Repeal Gun-Free School Zones

I was at work when I heard about the murder of the innocents in Newton, Connecticut. I remember hearing the President on the radio. “The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” Obama said with great emotion. “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

These were children the same age as my own. Like many Americans, like many parents, I felt saddened, outraged and violated by the actions of this madman who committed these despicable acts. Emotionally this felt like the most traumatic attack since 9/11.

Two days later President Obama spoke at the prayer vigil for the victims and hinted about efforts to prevent future tragedies. “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end,” said Obama. “And to end them, we must change.” But I wonder how much Obama and his allies are willing to change in response to tragedies like these.

It seems that the more of an abysmal failure a government measure is the more vehemently it will be defended by statists. In regard to school shootings the glaring failure is the federal Gun-Free School Zone Act (and its state and local clones). This law basically forbids the possession of a firearm in a school zone. Will Obama and his cohorts be willing to travel outside their own ideological comfort zone and listen to arguments that just maybe this measure does more harm than good? I’ll give them two reasons why the GFSZA should be repealed.

First, it’s unconstitutional. I realize that most politicians, like most of my countrymen, don’t care a fig about whether or not a law complies with the U.S. Constitution. But, since I once swore an oath to kill or die in defense of that document, I’ll include it here for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else. In this case you don’t have to just take the word of some blogger in his pajamas pounding a keyboard. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with me and already stuck the law down once.

The federal GFSZA was originally passed in 1990, but the Supreme Court ruled it to be an unconstitutional abuse of Congressional authority under the Constitution’s commerce clause in U.S.v Lopez (1995). To uphold the law, the court concluded, “would require us to conclude that the Constitution’s enumeration of powers does not presuppose something not enumerated, and that there never will be a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local. This we are unwilling to do.” In other words toting a gun in a local school is none of the federal governments damned business.

Congress responded by adding a few words to the original GFSZA and passing it again. Bill Clinton signed it again and it’s been the law ever since. Although it’s been challenged in lower courts, it hasn’t made it back to the Supreme Court to be re-reviewed. Perhaps someday it will and perhaps the court will have the right mixture of political appointees to uphold it. Regardless of what the Supreme Court has said or will say about it, it is anathema to the intent of the framers of the Constitution.

The second, and I think more practical, reason to repeal the GFSZA is that it doesn’t work. In 2000 Professors John R. Lott Jr. and William M. Landes released an exhaustive study of “Multiple Victim Public Shootings.” Some key findings from that study:

  • “Right-to-carry laws reduce the number of people killed or wounded from multiple victim public shootings as many attackers are either deterred from attacking or when attacks do occur they are stopped before the police can arrive.”
  • “Given that half the attackers in these multiple victim public shootings have had formal diagnoses of mental illness, the fact that some results indicate concealed handgun laws reduce these attacks by almost 70 percent is remarkable.”
  • “Not only does the passage of a right-to-carry law have a significant impact on multiple shootings but it is the only gun law that appears to have a significant impact.”
  • “[S]tates with the fewest gun free zones have the greatest reductions [in] killings, injuries, and attacks.”[Emphasis added.]

In a July 2012 New York Daily News op-ed piece, John R. Lott points out a salient fact from his continued research that should be required reading for everyone on both sides of this debate: “With a single exception, every multiple-victim public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms.” That fact alone is shocking and points out the failure of “gun-free zones” of any kind in this country.

So who in America will “change” to help reduce tragedies such as the Sandy Hook slayings? Will Obama and his friends be willing to change their worldview enough to accept anything other than more restrictions on private gun ownership as a potential aid to the problem? Will the only real change be more loss of freedom, as has happened after so many tragedies in our nations history? I hope not. 

Our nation is already a little darker with the 20 little beacons of hope extinguished prematurely at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Let’s not make it darker still by making all the other children grow up in a land less free.

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