Recent tragedies reveal myth of ‘gun-free zones’

By Dave Workman

Seven dead at a church service in Wisconsin. Three dead in an Atlanta courthouse shooting, plus one more killed later by the same man. Ten dead, including the shooter, at or near a high school in northern Minnesota.

Recent headlines have brought the usual demands from gun control extremists for more laws and more restrictions on the private ownership of firearms. What the gun banners, and their media cheerleaders, have rather carefully ignored is that all of these brutal acts occurred in so-called “Gun-Free” zones.

After Columbine, state legislatures passed a flurry of “gun free school zone” laws that have hardly been a panacea to campus violence. When I went to high school in Tacoma, Washington, we had a rifle team, and kids brought their guns to school all the time. Nobody suffered so much as a scratch.

But at Red Lake High School, a seriously warped teenager who had been sending all kinds of warning signals about his mental state, came in and started shooting. This was after he killed his policeman grandfather, took his service pistol and a shotgun, and drove to the school in the dead man’s vehicle. Sure, there were security guards and a metal detector at the school. The guards were unarmed, and one of them was the first person shot. The metal detector stopped nothing.

The Atlanta courthouse shooting ultimately proves that in an area where private citizens are disarmed and only cops have guns—as is the case in nearly every courthouse in the nation—it is still possible for a motivated killer to murder people. All he needs to do is overpower a police officer and grab a gun.

Wisconsin is one of four states where there is no concealed carry statute. Such a law was vetoed last year by Gov. Jim Doyle, an anti-gun Democrat who suggested that if citizens were allowed to carry concealed firearms there would be gunfights in the streets. His veto was upheld on a single vote cast by Democrat Rep. Gary Sherman. Instead of a gunfight, there was a massacre. Someday, perhaps, Doyle and Sherman should explain—especially to the families of gunman Terry Ratzmann’s victims—how that happened when they acted to make the entire state a “Gun-Free” zone.

If all of these tragedies tell us anything, it is not that more gun laws are needed, but that the ones we have are disarming the wrong people. The term “gun-free zone” translates to “target rich environment” where victims are unable to defend themselves against a lethal onslaught.

That’s not simply wrong, it is insane. Yet, every time such laws have been passed, they are made to sound oh-so-reasonable by people who seem more interested in piling up statistical body counts to reinforce their message than they are about protecting the innocent and stopping killers.

Lately, conservative pundits have been bragging that “we could all take a lesson from Iraq.” Of course, they’re talking about the eagerness of Iraqi citizens to embrace democracy. There’s another lesson we could take, from citizens in the Baghdad suburb of Doura.

On the afternoon of March 22, according to the New York Times, a carload of masked insurgents motored up to a shop owned by a man identified only as “Dhia.” Fed up with the terrorism in their country, Dhia and his relatives, according to the account, “shouldered their Kalashnikov rifles and opened fire.” When the shooting stopped, three thugs were dead and the rest had fled. Hours later, Dhia was still standing outside his shop, a 9mm pistol in hand, telling a reporter, “We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen. I am waiting for the rest of them to come, and we will show them.”

Random violence is frightening. Disarming ourselves, and setting up “gun free zones” is no way to prevent it, however. That kind of delusional denial is fatal, as people in Atlanta, Wisconsin and Minnesota can attest.

Perhaps John Snyder, public affairs director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, put it best when he noted recently, “When push comes to shove, an ultimate protection against terrorist activity could well be an armed citizenry.”

Odd, isn’t it that we don’t have to convince people in Baghdad about that. It’s some people right here at home who don’t seem to get it.


Dave Workman is senior editor of Gun Week, a publication owned by the Second Amendment Foundation (