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Vince Vaughn Is Actually Right about “Gun Free” Zones

Vince Vaughn, Ron Paul supporter and star of the forthcoming second season of True Detective, has been making waves with his comments on Edward Snowden and guns in a wide-ranging interview with GQ magazine.

One section that has gun control activists fulminating (and many libertarians swooning) is his comments on gun rights and, especially, on guns in schools:

I support people having a gun in public full stop, not just in your home. … All these gun shootings that have gone down in America since 1950, only one or maybe two have happened in non-gun-free zones.

Take mass shootings. They’ve only happened in places that don’t allow guns. These people are sick in the head and are going to kill innocent people. They are looking to slaughter defenseless human beings. They do not want confrontation.

In all of our schools it is illegal to have guns on campus, so again and again these guys go and shoot up these f***ing schools because they know there are no guns there. They are monsters killing six-year-olds. …

Of course [guns should be allowed in schools]. You think the politicians that run my country and your country don’t have guns in the schools their kids go to? They do. And we should be allowed the same rights.

We usually shouldn’t pay any notice when celebrities talk about politics, for obvious reasons, but this is worth the attention because Vaughn actually has a point about “gun free” zones.

The Independence Institute’s David Kopel has pointed out that just saying that an area is “gun free” doesn’t actually make it so. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, Kopel wrote,

The bucolic campus of Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va., would seem to have little in common with the Trolley Square shopping mall in Salt Lake City. Yet both share an important characteristic, common to the site of almost every other notorious mass murder in recent years: They are “gun-free zones.” …

In Virginia, universities aren’t “gun-free zones” by statute, but college officials are allowed to impose anti-gun rules. The result is that mass murderers know where they can commit their crimes.

Private property owners also have the right to prohibit lawful gun possession. And some shopping malls have adopted anti-gun rules. Trolley Square was one, as announced by an unequivocal sign, “No weapons allowed on Trolley Square property.”

In February of this year, a young man walked past the sign prohibiting him from carrying a gun on the premises and began shooting people who moments earlier were leisurely shopping at Trolley Square. He killed five.

Fortunately, someone else – off-duty Ogden, Utah, police officer Kenneth Hammond – also did not comply with the mall’s rules. … He bought time for the local police to respond, while stopping the gunman from hunting down other victims.

At Virginia Tech’s sprawling campus in southwestern Va., the local police arrived at the engineering building a few minutes after the start of the murder spree… Cho committed suicide when he realized he’d soon be confronted by the police. But by then, 30 people had been murdered.

Kopel isn’t anti-gun free zones, however. Rather, he’s anti-fake gun free zones. On the Free Thoughts podcast, he argues, “Gun free zones I think are fine — as long they really exist.”

In Colorado, like most of the country, we have a fair process for law-abiding adults to get a permit to carry a handgun for protection. But the state statute says, “What about government buildings?”

And the answer is, if a government building wants to ban licensed carry in there, they can. They can have a gun free zone. They just have to make it real. Which means, at every public entrance, you have metal detectors, and you have armed guards.

That will work. Once you’re inside the Department of Motor Vehicles, you know that nobody is going to be carrying a gun because we’vechecked to make sure about that.

What is harmful — drastically harmful — is the pretend gun free zone, where you put up a sign that says “no guns allowed.” The only people who will obey that are the law-abiding people. And it means for the criminal you’ve got a great opportunity of unarmed victims.

Real gun free zones are fine; guns really shouldn’t be allowed some places. But pretend gun free zones are a dangerous illusion. Sometimes even Hollywood celebrities can see that.

Check out the rest of the podcast below and Vaughn’s GQ interview here.

Anything Peaceful

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Could You Spot a Potential School Shooter?

In April 1999, we were all stunned by the news that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had attacked and killed students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and, more recently, in December 2012, that Adam Lanza, after killing his mother at home, then massacred twenty-six staff and students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. These events evoke dread of potential events, a quest to understand why they occurred, and ways to avoid further comparable killings.

Cover - School ShootersPeter Langman has authored “School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators.” It offers very little comfort, but only because this psychologist, widely recognized for his expertise, is refreshingly honest.

“Many people seek to reduce school shootings to a bite-sized explanatory chunk, but the phenomenon defies easy analysis,” says Langman. “There is no one cause of school shootings, there is no one intervention that will prevent school shootings, and there is no one profile of a school shooter.”

He offers a wealth of information about forty-eight shooters He divides them into “Psychopathic shooters” whom he describes as “profoundly narcissistic, arrogant, and entitled; they lacked empathy, and met their needs at other’s expense” and ”psychotic shooters” who “suffered from schizophrenia or a related disorder. They were out of touch with reality to varying degrees, experiencing hallucinations or delusions.”

“Unlike the psychopathic and psychotic shooters, who generally came from well-functioning, intact families, traumatized shooters endured chronic abuse as children. They grew up in violent, severely dysfunctional homes.” Most fell into the first two categories.

I would like to offer the reader some comfort that school shooters can be “spotted” in advance, but in most the cases that Langman cites, they looked like everyone else in any school. Only if one of them was to confide his plan was there any opportunity to intervene and then only if he was reported.

Among the psychopathic category “at least 75 percent (nine out of twelve) had body issues. Many of these physical characteristics had a direct bearing on perceived manliness, including short stature, thin build, chest deformity, and fear of sterility” leading Langham to suggest a link between feeling weak or damaged and extreme narcissism. It is widely believed that bullying is linked to these events, but Langham notes that while about forty percent were harassed only one targeted a bully. While there is concern these days about bullying in schools, it is mostly due to a heightened awareness, not because there is more or less of it than has ever existed.

One thing does stand out, however, “nearly all shooters had bad educational experiences, including academic difficulties (failing classes, repeated grades, not graduating) or disciplinary problems…at least 92 percent had negative academic or disciplinary experiences.” And then there’s this: “At least 38 percent of shooters had relatives who worked or volunteered in schools.”

Another common factor was that “at least half of the perpetrators engaged in substance abuse (illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol.) In addition, “at least 42 percent of the shooters had a history of legal troubles, including arrests, contempt of court, and loss of a driver’s license.”

“Many shooters had trouble getting or holding jobs.” This was particularly true of the older shooters. Charles Whitman, an American engineering student at the University of Texas, gained infamy when in August 1966 he killed his wife and mother in their homes and later that day went to the Austin campus where he killed sixteen people and wounded 32 others over the course of ninety minutes, firing from the observation deck of the main building before being killed by an Austin police officer.

To academic and employment problems, add romantic failures. “Most shooters either failed to establish any romantic or sexual relationships or else suffered breakups or rejections that contributed to their anguish and anger.”

It should surprise no one that a number of the shooters “had specific role models for violence, including serial killers, mass murders, and other school shooters.” Most of them were psychotic, whereas the psychopaths “felt no need to attach themselves to a source of power; they were the source of power.”

Out of this densely documented book Langham concludes “There is no one way to prevent school shootings.” What also emerges is the fact that “Most school shooters leave a trail of warning signs that are either not noticed or not responded to.”

What the shootings are not about is gun ownership. Many of the shooters came from families that owned guns and used them for hunting or sport shooting. They had little reason to regard them as instruments with which to kill people other than their own twisted psychological interpretation.

What I came away with was the conclusion that the shooters are people we would all easily identify as “losers.” Beyond that, there is no specific way of identifying them, only suspicions of their capability to do the unthinkable.

© Alan Caruba, 2015