Another Gun-Free Zone, Another Mass Shooting

REUTERS/Zachary Fagenson

John Lott President, Crime Prevention Research Center
Font Size:

Yet another shooting at yet another gun-free zone occurred today.  At this moment 5 people were murdered and another 8 injured. The tragedy today at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is all the more disappointing because just this last year legislators tried to change Florida’s ban on concealed carry at airports to avoid today’s type of event.

Florida Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby warned last year the legislation was needed because airport terminals “could become more of a target” for terrorists and criminals.

Florida is one of only six states that ban people being able to carry guns at airports.  While the Federal government bans guns at airports past security, Florida has gone much farther and bans licensed carry inside the entire terminal.  Airports are often crowded places and have frequently been attractive targets to terrorists around the world.

Last year a young ISIS sympathizer planned a shooting at one of the largest churches in Detroit. In a wiretap, the FBI recorded his explanation of why he had picked the church as a target: “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.  They want to kill as many people as possible and they want their victims to be defenseless.  Killers have continually picked targets where they know no one will have a gun.  Just look at the Charleston Church; Colorado “Batman” movie theater; Santa Barbara, California; and other attacks.

In late 2013, Ron Noble, the then secretary general of Interpol, noted two means of protecting people from mass shootings: “One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves [should be] so secure that in order to get into the soft target, you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.”

But Noble warned that experience taught him it was virtually impossible to stop killers from getting weapons.  Gun-free zones, he argued, mean that only the terrorists will have weapons.

President-elect Donald Trump understands the danger of gun-free zones.  After the terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015, Trump noted: “You can say what you want, but if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry, it would’ve been a much, much different situation.” He has understood the danger that these gun-free zones pose for schools and military bases.

Police are very important, but they virtually always arrive after the attack has occurred and they have an extremely difficult job stopping terrorists — having a uniform is often akin to wearing a neon sign saying “shoot me first.”  In the recent attacks at the nightclubs in Istanbul and Orlando over the last year, police officers who were guarding the facilities were the first people killed.

The media convers all sorts of “facts” that frequently turn out to be wrong about these attacks, such as the guns used or how they obtained their guns.  But the simplest and most easily checked fact, that these attacks keep occurring in places where general citizens are banned from having guns for protection, is virtually never mentioned in the media.

Gun-free zones are magnets for these terrorists.  Trump’s election has finally raised the danger of gun-free zones.  It couldn’t have come too soon.