On the occasion of the anniversary of the Newtown massacre it’s time to take stock of school security. In general, nothing’s been done. The NRA’s School Shield initiative was the only comprehensive attempt to tackle the challenge of keeping school children safe from active shooters. The final report offered excellent advice on target hardening and best practices for an active shooter incident. The report, though, was DOA. It also failed to address the single most important step we can take to protect our children: abolishing Bush the Elder’s Gun Free School Zones Act . . .
The GFSZA is not a blanket ban against civilians carrying a firearm into a school zone. If state or local law specifically allows firearm possession within the 1000-foot exclusionary zone, legal gun owners are good to stow—provided the gun owner is licensed by the state (gun owners in states that allow license-free carry are SOL). If you don’t meet the federal criteria for legal carry inside a school zone, well, an American arrested under the provisions of the GFSZA faces a $5k fine, five years in prison and the permanent loss of their gun rights.
I can’t find any data on how many people have been arrested or prosecuted under the GFSZA. There’s no evidence that the redundant law (murder and attempted murder are already a crime) has prevented a single school shooter from carrying out an attack. Of course, there’s plenty of evidence that it hasn’t. Most famously, twenty-six fatalities at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Common sense—and experience—tell us that the GFSZA will not deter any person or persons evil enough to mount an armed assault on school children. But we know for a fact that the GFSZA prohibits teachers, administrators, school staff and parents from exercising their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms within a designated school zone.
Again, there are states where school districts have rejected the GFSZA, authorizing concealed carry inside schools for legal gun owners. Well, Utah, where there hasn’t been a single negligent discharge by a teacher, school staff member or parent within school grounds in over ten years. Elsewhere, not so much. But a little.
Dozens of school districts have reconsidered their “no guns for school staff” policy after Newtown. Clarksville High School in Arkansas, for example, has armed some 16 staff members with 9mm handguns to protect children. Packing parents remain prohibited. And that’s a problem. Because it takes a village—well a community—to protect school children from an active shooter.
The more law-abiding people who might have a gun in a school, the greater the likelihood that school shooters will be deterred from an attack. The more law-abiding people who do have a gun in a school, the greater the potential for a quick and effective response to an active shooter.
Banning legal gun owners from school grounds does nothing to achieve these goals and much to prevent them from being achieved. On the symbolic level, the GFSZA says that gun owners are part of the problem, not part of the solution. This isn’t so. Not to mention the fact that the GFSZA is unconstitutional, a clear infringement on Americans’ gun rights.
In short, there’s no good reason to stop American citizens’ gun rights at the school gates. The sooner the Act is repealed the safer our children, teachers, school administrators and staff will be. As we shall see again, unfortunately. Like the New Hampshire state motto says, we have a choice. Live free or die.
Gun Free School Zone Act:
(A) It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.
(B) Subparagraph (A) does not apply to the possession of a firearm—
(i) on private property not part of school grounds;
(ii) if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license;
(iii) that is—
(I) not loaded; and
(II) in a locked container, or a locked firearms rack that is on a motor vehicle;
(iv) by an individual for use in a program approved by a school in the school zone;
(v) by an individual in accordance with a contract entered into between a school in the school zone and the individual or an employer of the individual;
(vi) by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity; or
(vii) that is unloaded and is possessed by an individual while traversing school premises for the purpose of gaining access to public or private lands open to hunting, if the entry on school premises is authorized by school authorities.
(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), it shall be unlawful for any person, knowingly or with reckless disregard for the safety of another, to discharge or attempt to discharge a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the person knows is a school zone.
(B) Subparagraph (A) does not apply to the discharge of a firearm—
(i) on private property not part of school grounds;
(ii) as part of a program approved by a school in the school zone, by an individual who is participating in the program;
(iii) by an individual in accordance with a contract entered into between a school in a school zone and the individual or an employer of the individual; or
(iv) by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity.
(4) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as preempting or preventing a State or local government from enacting a statute establishing gun free school zones as provided in this subsection.