Ohio's campus carry law spurs debate about gun-free zones

Dr. John Lott, founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of “The War on Guns,” penned an editorial for the Columbus Dispatch last week in support of campus carry laws.

His message, a response to an editorial published the same day from Ohio State Rep. Kristin Boggs, D-Columbus, was simple: Stop legislating gun free zones and encouraging more attacks.

“Gun-free zones are magnets for murderers,” he wrote. “Even the most ardent gun-control advocate would never put ‘Gun-Free Zone’ signs on their home. Let’s stop putting them elsewhere.”

The campus carry debate reignited across the state in the aftermath of the Nov. 28 knife attack at Ohio State University in Columbus that left 11 injured and the lone suspect dead — shot and killed by a campus police officer just two minutes into the rampage.

State legislators jumped into action and approved Senate Bill 199 last week, which would give Ohio colleges the option to allow concealed weapons on campus. It awaits Gov. John Kasich’s signature as of Wednesday.

Boggs argues, however, campus carry laws are misguided because “no evidence” exists that mass shooters seek out gun-free zones, want to avoid law enforcement or even intend to survive the incident.

“Mass shootings are chaotic and highly stressful situations where it can be difficult to distinguish between victims and perpetrators,” she wrote. “While the movies typically portray the good guy as someone easily discernible from the bad-guy, an active shooter emergency is not that straightforward. A well-intentioned civilian shooter could unwittingly increase the likelihood that innocent people, including himself, are injured or killed if they become involved.”

Lott said his research proves Boggs and others who share her concerns wrong.

“In the dozens of cases where concealed-carriers have stopped mass public shootings in malls, churches, schools, universities and downtowns, no permit holder has ever shot a bystander. Nor have police ever accidentally shot a permit holder,” he wrote, noting since 1950, “all but four public mass shootings in America” have taken place in gun-free zones and that Europe has experienced some of the worst K-12 shootings in recent history.

Lott also describes an FBI wiretapped conversation with a terrorist sympathizer who planned a shooting at church in Detriot earlier this year. During the conversation, the suspect says he chose the church because “it’s easy, and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus it would make the news.”

“These killers might be crazy, but they aren’t stupid,” Lott wrote. “They want to kill as many people as possible. Killers consistently pick defenseless targets where they know no one will have a gun.”

Boggs presents different evidence, insisting that “90 percent of mass shooting incidences have occurred in locations where civilians were permitted to have guns, or where armed law enforcement was present.”

“Evidence, however, suggests that most mass shooters deliberately target a specific person or organization to address a grievance,” she wrote. “Also, one cannot ignore the mental illness plaguing a mass shooter, and the likelihood that he intends to commit suicide at the scene or be killed during the incident. Consequently, there is no legitimate reason to believe that allowing guns on campus will prevent an attack from taking place.”

In the meantime, OSU President Michael Drake said he doesn’t support campus carry and thinks “only trained professionals” should be armed. The quick actions of the police officer who killed the knife attack suspect last month supports this notion, he said.

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