Are people safer if criminals know who is carrying concealed handguns? Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel seems to think so.
With school starting soon, he claims that if the Clarksville, Arkansas School District lets employees carry concealed handguns at school, their names must be made public. This is his second attempt to derail the school district’s proposal.
McDaniel’s demand to publicize the names will greatly limit the protection these employees can offer.
School shooters have a strategic advantage in that they determine when and where to attack.
The alternative of hiring uniformed armed guards is not only costly, with one armed guard costing more than the cost of training and equipping over 20 employees, but also relatively ineffective as they are usually the first victims shot (e.g., see here and here).
The benefit of letting some unknown teachers, staff and administrators carry concealed handgun is that the killers don't know who to attack first. Publicizing their names might intimidate employees and lead them to decide not to participate in the program.
McDaniel has already gone to some tortured extremes in fighting against the Clarksville School District's plan. As the state's attorney general, he is often asked to interpret the state's laws. In this case, he claims that while private businesses can hire armed guards, a public entity such as a school district doesn't have the same power.
However debatable that is, there are other parts of the law that clearly deal with government entities. For example, local government entities, such as school districts, can deputize individuals.
The issue is similar to what happened last year with the Journal News, a newspaper in New York State. The paper garnered national attention when it published the names of people with gun permits.
The issue isn't just about privacy, as McDaniel wants to argue, it is also a safety issue.
By revealing the names of permit holders, the newspaper effectively told criminals what homes had no armed defense. Indeed, when editors of the paper were asked by documentary filmaker and activist James O'Keefe if they would put signs in front of their homes saying that they were "gun free," they understood it would make them targets of criminals.
In order to prevent similar problems earlier this year, Arkansas passed a law banning the release of the names and zip codes of permit holders.
McDaniel argues: "Given the unusual duties and responsibilities the school district intended to assign to the [Emergency Response Team] members, I must conclude that knowing the number of [Emergency Response Teams] members and their identities would shed great light on the school district's performance of its duties. In my opinion, though the privacy interest is weighty, the public's interest is at least as weighty, which means that the record must be disclosed."
But the program is easy to evaluate without making the names public. If guns are ever misused, that would surely instantly get media attention.
Indeed, the idea in Clarksville, Arkansas is hardly new. Before the 1995 Gun Free School Zone Act, most states allowing concealed carry let permit holders carry guns in schools. In four states, they still can. Some school districts in other states, such as Ohio and Texas, do the same. No problems have ever been reported.
The Attorney General is also going against the trend in his own state in another way. Arkansas has recently allowed churches to determine themselves whether concealed handgun permit holders will be allowed to bring their guns with them.
Law-abiding citizens, not criminals, obey these bans. Instead of making places safer, disarming law abiding citizens left them sitting ducks.
Attackers go where victims can't defend themselves.
In the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, out of seven theaters showing the "Batman" movie premiere within 20 minutes of the suspect's apartment, only one theater banned permitted concealed handguns.
Suspect James Holmes didn't go to the closest nor the largest movie theater but to the one that banned self-defense.
Time after time the story is the same.
With just two exceptions, every public mass shooting in the United States since at least 1950 has taken place where citizens were banned from carrying guns. Despite strict gun regulations, Europe has had three of the worst four K-12 public school shootings.
Sometimes, permit holders save lives. Joel Merck, an assistant high school principal in Pearl, Miss., used to carry his permitted handgun at school, but stopped after the 1995 act passed. When his school was attacked in October 1997, he ran a mile to get his gun stored off school property, and still stopped the attack 11 minutes before police arrived. Before 1996, he could have stopped it sooner.
Ask yourself: Would you feel safer with a sign on the side of your home declaring that "this house is a gun-free zone"? If you wouldn't put these signs on your home, why put them elsewhere?
John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.