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WND Exclusive
Concealed guns
prevent mass shootings

New study reveals truth
about deterrence

By Jon E. Dougherty
© 1999

While much of the nation and most politicians call for increased gun control measures in the wake of mass murder by two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., April 20, a new study shows that the best way to prevent such incidents in the future is to pass more laws that allow concealed carry of handguns.

The study, completed earlier this month by John R. Lott, Jr. and William M. Landes of the Chicago University School of Law, concludes "that the only policy factor to influence multiple victim public shootings is the passage of concealed handgun laws." The study also shows that other crime deterrent factors -- such as more police and wider use of the death penalty -- tend to curb "normal" instances of murder. But they do little or nothing to prevent such tragedies as those that have occurred in a number of the nation's public schools since 1997.

"Not only does the passage of a shall issue law have a significant impact on multiple shootings," wrote the authors, "but it is the only law related variable that appears to have a significant impact."

"We also find that shall issue laws deter both the number of multiple shootings and the amount of harm per shooting," said the study. In addition, the authors discovered that shooting deaths were steadily increasing before a number of states began passing "shall issue" or "concealed carry" laws several years ago.

Though some people will not be deterred by gun bans and/or potential victims who are likely armed, the study concluded that the number of injuries and deaths suffered in mass killings is significantly reduced when armed defenders are able to put an end to an attack much sooner. That ability is far better and far less harmful overall than, for example, having to wait for armed police to arrive, the authors said.

Ironically, the authors also found that school shootings involving multiple deaths and injuries increased after a 1995 federal law prohibiting guns within 1,000 yards of a school was passed.

The Lott/Landes study is the first to demonstrate that more concealed carry laws provide a reduction in the severity of mass killings "of those crimes that still take place."

The study showed that most states that have such laws are largely Republican, have low violent crime rates and higher property crime rates. It also proves that increased memberships in the National Rifle Association in areas where multiple victim shootings have occurred are not "statistically significant." And, contrary to accepted thought, the study found no evidence of "faddish" shootings by adults -- those committed by persons seeking to copy the behavior of others. However, Lott and Landes said the behavioral results may be different for school shootings, though they "involve such a small sample that it is not possible to study these shootings separately."

To support their conclusion that more gun availability in or near public schools prevented more death and injury, the Lott/Landes study used a number of examples, including the following:

  • In the Pearl, Miss., shooting, an assistant principal retrieved his gun from his office and used it to physically immobilize the shooter before he caused additional harm.

  • In Edinboro, Penn., which left one teacher dead, "a shotgun pointed at the offender while he was reloading his gun prevented additional harm. The police did not arrive for another ten minutes" after the assailant was apprehended by school staff.

While the study does not say more concealed carry laws will eliminate mass killings altogether around schools and in other public places, few experts believe such incidents would have been prevented with a total gun ban. Indeed, there are already specific laws on the books in most states and on the federal level which ban guns from places like schools, courtrooms, mass transit systems, and other areas where gun violence has occurred recently. And, most lawmakers realize the political futility of trying to pass a total gun ban by repealing the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"Although one can imagine circumstances where shall issue laws increase the availability of guns to potential offenders," the report said, "our results so far strongly indicate that these effects are not sufficient to offset the overall negative impact of shall issue laws on multiple shootings."

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Jon E. Dougherty writes a daily Internet column and is the co-host of Daybreak America on Catholic Family Radio. He is also the editor of the weekend independent newsmagazine USA Journal Online. He can be reached by email.

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© 1999 Western Journalism Center
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