The Deadly Failure of Gun Free Zones

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Pro-Second Amendment Americans are not in any way enlightened by the recent tragedy at the Chattanooga military bases. Rather, we sit back and watch a bad version of the 1980s movie “Groundhog Day”, with a consistent replay of criminals killing helpless victims in gun free zones.

Americans are disarmed every day when they go to school or to work. The laws “protecting” military bases and schools, as well as employers’ ignorant policies, strip citizens of their right to self-defense.

These failed attempts at gun control must be recognized and stopped. Since their enactment, several bills have surfaced to repeal these laws, but all have failed. The research and the statistics that criminals choose these kill zones have been proven over the last three decades. Americans must now prove that we are not a country that will knowingly leave our young children, let alone adults willing to protect and defend, vulnerable to terrorists and psychologically disturbed killers.

Twenty-five years have passed since Congress enacted the Gun Free School Zones Act (GFSZA) in 1990. Similarly, Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 5210.56 was signed into effect in February 1992 by Donald J. Atwood, deputy secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush.

Prior to the GFSZA, it was legal for American kids to drive the family pickup to school with a gun rack and rifle in place. But after the Stockton, California schoolyard shooting, Congress passed this “feel good” law, creating a new venue for killers to make their fame. The GFSZA made it a federal offense “for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.”[i] Unless an individual meets one of the law’s exceptions[ii], an American carrying within 1000 feet (close to three city blocks) of a public, parochial, or private school will face a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison, and the loss of their right to possess a firearm for life.[iii]

Surprisingly, and for the first time in over half a century, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce by passing the GFSZA.[iv] But Congress quickly revised the law. The new version prohibits possession of “a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce” in “a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.”[v] This new law remains unchallenged and is currently in effect.

Nine of the country’s ten deadliest school shootings have followed. Ten school shootings killing at least four people have occurred since the bill’s original passage, compared to only two such killings for the 20 years prior to the law.

To those who still subscribe to the theory of common sense, a “gun free zone” is an obvious “killing zone”, where the criminal is in control. The primary failing of all gun free zone laws is that these laws remove firearms from the sheep (our children or non-carrying adults) and the sheepdogs (responsible adults who are charged with protecting our children or responsible gun owners carrying for personal defense). The logic is simple: without sheepdogs nearby, the wolves kill at their pleasure. Time and again, these killers do not randomly start shooting in public. Instead, they intentionally select a location where they have control – gun free zones offer them this opportunity.

According to John R. Lott, “Time after time, we see that these killers tell us they pick soft targets. With just two exceptions, from at least 1950, all the mass public shootings have occurred in these gun-free zones… [T]hese killers made it abundantly clear in their diaries or on Facebook how they avoided targets where people with guns could stop them.” [vi]

John Lott’s research clearly shows that the states with the fewest gun free zones have the fewest gun-related killings, injuries, and attacks.[vii]

There is a growing movement in states across the country to fight against Congress and take action to eliminate the GFSZA and other “gun free” zones, such as military bases and private places of employment. Some states have already passed legislation specifically allowing teachers to carry firearms to protect their students or prohibiting employers from enacting gun free workplace policies.

Recently, the tiny Idaho town of Garden Valley made national news when its board went a step further. This bold Idaho school board voted to go beyond giving its teachers permission to arm themselves. The Garden Valley School District expended taxpayer dollars to purchase firearms for its schools and to post signs to inform criminals that the school is armed. Similarly, the town of Greenleaf, Idaho, officially asked its residents to acquire firearms and receive training on how to use them for self-defense. The town has posted signs that it is not a gun free zone. U.S. Senator Mike Crapo visited this town and expressed his support of its effort.

Unfortunately, ignorant parents would deny their own children the protection the Garden Valley school board has offered. Parents were quoted by the media as commenting that the plan was “ridiculous” and that the school should “work on security guards” instead of arming the faculty. The liberal media, of course, did not like the idea of guns in the hands of responsible adults either. These anti-gun liberals went so far as to comment that children might be afraid to “speak out” against a teacher, knowing the teacher was armed. Wouldn’t children in fact feel safer knowing that their teacher is also their protector, with firepower ready to defend the class? Perhaps . . . if our federal and state governments would stop indoctrinating our children to believe guns are evil.[viii]

At the end of the day, nothing illustrates the madness of mythical “gun-free zones” like the media’s recent pictures of the Chattanooga military base crime scene: a gun-free decal with bullet holes nearby.

Larry Pratt, CEO of the Gun Owners of America, recently sent a plea to gun owners to support Congress’s latest attempt to stop the madness by eliminating the GFSZA. Americans must take a stance and support these efforts rather than simply express disgust at the law. Change takes action in the face of adversity. Supporting organizations and the efforts of our senators and representatives who are willing to take a stance and destroy the killing zones is the duty of every American. Join your local organizations and national organizations to fight these unconstitutional laws. Our website at www.AlexKincaidLaw.com will continue to update our visitors, and you may follow us on all the usual social media sites as well (links are on our website).


[i] 18 U.S.C. §922(q)(1)(A).

[ii] The GFSZA includes exceptions for:

1) firearms on private property (including homes used for home schooling as the law is currently interpreted);

2) unloaded firearms in a locked container or locked firearms rack in a motor vehicle;

3) unloaded firearms possessed while traversing school grounds to access hunting land;

4) entry authorized by the school;

5) persons licensed by state or local authorities;

6) individuals using a firearm in a school program;

7) law enforcement officers acting in an official capacity.

Note that under these exceptions, an individual who has been issued a right-to-carry license by the state, or a political subdivision of the state, in which the “school zone” is located, may continue to carry in a “school zone” in compliance with existing state and local laws. Non-licensed individuals who drive through a “school zone” must have their firearms unloaded and locked in a container or firearms rack.

[iii] There is currently no mechanism to restore the gun rights for an individual who has been convicted of a federal offense.

[iv] United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995).

[v] 18 U.S.C. §922(q)(2)(A).

[vi] John R. Lott, CPRC at Fox News Gun Free Zones an Easy Target for Killers, Crime Prevention Research Center (June 18, 2015). Available at http://crimepreventionresearchcenter.org/2015/06/cprc-at-fox-news-gun-free-zones-an-easy-target-for-killers/

[vii] Lott, John R. and Landes, William M., Multiple Victim Public Shootings (October 19, 2000). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=272929 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.272929

[viii] And if you’re looking for the reason kids are expelled from school for having a pastry in the shape of a gun, pointing finger guns, or wearing pro-Second Amendment clothing, you need look no further than the GFSZA. When the GFSZA was re-enacted as part of the “No Child Left Behind” Act (NCLBA), the revised law requires states receiving federal funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (as amended by the NCLBA) to have laws requiring local educational agencies to adopt a policy that expels students (unless modified on a case by case basis) for a minimum period of one year for bringing a firearm to school or possessing a firearm at school. 20 U.S.C. § 7151.

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