Courtesy Illinois State Police.
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You read that right: Since 1950, 97.8% of mass public shootings happen in so-called gun-free zones. As if we, the People of The Gun needed another reason to avoid these locations whenever possible.

Dr. John Lott, author of the ground-breaking book, More Guns, Less Crime, has done a ton of research on guns in society.  Today, his Crime Prevention Research Center publishes a lot of valuable information. Their goal: “to provide an objective and accurate scientific evaluation of both the costs and benefits of gun ownership as well as policing activities.”

One of their bits of research on violence in so-called gun-free zones returned to center stage with the recent mass murder spree in Aurora, Illinois. Five people died in that instance of workplace violence.

The business where the tragedy occurred, the Henry Pratt Company, posted conspicuous signage banning guns from their facility. Of course, that did little to stop a deranged felon from packing his illegal gun illegally.   And shooting and killing people. Illegally.

The sign merely kept all law-abiding good guys from bringing their legal guns in so they could defend themselves and other innocent people.

Note the sign on the door into the facility.

In a post at the Crime Prevention Research Center from last year, Lott outlines how virtually all murderous shooters pick locations where good guys can’t fight back to commit their atrocities. In fact, per Lott’s research, 97.8% of mass public shootings happened at these “gun-free” zones.

It’s all right here: UPDATED: Mass Public Shootings keep occurring in Gun-Free Zones: 97.8% of attacks since 1950.

Lott looks at mass public shootings, first defining them using the FBI’s definition. The G-men exclude gang and drug violence, and count only incidents in public where four or more victims died, not counting the bad guy.

How does Lott count “Gun Free” zones? From CPRC:

— Places where only police or military police are classified as gun-free zones.
Stationing a uniformed police officer or security guard in a public area often only gives a false sense of security. Knowing that the uniformed officer is the only person with a gun makes things quite simple for attackers. They need only kill him first.  It is the equivalent of having them with a neon sign saying “shoot me first.” The media fact checkers seem unwilling to accept is that concealed handgun permit holders take away that strategic advantage from the killers.
— Places, where it is illegal to carry a permitted concealed handgun, are classified as gun-free zones.
Depending on the state bans on carrying in certain areas.
— Places that are posted as not allowing permitted concealed handgun.  A few examples:
—  Places where by law permit holders were banned. A few  examples:
Fort Hood Shootings 2009 and 2014
The many school shootings keep on occurring in those schools where permitted concealed handguns are banned (e.g., Parkland 2018, Sante Fe 2018)
— Places where general citizens are not allowed to obtain permits.  Permits are either not issued at all to citizens or to only a very tiny selective segment (so-called may issue laws), usually judges, prosecutors, deputy sheriffs or very wealthy individuals.  Compare to the 8.5% of adults outside of California and New York who have a concealed handgun permit.
In Alameda County, a may issue county, there were only 85 people with concealed handgun permits at the end of 2011 out of an adult population of 1.2 million, a rate of 0.007 percent.  Those with permits were mainly judges, prosecutors, and wealthy businessmen.
In September 2011, there were 240 permits in all of Los Angeles County when the population was about 7.6 million adults.  That equals a permit rate of 0.0032%.  Of the 240 permits, most go to judges and reserve deputies (who are big campaign donors).  Ten percent of permit holders are on Sheriff Lee Baca’s “gift list”  In addition, the attack was at a residential dwelling, not a public place.
In Orange County, a may issue county, there were only 551 people with concealed handgun permits out of an adult population of 2.26 million, a rate of 0.02 percent. Those with permits were mainly judges, prosecutors, and wealthy businessmen.
The bottom line: avoid places where magical signs and wishful thinking prohibit law-abiding people from carrying the proven deterrence of cold steel. The life you save could be your own.

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      • “The usual liberal and anti-gun responses to shootings in gun-free zones is to put up a larger gun-free zone sign;”

        Not only do the signs need to be at least 3X larger, there should be a requirement to place them no lower than 48 inches above the ground/flooring, but every 48 inches laterally. Lighted, light active, light reflective, lighted characters should also be required. We need to remove the excuse that shooters did not see the signs, else they would have gone to a non-GFZ location.

  1. One thing I’m (slightly) grateful for in otherwise gun-stupid NY: the gun culture here is so anemic that, outside of legally prohibited places (schools, state parks, government buildings, etc.), pretty much nobody posts “gun free zone” signs anywhere. In fact, people here essentially assume there’s no right to carry at all. It actually makes carrying easier, at least in that one small way.

  2. Good information for file.

    The upshot, the bottom line, the takeaway is simple:

    We need more gun free zone signs posted.

    The number of such signs visible today is simply not enough to make those spaces safe. The message is just not getting through to those wish to shoot up schools and malls and theaters.

    More Signs !!

    For the children.

  3. There is a bit of correlation not causation here. Mass shootings have to occur in public places because to paraphrase Willy Sutton “that’s where the people are.” It is an unanswered question whether a mass shooter would be deterred if there were no gun free zones. We know that some would be mass shooters would take the risk because there are a significant number of mass shooters aborted by armed citizens or off duty cops.

    • There is numerous instances where mass murderers passed up places where guns were not prohibited such as the movie theatre shooting in Colorado. As far as the causes, no morals means anything goes. Simple.

      • “There is numerous instances where mass murderers passed up places where guns were not prohibited…”

        Not familiar with this. Is there actual testimony, or police notes where the shooter claimed the locations that did not have GFZ signs were intentionally bypassed in favor of GFZ posted locations?

        • Sam I Am,

          I am fairly certain that the Aurora, Colorado movie theater spree killer never stated anything about how he selected the location for his attack.

          What do we know for certain? We know where he lived, that he left his home to drive to the location of his attack, and the location of his attack was considerably farther away than much closer theaters which allowed concealed carry.

          So, while that is not absolute proof, it is incredibly compelling evidence that he chose his location because that particular theater banned concealed carry. Why else would he drive over 20 minutes away when other theaters were just a few minutes from his home?

        • “Why else would he drive over 20 minutes away when other theaters were just a few minutes from his home?”

          Fortunately, we are in the realm of speculation, so….
          – needed to muster the courage
          – needed to ensure he wasn’t followed
          – needed to be where he would be a total stranger is/when seen
          – that theater was having the latest showing of a movie
          – that theater was having a special showing of a much anticipated movie, and was sure to be packed
          – being in an unfamiliar location added to the sense of adventure and power
          – access to faster routes of escape
          – able to initially “blend in” to the crowds while moving to his point of entry

          At any of the points above, the shooter could have changed is thought processes because the location was different than he anticipated. Impossible to actually know what he intended regarding GFZ, unless he made statements…and even those would be suspect. Besides, asking a crazy person what they were thinking would be like “Alice Through The Looking Glass”.

        • Sam I Am,

          This Mother Jones article includes copies of five pages from the Aurora movie theater spree killer’s diary. The killer did not mention anything about concealed carry bans in those five diary pages and his specific criteria for choosing the particular theater is not clear. Once he had chosen that location, he focused on which particular movie screen would yield the highest body count based on limited exits, limited visibility, and best ability to pre-stage his attack with the lowest apparent probability of someone sounding the alarm before the onset of his attack.

          The killer did mention that he considered attacking an airport and ruled that out because security was too great.

          Thus, the killer does not explicitly talk about concealed carriers in those five diary pages. Nevertheless, security and tactical considerations were of utmost importance to the killer. It stands to reason that concealed carry bans would figure into the calculus of spree killers who are familiar with concealed carry. (Many people are not aware that everyday people are concealed carriers — the killer may have been in that camp and did not write about it.)

          Here is the Mother Jones link:

        • “It stands to reason that concealed carry bans would figure into the calculus of spree killers who are familiar with concealed carry. ”

          Yes, the difficulty of circumstantial evidence and direct evidence. Could we not conclude he would have attacked any theater with a midnight showing of a highly anticipated movie release? Were all the theaters the shooter bypassed also showing “Batman” at midnight?

          Agree, it can be argued that a concern for security could be the reason for the location selected. But that cannot remove the dilemma of cause vs. correlation. Interesting, but inconclusive. So, our central issue is we cannot make valid causal conclusions that we would castigate anti-gunners for doing.

        • Maybe speculation, but the facts are compelling. I don’t believe in coincidences.

          “why did the killer pick the Cinemark theater? You might think that it was the one closest to the killer’s apartment. Or, that it was the one with the largest audience.

          Yet, neither explanation is right. Instead, out of all the movie theaters within 20 minutes of his apartment showing the new Batman movie that night, it was the only one where guns were banned. In Colorado, individuals with permits can carry concealed handgun in most malls, stores, movie theaters, and restaurants. But private businesses can determine whether permit holders can carry guns on their private property.

          …there were seven movie theaters showing “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20th within 20 minutes of the killer’s apartment at 1690 Paris St, Aurora, Colorado. At 4 miles and an 8-minute car ride, the Cinemark’s Century Theater wasn’t the closest. Another theater was only 1.2 miles (3 minutes) away.

          There was also a theater just slightly further away, 10 minutes. It is the “home of Colorado’s largest auditorium,” according to their movie hotline greeting message. The potentially huge audience ought to have been attractive to someone trying to kill as many people as possible. Four other theaters were 18 minutes, two at 19 minutes, and 20 minutes away. But all of those theaters allowed permitted concealed handguns.”

        • Those quotes (gathering that they were from local news outlets) do argue for close approximation between the event and “cause”. Didn’t know about those.


        • uncommon:

          That’s a myth. The closer theaters were tiny, closed and one was Spanish language only. Shooting up one, with a 100% kill ratio might have gotten you a body count of a dozen, 18 if you got all the employees too. Further, the theater he picked was the only one within a half hour drive that was showing that specific movie.

          Further still, while Century 16 posted such signs they carry no legal weight in Colorado. As Lott’s stuff shows, it was posted “no gun” but not a real GFZ.

          Holmes lived a good golf drive and a half away from me at the time, my roommate worked in the same department as Holmes was in and some of my friends were that asshole’s victims. The people who advance these theories just don’t know the area. Even if you just wanted to shoot up a theater, that was the one to pick based on where Holmes lived.

        • @ Same I am. It is causal. anyone saying it is correlation without causation doesn’t know what the phrase means.

          1) it is a slam dunk they CHOOSE gun free zones. We know this from multiple studies that have established this is largely a copy cat phenomena — copying prior who have picked gun free zones like schools. the large fatality mass shooters are not copying mass murders on guns allowed zones that have had lower body counts. They are copying the gun free zone ones.

          2) The intent to chose a gun free zone is ESTABLISHED in the large ones, but even if it were not gun free zones would still be causal top mass shootings. A potentially fatal virus is not an intelligent agent, it does not “choose” what it infects — but it will more readily kill more people in an old age home, due to lowered defense mechanism of victims. Asserting free zones are not causal to almost all mass shooting success or death rates would put you in denial of all basic risk factor epidemiology: People without access to medical intervention die in larger numbers when infected with the same exact pathogen as people with access to intervention. People in gun free zones die in larger numbers.

        • Read your riposte. The central theme is still one of speculation, although perhaps somewhat warranted speculation.

          Cause and effect are rarely “circumstantial”. To wit: Person goes into a house to meet another person. A shot rings out, and the visitor runs out the door, flees in a vehicle at high speed. Upon investigation, it is determined that the resident of the house is dead of a gunshot wound. What happened? Is the event an example of direct cause (the fleeing person murdered the resident), or are we dealing with a correlation (visitor, gunshot, dead victim)? Yes, the resident was alive prior to arrival of the visitor, and dead after the visit. Was the death caused by the visitor, the mere presence of the visitor, or is it just happenstance/coincidence that the resident chose suicide while the visitor was present?

          We can try to draw conclusions, but association of events, without direct evidence is not conclusive. For instance, aside from school shootings, there are thousands of gun free zones that are not targeted by criminals, while other locations are rife with armed people (think inner city gang shootings). The most we can say without any contradiction possible is that GFZs are not guaranteed to prevent school shootings.

          The fact that a shooting happens at one school and not another does not mean the GFZ of one school deterred a shooter, but the GFZ at another was less effective.

        • It is my understanding that during the investigation, they discovered the list he made to choose the target. It was a computer print out and selection one of the few (gun free) designated movie theaters.
          Was by circling the gun free emblem.. of course that might have been by accident. ;^)

      • That is an “everything else equal” sort of thing. Would mass shooters just say “curses foiled again” if GFZs were eliminated?

    • I agree. It’s evident that GFZs don’t work as intended. It isn’t necessarily clear that they actively ATTRACT shooters. They certainly might, at least for some shootings. But I find it equally likely that, for example with a school shooting, that the shooter (usually a student) simply goes to the place they know well and where they want to vent their insanity.

      • “It’s evident that GFZs don’t work as intended.”

        I’m not sure I know the actual intent of signs banning firearms from the premises. One might think the zone is for the safety of those within but I often believe they are posted to provide a false sense of security. Even after all of the mass shootings a fair amount of people still seem to believe a sign will somehow cause a cretin to pause when he/she/it is almost always armed with intent without any permit or reason, often being a “prohibited” person in the first place either by age, previous criminal or mental record or a host of other things.

        It’s always entertaining to speculate. That’s about all, however, and I doubt it will have much affect if stopping mass shootings, or any crime committed, either with/without a firearm is concerned. Where there’s a will, there’s a way,

        • In fact, I’m not really sure the exact intent of such signs, now that you point it out. A false sense of security seems high on the list. Or maybe a legal CYA? In any case, no sign will stop a shooter with even the slightest bit of motivation (maybe a whole stack of signs, if you hide behind them).

        • “I’m not sure I know the actual intent of signs banning firearms from the premises.”

          It is really quite simple…virtue signaling. GFZ signs announce that the administrators of the property are of superior moral character to all those deplorables with missing teeth, failure to bathe, carrying Bibles, clinging to guns. Those signs also pronounce that the administrators (and preferred clientele) are oh so caring and sensitive.

        • “GFZ signs announce that the administrators of the property are of superior moral character …” On private property, perhaps. Or it may have been just a quick, rash decision by a single person in charge.

          Then, of course, there are those postings and bans at “government owned/controlled” places where signage and private gun bans are written into the Code.

          I understand full well all of the purposes for such signs and zones. That doesn’t always match or bring about the intent, which is, I presume, to keep firearms off of certain properties. It’s interesting, but while not in place as actual signs or “zones”, the entire US is under a “Crime-Free”, “Violence-Free” (now, it seems, “Hate-Free”) zone ordinance but it hasn’t seemed to help a fair number of citizens, legally present or not, in making good choices and actions. And then, of course, we have those that we allow to wantonly break laws because they have excuses.

          In the 2 states in which I live, unless I’m in a government-controlled GFZ, the only thing that will happen to me should I be “caught” carrying is that I will be asked to leave, which I would do. Should I not comply, some cop will be called and if I’m still there when he/she/it arrives to deal with me I may then be charged with “simple trespassing”. I can handle that, if you now what I mean.

    • You can definitely argue the ‘correlation is not causation’ angle here, but putting that aside,

      this is some pretty substantially significant correlation.

      • True, but consider: where do gun free zones get established? In places that tend to suffer these kinds of mass shootings. So causation could, in fact, go the opposite way we expect: mass shootings cause gun free zones (which are then still just as susceptible to mass shootings, hence the strong correlation to – presumably – existing gun free zones). Not saying this is actually the case, just saying we don’t have enough data or analysis to tease out a true causal explanation.

        (Actually, we – or John Lott, rather – might: I’m just not expert enough nor proactive enough to go hunt it down in this particular moment in time…)

        • that is a cute formulation, leaving aside your formulaion is like saying someone who goes to the doctor is going to get cancer more readily, in fact we already know the two causal factors to gun free zones causing mass shootings.

          gun free zones add to the security and longer survival of the perpetrator. They don’t deter or stop him since he already intends to commit much more egregious law violation than misdemeanor carry in a gun free zone. They only deter faster legitimate counter-force to end the shooter’s murder spree.

          We also know from the peer reviewed work that the great majority, almost for which the data is present involve copycatting prior GFZ shootings with planning, obsessive planning. The mother jones article cited above completely dismisses the fact that for example the Newton shooter had charts with kill counts and type of place shootings had occurred.

          The fact is that these shootings don’t occur in police stations, or if a shooting occurs there it does not rise to mass shooting.

  4. Well Then , if signs are that good at keeping people safe, maybe next time we’re in a war or conflict, we should just post a “no guns allowed “ sign , then everybody can just go home.

  5. “Since 1950, 97.8% of mass public shootings happen in so-called gun-free zones.”


    Well, if ‘Evil guns’ cause people to be killed by guns, logic says ‘Gun-Free Zones’ cause horrible mass shootings.

    Hence –

    We must ban ‘Gun-Free Zones’. For the children.

    Sounds ‘Common-Sense’ to ‘lil ‘ole me…

    • Outstanding. And the sign to post indicating that a property is a ‘no gun free zone zone’ should be the ubiquitous gun free zone graphic (handgun with a red circle around it and an angled line splitting the circle), with a red circle around it and an angled line splitting the circle.

  6. Why do we never hear of mass shootings by depraved sociopaths in say Lake County,
    Oregon: Lakeview, Paisley, Silver Lake etc. ? Probably because so many ranchers, stock-men, farmers, and trappers have a rifle or shotgun in the gun rack of their pickups, a .30-30 Winchester Model 1894 or Marlin 336 lever action for example. In this region of Oregon’s Outback a lowlife is apt to get a load of lead shot back at them!

    James A. “Jim” Farmer
    Merrill, Oregon (Klamath County)
    Long live the State of Jefferson!

  7. Somewhere I read that insurance companies want the sign. It prevents accidental discharges from irresponsible gun owners. Maybe it does… crime free neighborhoods.
    p.s. I loved the gun sign video.

  8. The simple reason is that we made any important public place into a GFZ. The shootings would happen in these places regardless, but statistics don’t stop faulty logic.

    It’s like saying: highway overpasses have guardrails and all cars driving off the overpasses hit guard rails therefore guardrails cause cars to drive off overpasses.

  9. “As if we, the People of The Gun needed another reason to avoid these locations whenever possible.”

    The chances of dying in a mass shooting are tiny. These events should not influence your behavior one iota. If we followed this logic we’d all have to quit driving.

  10. As to the last point,
    “— Places where general citizens are not allowed to obtain permits.”

    This applies far more to New Jersey than the only two states mentioned, California and New York.
    The entire state of New Jersey is in effect a gun-free zone (disarmed-victim zone where only criminals can carry guns), because in NJ, only the politically connected can get CCW permits. No other civilians are granted CCW permits, so the entire state is a disarmed-victim zone where criminals have free rein, and when seconds count, the police are only 20 minutes away!

    New Jersey courts have routinely denied CCW permits to rape victims, victims of attempted murder, etc. It’s as if the NJ courts are telling victims of attempted murder, “Come back after you’ve ACTUALLY been murdered, not just ATTEMPTED murdered, and then we’ll think about granting you a CCW permit, posthumously, to pin onto your gravestone!”

    I’m unfortunate enough to live in the disarmed-victim state known as the People’s Republic of New Jersey, where slingshots, BB guns, and 17th-century Queen Anne’s Flintlocks all require handgun permits!

    • So the “Edit” button is back, but when I try to use it to edit my own comment 20 seconds later, I get the message,
      “You do not have permission to edit this comment.”
      I was going to change it to say that slingshots are effectively banned in NJ (no serial number on them, so you can’t get a permit to even own one, much less the impossible-to-get CCW permit to carry one), so Dennis the Menace and Bart Simpson would go to prison if they lived in NJ.

      • “So the “Edit” button is back, but when I try to use it to edit my own comment 20 seconds later, I get the message, “You do not have permission to edit this comment.” ”

        Are you selecting all three check boxes under the “website” block, or only one or two? If you don’t look closely, you may see the top and bottom box checked already (multiple responses to the same posting), but the middle box is open.

  11. Typical Liberal thinking. “Let’s just pretend the problem doesn’t exist or that we can legislate it out of existence, and it will surely go away.” The purest kind of morons ever seen.

  12. Liberal thinking: “Everybody has the potential for “Criminal behavior”. So LET’S BAN all legal weapons and eliminate the 2nd Amendment. Because only “Big Government ” can be trusted!”
    “Secondly, until then…Let’s make those areas Extra Gun-🔫 Free Zones, instead!”

    (The Liberal Pathogen is a serious Mental Healthcare crisis…Never vote for the infected!)

  13. Starbucks is a gun free zone and no shootings have happened at a Starbucks. Ergo the Starbucks policy works. Their signs are better than other signs. If you need to feel safe run to a Starbucks instead.


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