- - Sunday, March 11, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Trump thinks arming school staff and teachers deter threats. Surprise, media fact checkers from The New York Times to FactCheck.org accuse him of “false and misleading claims” to “inaccurate facts.”

The FactCheck.org analysis has been carried on hundreds of news site. Yet, any serious look at the data shows that Mr. Trump’s arguments are more clearly grounded in facts and a deeper understanding of these attacks than the fact checkers would dare let their readers know.

This isn’t a theoretical debate, as 25 states to varying degrees, allow concealed handgun permit holders, including staff and teachers, to carry guns on K-12 school grounds. Some such as Alabama, New Hampshire, Utah and much of Oregon allow anyone with a regular concealed handgun permit to carry.

Other states require the approval of a school superintendent or school board. One state, South Dakota, requires 40 hours of training.

There hasn’t been a mass public shooting at any school that allows teachers and staff to carry. Despite decades of experience, there have been no problems.

At his televised meeting with lawmakers last week, the president stated: “You take Pulse nightclub, if you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened, or certainly to the extent that it did.”

All the fact checkers immediately jumped on Mr. Trump claiming his statement was “false” because there was a uniformed armed guard at the nightclub, an off-duty Orlando police officer, who exchanged shots with the attacker.

But Mr. Trump was clearly talking about staff or teachers carrying. He understood that an officer’s uniform is like a neon sign saying, “Shoot me first.” These attackers want to eliminate anyone who poses an immediate threat. If the officer is the only person with a gun, eliminating him will give shooters free rein to kill others.

As in the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris (12 killed, 11 injured), last year’s horrific shooting in Istanbul (39 killed, 70 injured) or other attacks in the U.S., the uniformed guard was the first person shot at.

Attackers won’t know who is armed, and won’t know who they need to attack first. Concealed handgun permit holders even make a guard’s job much safer, because shooters won’t be able to attack him without fearing a counterattack from any direction. Concealed handgun permit holders who blend in with unarmed civilians take away an attacker’s strategic advantage.

The fact checkers were outraged when Mr. Trump noted: “98 percent of all mass shootings in the United States since 1950 have taken place in gun-free zones.” Yet, anyone who has read the diaries or statements left behind by these attackers knows they have explicitly talked about avoiding places where people are armed.

All the fact checkers took issue with the way that Mr. Trump defined “mass public shootings” or “gun-free zones.” They prefer a definition that includes gang fights and attacks in residences. They argue that areas with “regular armed security” shouldn’t be counted as “gun-free zones.”

Yet, Mr. Trump didn’t make this up on his own definition. The official FBI definition of mass public shootings excludes shootings that “resulted from gang or drug violence” or occurred in the commission of another crime such as robbery.

For shootings to be considered public, they must occur in areas such as malls, schools, churches, and businesses.

The fact checkers completely ignore why the FBI defined these attacks the way they do. Whereas gang fights are typically part of larger drug turf wars, the perpetrators of mass public shootings seek to gain publicity by killing as many people as possible. The causes and remedies for these two types of violence are vastly different.

Shootings in private residences are also distinctly different from public shootings, since they often involve killers who know the homeowners and whether they own guns. If there is a gun in the home, the killer may know who has access to it.

As to whether you should count places “where civilians can’t have guns but there is regular armed security” as “gun-free zones,” the point is that a uniformed guard isn’t a substitute for concealed carry. Whether the person guarding the place is a police officer or a security guard, they are the first targets for these attackers.

The issue of gun-free zones is particularly pertinent to mass public shootings. The number of casualties in an attack depends on the amount of time that elapses before someone with a gun intervenes. If the only armed person is someone in uniform, and he is quickly eliminated, then the target may be totally vulnerable for an extended period of time.

Perhaps fact checkers think that their readers live in a bubble and will never see how they exclude facts to attack Mr. Trump. But it is a dangerous game because when readers catch on to such consistently blatant distortions, fact checkers risk losing all credibility.

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


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