, there were 175 total convictions for murder in the State of Texas. Only one of those convictions was of a Concealed Handgun License Holder. 958 individuals were convicted of aggravated robbery, and yet only 3 of those convictions were Concealed Handgun License Holders. In 2005 there were a total of 34,791 total convictions, of both felonies and misdemeanors. Of that thirty four thousand, only 129 were holders of concealed weapons permits. Less than 0.3708% of all crimes in the State of Texas during 2005 were committed by Concealed Handgun License Holders. (TXDPS, 2006) In conclusion, it seems apparent that while Gun Free Zones may provide a deterrent effect on juveniles, Gun Free Zones do nothing to prevent or dissuade mentally unhinged offenders or hardened criminals from carrying or committing firearm involved crimes. Irregardless of the effectiveness of the Weapons Free Zone deterrence, the basic fact that some governmental agencies, schools, and private businesses actively deny a law-abiding citizen’s right to self-protection without assuming the responsibility themselves. As the lawsuits against universities such as Virginia Tech cost taxpayers and education facilities millions of dollars, we are forced to wonder why ANY university or business would want to declare their establishment GUN FREE.
Gun Free Zones
1. Coulter, Ann. “If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans.” Random House, New York. 2007 2. Doyle, Kelly ed. “Is Gun Ownership A Right?” Greenhaven Press. Farmington Hills, MI. 2005 3. Franklin, Benjamin. “Historical Review of Pennsylvania.” Philadelphia, PA 1759 4. Freydis. “School Shootings” Holology Research. Retrieved from http://www.holology.com/shooting.html#I on April 28, 2008. 5. Lott, John. “Disarming Facts”. National Review Online. March 23, 2005. 6. Kates, Don B. “Guns and the Law” World & I, October 2003, pp. 26-31 7. MacInnis, Laura. “US Most Armed Country with 90 Guns Per 100 People.” Reuters. August 28, 2007. Retrieved from: http://www.reuters.com/article/wtMostRead/idUSL2834893820070828 8. Malcom, Joyce Lee “Gun Control’s Twisted Outcome” Reason Online. November 2000. Retrieved from http://www.reason.com/news/show/28582.html on March 18, 2008. 9. Moody, Carlisle E. and Marvell, Thomas B., "Pitfalls of Using Proxy Variables in Studies of Guns and Crime" (November 10, 2003). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=473661 or DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.473661 10. National Crime Prevention Council “Gun Free Zone Strategies” Retrieved from: http://www.ncpc.org/topics/school-safety/strategies/strategy-gun-free-schoolzones/?searchterm=gun%20free%20zones on April 28, 2008. 11. SecureOne.com; “Household Burglary in the UK – Facts and Figures”. Retrieved from http://www.secureone.co.uk/domesticalarms/burglaryfacts.html#Anchor-When-7431 on April 15, 2008. 12. School Shootings (List) Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_massacre on March 18, 2008. 13. Sheley, Joseph F. and Wright, James D. “High School Youths, Weapons, and Violence: A National Survey”. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. October 1998. 14. Texas Department of Public Safety. “Frequently Asked Questions About Texas Concealed Handguns”. Retrieved from: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/administration/crime_records/chl/faq.htm on April 15th, 2008. 15. Texas Department of Public Safety Regulatory Licensing Service. “Conviction Rates for Concealed Handgun License Holders Reporting Period: 01/01/2005 – 12/31/2005”. Austin, Texas 2006 Retrieved from: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/administration/crime_records/chl/ConvictionRatesReport200 5.pdf 16. Bender, Matthew & Company. “Texas Criminal and Traffic Law Manual 2005-2006 Edition.” LexisNexis. Charlottesville, VA 2005. 17. US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Time Clock – 2006” Washington D.C. 2007.
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