Criminals and Terrorists Overwhelmingly Select Gun-Free Zones For Mass Attacks in Public Spaces

Read the report, Mass Attacks in Public Spaces: 2016-2020Findings from the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) show that 94% of mass shootings over a 69-year period occurred in “gun-free zones,” locations where signs are posted stating weapons are not allowed to be carried on the property, which only responsible law-abiding citizens abide by and criminals see as magnets for their murderous intent since they know their killing will go unchallenged.

In recent testimony before the Maryland Senate, John R. Lott, Jr., CPRC president, said, “When Americans are allowed to legally carry concealed handguns, they stop about half the active shooting attacks in the US.”

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Brief Answers for People Who Are Against the 2nd Amendment ]

Continuing, he said, “It is hard to ignore that these mass public shooters purposefully pick targets where they know their victims cannot protect themselves. Yet, the media refuses to discuss that these mass murderers often discuss in their diaries and manifestos how they pick their targets. For example, the Buffalo mass murderer last year wrote in his manifesto explaining why he chose the target that he did: ‘Areas where CCW are outlawed or prohibited may be good areas of attack’ and ‘Areas with strict gun laws are also great places of attack.’ That is a common theme among mass murderers. These killers may be crazy, but they aren’t stupid. Their goal is to get media coverage, and they know that the more people they kill, the more media attention they will receive. And if they go to a place where their victims are defenseless, they will be able to kill more people.”

Lott concluded, “Criminals like to attack defenseless victims and they are attracted to gun-free zones. Indeed, 94% of mass public shootings occur in places where guns are banned.”

Even America’s Founding Fathers, centuries ago, understood the absurdity of imposing gun-prohibiting legislation against law-abiding citizens. In his Commonplace Book: A Repertory of His Ideas on Government, Thomas Jefferson quoted from Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria’s work, On Crimes and Punishments, where Beccaria discussed the “False Ideas of Utility” which, he said, are the principal source of errors and injustice: “Laws that prohibit the carrying of arms are laws of that nature. They disarm only those who are not inclined or determined to commit crimes…. These laws worsen the plight of the assaulted, but improve those of the assailants. They do not lessen homicides, but increase them, because the confidence of carrying out an assault against the disarmed is greater than against the armed. These laws are not preventive ones, but born out of the fear of crime.” Those words rang true then. They ring true today.

In the Police1 survey of more than 15,000 law enforcers, 91% of respondents supported the concealed carry of firearms by civilians who have not been convicted of a felony and/or not been deemed psychologically/medically incapable. A full 86% said casualties would have been reduced or avoided in tragedies like Newtown and Aurora if a legally-armed citizen was present. In addition, the survey asked, “On a scale of one to five—one being low and five being high—how important do you think legally-armed citizens are to reducing crime rates overall?” Three quarters (75%) answered either four or five, with more than 50% answering five.

[ Read SemperVerus articles on the subject of Church Security ]

Using the 71 mass public shootings (MPS) defined by the FBI and documented in the US between 1988 and August 4, 2019, more than 85% of MPS took place in gun-free zones, according to the MPS Database. These gun-free zones include 17 workplaces, 12 schools, five churches, and three shopping malls.

The US Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center’s (NTAC) new report, Mass Attacks in Public Spaces: 2016-2020 (PDF), examines 173 incidents of targeted violence and highlights the observable commonalities among the attackers. It makes a strong case that gun violence is not a gun control issue but a behavioral and mental health issue.

Mass Attacks in Public Spaces Behavioral Overview

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Most of the attackers had exhibited behavior that elicited concern in family members, friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers, and others, and in many cases, those individuals feared for the safety of themselves or others.
  • Many attackers had a history of physically aggressive or intimidating behaviors, evidenced by prior violent criminal arrests/charges, domestic violence, or other acts of violence toward others.
  • Half of the attackers were motivated by grievances, and were retaliating for perceived wrongs related to personal, domestic, or workplace issues.
  • Most of the attackers used firearms, and many of those firearms were possessed illegally at the time of the attack.
  • One-quarter of the attackers subscribed to a belief system involving conspiracies or hateful ideologies, including anti-government, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic views.
  • Many attackers experienced stressful events across various life domains, including family/romantic relationships, personal issues, employment, and legal issues. In some of these cases, attackers experienced a specific triggering event prior to perpetrating the attack.
  • Over half of the attackers experienced mental health symptoms prior to or at the time of their attacks, including depression, psychotic symptoms, and suicidal thoughts.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Worldviews and Emotional Assumptions in the Gun Civil Rights Debate ]

The report concludes with these observations:

  • These acts of violence are rarely spontaneous and are almost always preceded by warning signs that are observed by family members, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, and others across the community.
  • Behavioral threat assessment is a proactive and preventive approach to identify and intervene with individuals who pose a risk of engaging in targeted violence, regardless of motive, target, or weapon used.
  • Public safety resources are needed to be directed toward addressing threatening behavior, stalking, harassment, domestic violence, violent extremism, and violence in general. Also mental health needs, social isolation, substance abuse, and individuals in crisis.

Also read Constitutional Carriers, Warning: Gun Free School Zone Trap Ahead at

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