Monday, December 17, 2012

John Fund: Mass Murder, Gun Free Zones & Mental Health

As I said in the opening line of the post below, "gun control laws - as well as "gun free zones" - do nothing more than disarm the law abiding, with of course disastrous effect when a gun is needed for defense of self and others." John Fund addresses those themes as well as mental illness in his NRO column today, first giving us some facts about mass murder:

Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades, despite the impression given by the media.

In fact, the high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century.

The chances of being killed in a mass shooting are about what they are for being struck by lightning.

Until the Newtown horror, the three worst K–12 school shootings ever had taken place in either Britain or Germany.

The only addition to that list would be that the worst slaughter in a school in our nation's history occurred in 1927 in Bath Township, Michigan. In that incident, Andrew Kehoe, over a period of hours, used explosives to kill 45 people, mostly children attending the local school.

Fund then addresses "gun free zones:"

Gun-free zones have been the most popular response to previous mass killings. But many law-enforcement officials say they are actually counterproductive. “Guns are already banned in schools. That is why the shootings happen in schools. A school is a ‘helpless-victim zone,’” says Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff. “Preventing any adult at a school from having access to a firearm eliminates any chance the killer can be stopped in time to prevent a rampage,” Jim Kouri, the public-information officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, told me earlier this year at the time of the Aurora, Colo., Batman-movie shooting. Indeed, there have been many instances — from the high-school shooting by Luke Woodham in Mississippi, to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo. — where a killer has been stopped after someone got a gun from a parked car or elsewhere and confronted the shooter.

Economists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed, such as shopping malls and schools.

I spoke with Lott after the Newtown shooting, and he confirmed that nothing has changed to alter his findings. He noted that the Aurora shooter, who killed twelve people earlier this year, had a choice of seven movie theaters that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. All were within a 20-minute drive of his home. The Cinemark Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals. All of the other theaters allowed the approximately 4 percent of Colorado adults who have a concealed-handgun permit to enter with their weapons.

“Disarming law-abiding citizens leaves them as sitting ducks,” Lott told me. “A couple hundred people were in the Cinemark Theater when the killer arrived. There is an extremely high probability that one or more of them would have had a legal concealed handgun with him if they had not been banned.”

Lott offers a final damning statistic: “With just one single exception, the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

Also as I said below, private businesses that choose to voluntarily disarm their clientele by designating their business a gun free zone should be sued for negligence if a mass murder is committed on their grounds. Nothing will drive the the debate on this issue like a few successful law suits.

You will note that it seems like all of the calls for "gun control" come from people on the left who live in safety, often protected in their work, if not their home, by people carrying guns. They seem to believe that allowing private citizens to carry weapons is a sure recipe for mayhem. Fund addresses their mistrust:

There is no evidence that private holders of concealed-carry permits (which are either easy to obtain or not even required in more than 40 states) are any more irresponsible with firearms than the police. According to a 2005 to 2007 study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Bowling Green State University, police nationwide were convicted of firearms violations at least at a 0.002 percent annual rate. That’s about the same rate as holders of carry permits in the states with “shall issue” laws.

And Fund also addresses the role of mental illness in mass murders:

A lengthy study by Mother Jones magazine found that at least 38 of the 61 mass shooters in the past three decades “displayed signs of mental health problems prior to the killings.” New York Times columnist David Brooks and Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson have both suggested that the ACLU-inspired laws that make it so difficult to intervene and identify potentially dangerous people should be loosened. “Will we address mental-health and educational-privacy laws, which instill fear of legal liability for reporting potentially violent mentally ill people to law enforcement?” asks Professor Jacobson. “I doubt it.”

After several decades of ACLU driven lawsuits, our mental health laws today insure that those with potential problems will not receive the help that should be available, nor will society be protected against such individuals. That should be the starting point of any national discussions in the wake of Sandy Hook, followed shortly thereafter by a discussion of the evil of "gun-free zones."

Related Posts:

- St. Louis Police Chief Calls for Arming School Personnel

- Luby Cafeteria Massacre, Testimony of Suzanna Hupp, Texas School District Authorizes Concealed Carry For Its Schools

- Reynolds On Gun Free Zones, The Left's Mistrust Of Armed Private Citizens, & Our Problematic Mental Health Laws

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