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What Gun Control Advocates Fail to Grasp After Mass Shootings

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Another horrifying attack and immediately gun control politicians and organizations are calling for more gun control laws. Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren; Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former congressman Beto O'Rourke, and many others put out calls for more gun control within a few hours of the tragedy. The question of "How many more?" is a question that we ask ourselves all the time. Now the desire "to do something" is very understandable, but let's try to do something that matters.


Here is something that people might want to consider. Virginia Beach bans employees from being able to carry guns. While it was indeed possible for a civilian to enter the "Operations Building" where the attack occurred, the "Operations Building," as its name suggests, was a building where virtually only employees would be in.

The operations building contained up to 400 employees in city/schools print services, mail room services, planning, public works, public utilities, communications and information technology, and traffic engineering. Even with public utilities, the office where customers could pay bills was located in another building. This "operations" building is also relatively isolated from the rest of the buildings.

Everyone in the building who was killed was a public employee. They were all law-abiding people who obeyed the firearms ban. But the killer, also a public employee, didn’t obey the ban.

These killers face no real penalty for violating gun laws. Shooters die in three-quarters of attacks. Even when they don’t, the threat of losing their job or facing a few year prison term means nothing to someone who is already facing multiple murder counts.


Gun control advocates don’t seem to grasp this important point. Attackers don’t follow gun laws. But the penalties for illegally carrying a gun are very serious for law-abiding people.

You also can’t ignore that places where the victims can’t defend themselves attract mass public killers whose only goal is to kill as many people as possible. You simply can’t have a couple police officers stationed in every building.

Not all municipal governments in Virginia ban employees from carrying guns. For example, public employees can carry in Bedford and, I am also told, Campbell Counties, with apparently no problems. Nationwide the over 18 million concealed handgun permit holders are incredibly law-abiding, and they commit any firearms related violation at rates ranging from once per every 100,000 or 1,000,000 permit holders.

The chilling fact is that mass public killers are attracted to targets where people can’t defend themselves. The Virginia Beach attack is all too familiar. Ninety-eight percent of US mass public shootings since 1950 have occurred in places where people weren’t allowed to defend themselves. But the news media refuses to cover this fact, which illustrates the need for self-defense, not for more gun control that doesn't work.


The one non-employee who got shot was alone in the parking lot when he was killed. If that contractor were taken completely by surprise, self-defense may have been difficult even with a gun. But that doesn’t hold true for the many victims inside the building.

Immediately after the attack, Mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed that the United States is “the only developed nation where this is routine.” Except for the recent mass shootings in New Zealand and Brazil, Americans rarely hear about mass public shootings in other countries. Even when Americans do hear about them, the stories are usually only briefly covered.

The Crime Prevention Research Center looked at the years from 1998 to 2015 and compiled a list of 2,354 foreign mass public shootings and at least 4,880 shooters. By contrast, the United States had only 53 attacks and 57 shooters.

Of the 97 countries where we identified mass public shootings, the U.S. ranks 64th per capita in its rate of attacks and 65th in fatalities. European countries such as Norway, France, Russia, Switzerland, and Finland all have at least 25 percent higher per capita murder rates from mass public shootings.

It’s understandable that the media doesn’t cover most mass public shootings in other countries. We have enough problems of our own. But won’t the media even mention the fact that mass public shootings keep occurring where people can’t defend themselves? We need to let people protect themselves and each other. We need to abolish gun-free zones.


* Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “The War on Guns.”

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