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Waffle House shooting illustrates the danger posed by gun-free zones

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Another mass public shooting in another gun-free zone, and yet again the media ignores it. Right at the front of the Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, Tennessee was a sign prohibiting firearms. But none of the news media, neither national nor local, reported that fact.

Even having a president who finally emphasizes the dangers of gun-free zones for mass public shootings isn’t enough to get the press to consider this newsworthy.

{mosads}Almost immediately, the media was telling Americans all sorts of other details. We knew what type of gun was used. We learned that the killer had his gun confiscated last year after he was caught trespassing in a restricted area near the White House. We found out that he had stalked Taylor Swift and that he had previously threatened people with a gun.


The easiest thing to report on is the one thing that the media consistently ignores. Obviously, with an active crime scene investigation, the media can’t go right up to the front of the restaurant. But they still could easily have seen the gun-free zone sign through their telephoto camera lenses. A throng of journalists quickly gathered across the street from the Waffle House, but none of them provided a picture of that sign.

Perhaps if the media would pay notice to some of the dozens of recent instances of concealed handgun permit holders stopping what according to police or prosecutors would have been mass public shootings, they would realize the danger of gun-free zones. In October 2015, a permit holder protected people from a robber outside of another Waffle House restaurant in Charleston County, South Carolina. not clear from this that it would have been a mass public shooting

Over 98 percent of US mass public shootings since 1950 have occurred in gun-free zones, according to my research. Given that permit holders in right-to-carry states can carry in the vast majority of the state, it is conspicuous that these attacks keep on occurring in those relatively tiny areas where permitted concealed handguns are not allowed. It could have a big effect on public opinion if the media were to mention this fact once in a while.

Waffle House restaurants have even asked on-duty, uniformed National Guard members with holstered handguns to leave. Only on-duty police have been exempt from the company’s restrictions.

Clearly, Waffle House’s strict ban on concealed handguns didn’t work on Sunday. It may even have cost lives. But within just hours of the attack, many media outlets were only giving a platform to voices calling for more gun control.

“We can take these weapons of war off the streets of our country,” declared Nashville’s Democratic mayor David Briley. Congressman Jim Cooper (D), who represents Antioch, called for restricting widespread civilian access to military-grade assault weapons.”

Predictably, prominent gun control advocates such as Gabrielle Giffords once again called for a ban on so-called assault weapons.

Gun control advocates have learned little from the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Academic studies, even ones funded by the Clinton administration, have consistently failed to find evidence that this ban reduced any type of crime.

Polls show that some surprising groups of Americans are questioning the benefits of these gun-free zones. A recent Rasmussen Reports survey shows that 59 percent of parents with school-age children support giving financial incentives to teachers and staff to carry concealed handguns. By contrast, 54 percent of people without school-age children supported gun-free zones. The people with the most to lose are the most interested in arming our schools.

The national news media isn’t a neutral observer in the gun control debate. It ignores the harm that gun control causes. It ignores the crimes stopped by law-abiding permit holders. Consequently, Americans are misled about the costs and benefits of people owning and carrying guns. This is a critically important issue, and Americans deserve better information.

John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author more recently of “The War on Guns” (Regnery, 2016).

Tags Gun politics in the United States gun-free zones Jim Cooper John Lott Waffle House

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