Trace reports 84 percent of mass shootings not in ‘gun-free zones’

It’s an article of faith among advocates of gun control that ordinary Americans cannot prevent a mass shooting or stop one soon enough to save lives.  Added to this is the attempt to make gun-free zones sound as though they do not create a particular risk for people inside them.  Their motivations are worth wondering about, and I’ll offer some thoughts about that later, but first let’s set the stage and fill it with some facts.

The example that has drawn my attention this time is an article on The Trace by Jennifer Mascia, titled, “The Latest Research on Rampage Shootings Shows Gunmen Rarely Target Gun-Free Zones.”  Her interest seems to be in convincing her readers that armed self-defense is a fantasy, that personal action won’t do any good—presumably while collective government action will—and that allowing guns into traditionally “gun-free zones” will only encourage drunken brawls among frat boys and the like.  But in her own writing, she undermines the message she hopes we’ll accept.

On the question of defensive gun uses, Mascia cites the National Crime Victimization Survey that found some 100,000 such acts of self-defense occur in a given year.  Let’s note that this number is the equal of the total deaths and injuries due to gunfire in the same period.  The NCVS is the low end of reasonable estimates on the number of times Americans protect themselves with firearms every twelve months, but even if this is the accurate figure, the good balances the harm done by guns.

Mascia also mentions the work of David Hemenway, a researcher who rarely finds anything good about gun possession.  Curiously, he admits that in fact there is an advantage in having a gun on one’s person.  He finds that “the one time having a gun does significantly lower injury rates is before the individual takes a defensive action.”  One explanation of this that he sees is the possibility that defensive gun uses typically happen during belligerent confrontations in which the people know in advance that violence can result.  But he also allows that armed good citizens could be more aware of their surroundings and better able to anticipate an attack.

I have a recollection about someone named Cooper who addressed this point exactly.  And contrary to the strawmen that anti-gun people construct, people who pay attention to the subject of self-defense understand that carrying a gun is no guarantee.  The point is to improve the odds.  Being aware of what’s going on in our environments is another means of doing this.

But what of the claim that gun-free zones either are or are not a particular target of spree shooters?  Mascia cites research that claims that eighty-four percent of mass shootings take place in “gun-allowing zones.”  Unfortunately, the list of such events and their locations isn’t provided, but a look at the events with the greatest number of deaths shows that indeed many were in either places that specifically ban guns or in states that make legal carry difficult.

I’m willing to stipulate that in many cases, a gun-free zone isn’t a magnet for a mass shooting.  It’s more likely that crazed killers go where they believe that they can achieve their objectives—often a grievance against specific people.  In Tucson, that was an attack on a member of Congress.  At Sandy Hook, on the other hand, it was a goal to set a record.  Trying to delve into what drives insane people is an errand best left to psychologists.  What we can say is that a gun-free zone takes away the best chance for good people to resist.

And that’s where we have to wonder about the motives of people who seek to disarm us.  Dependency tends to build on itself when encouraged, and being unarmed is a fine case of dependency  It is precisely the lack of practical ability to do anything about an attack.  Why gun control advocates want this is something that they’ll have to explain.  Whether it’s sympathy for attackers or submissiveness to those who would like to rule over us, this isn’t an attitude that the rest of us should promote.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

Latest Reviews