- - Thursday, January 31, 2013

When unspeakable tragedies happen such as the shooting in Newtown, Conn., people react by calling for the government to “do something” to prevent it from happening again. This reflex is usually well-intentioned. We all want our children to be safe at school. We all want to go to a movie or to the mall without fear of a deranged gunman opening fire. The danger lies in creating a lose-lose policy that makes the vulnerable less safe while infringing upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

The 23 executive orders on gun policy President Obama signed recently are designed to make it more difficult to legally possess a gun in hopes of deterring those bent on mass murder from obtaining a weapon. These policies have one major, glaring flaw: Killers don’t play by the rules. A madman with murder in his heart is not concerned with the laws surrounding a gun purchase when he is about to commit a heinous crime.

The truth is that gun control laws don’t work as intended, and they are fraught with unintended consequences. A study by the federal government’s National Academy of Sciences concluded that the 10-year-long “assault” weapons ban “did not reveal any clear impact on gun violence.” Waiting periods, background checks, or “gun-free zones” do not deter gun crime.

Cities such as Chicago, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, have inordinately high rates of gun violence. Washington, D.C., where it takes an act of Congress to legally carry a gun, is known for its violent crime. It certainly isn’t surprising much of this crime is committed with an illegally possessed gun. Why? Because criminals, by the very definition, do not obey laws.

It’s alarming that law-abiding citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights are being targeted by Democratic politicians and pundits. It’s wrong that the rare and random actions of a few severely mentally ill individuals are being politicized as proof that we need to disarm a free people. Before we violate their rights with a slew of new, overreaching and ill-conceived policies, we need to take into consideration whether these laws truly work.

A quick search of the most recent mass-shooting locations shows that almost all have occurred in a gun-free zone. The reason why should be obvious. Gun-free zones do little more than create targets of opportunity. If someone desires to kill as many people as possible in a short period of time, then it makes sense to choose a place where no one is likely to shoot back and end the spree. A “gun-free zone” sign means absolutely nothing to someone who is about to commit multiple murders.

However, there is evidence that conceal-carry permits reduce the death rate in situations like Sandy Hook. A quick search of less-publicized recent shootings shows that shooters have been stopped in their tracks when confronted by brave individuals with weapons.

Examples include the recent shooting at a mall in Portland, Ore., a shooting at a hospital in Birmingham, Ala., and another at a movie theater in San Antonio.

It’s evident that restrictions on gun ownership do not reduce crime. Yet I believe there are solutions to consider if the goal is to protect our children and decrease the number of people who are killed in these rare instances of mass murder. Trampling on the rights of peaceful gun owners is simply not necessary.

Hollywood — an industry that both fosters and profits from the culture of gun violence, and through campaign contributions now boasts of its cozy relationship with the White House — got a pass from President Obama. Their First Amendment rights are just as protected as our Second Amendment rights, and they are unlikely to stop producing such relentlessly violent fare. That means it is up to parents to protect their children from such “entertainment.” Many industries have clear labels on their products, making it easier to tell at a glance if it contains objectionable material, but, ultimately, the duty is ours and cannot be left to another.

To further protect our children, perhaps it’s time to do what Mr. Obama and countless other political and celebrity parents do: send our children to schools protected by responsible, armed personnel. Despite the hypocrisy, the very people decrying the idea of having trained law enforcement at schools wouldn’t dream of sending their own children to a school without it.

It’s also time to have a serious conversation in our country about the crimes committed by the mentally deranged. Violent behavior and severe mental illness have been definitively linked. We are ignoring this obvious contribution to the problem, and children have died needlessly because of our unwillingness to confront it. That needs to end now.

We’ve tried many things in our history that simply did not work to curb gun violence. Most of the president’s proposals are continuations of ineffective policies.

I fail to see how disarming and violating the rights of law-abiding citizens will protect us from people who don’t obey laws to begin with. We need to admit that in a free society, it is impossible to prevent all bad things from happening. We can do more, but such a utopia does not exist. It never has, and it never will.

Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, is chairman of the Joint Economic Committee.