Education

Santa Monica’s strict no guns policy questioned after mass shooting

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Robby Soave Reporter
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In the wake of the mass shooting that culminated at Santa Monica College in California, administrators defended the college’s strict no guns policy, despite criticism from those who say that so-called “gun free zones” don’t prevent crime.

On Friday, 23-year-old John Zawahri shot and killed his father and brother. He then forced a woman to drive him to the campus of Santa Monica College, where he killed three more people. Police eventually arrived on the scene and killed Zawahri during an exchange of gunfire.

Both college policy and California law forbid anyone other than law enforcement officials from bringing guns on campus. A college spokesman says the school is determined to maintain its ban on firearms, while the school’s president argues that the rampage was not technically a school shooting.

“Possessions of firearms or replicas, ammunition, explosives, knives/blades longer than 21/2 inches, other weapons, or fireworks are against the law in the College community or at College–sponsored activities,” according to SMC’s website. “California Penal Codes 626.9 and 626.10 also prohibit the possession of firearms (including pellet and BB guns) on College property without specific written permission of the Chief of Police.”

Conservative commentators frequently question whether gun free zones, like the one in effect at SMC, actually deter violence. John Lott, an economist and author of the book “More Guns, Less Crime,” has written that mass shooters actively seek out gun free zones, knowing that they are less likely to encounter armed resistance, since bystanders won’t have weapons.

“Why won’t these news stories mention that another attack has occurred where guns are banned?” he wrote in a recent blog post about the SMC shooting. “At some point everyone has to understand the pattern here.”

Universities should be able to decide whether they want to allow people to carry guns on campus, wrote Jacob Hornberger, president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

“The state should butt out of the matter,” he wrote in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “If one university says that guns are allowed, so be it. If another says no guns allowed, so be it.”

Hornberger wrote that he himself would be more inclined to attend a university that allowed students and staff to arm themselves, however.

“A would-be murderer would be crazy to go on a shooting spree in anything but a gun-free university,” he wrote. “In a gun-free university, he would know that no one would be able to defend himself.”

But a spokesperson for SMC said that the college had no reason to reconsider its gun ban, regardless of the state of California’s gun laws.

“There is no need to revisit it, we don’t allow guns,” he said in an interview with The DC News Foundation. “It’s explicitly banned.”

In a public statement made on Friday, College President Chui Tsang said that the crime did not meet the definition of a school shooting.

“I want to reiterate that today’s incident was not a school shooting,” he said. “It began off campus and was the result of a shooting suspect attempting to evade officers by running on to the campus.”

The the final three victims, however, were staff members and students, and were killed on or near SMC grounds, according to subsequent reports.

It was also reported that Zawahri had a connection to SMC, a history of mental illness, and a previous run-in with police.

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