Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
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
“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