Peace Tactics: Gun free zones

“Please explain how gun free zones stop shooters. Not saying there should be guns allowed at schools etc, but only people who care will follow any legislation. The folks that would go into an unprotected place to kill as many as possible won’t change…” -D

The following is a reply to the above comment which was paired with the featured political cartoon that mocks the role of gun-free zones.

Gun free zones reduce the likelihood of injury among innocent people–it’s easier for law enforcement to respond to one shooter than when there are multiple people exchanging shots. It’s also less likely that a bystander would get injured by retaliatory or defensive gunfire.

I understand how it doesn’t work for those intending to do mass shootings (e.g. terrorists). I still think gun free zones are part of a solution but it needs some context: this is most effective in areas where gunfights are chronic in the neighborhood–where many innocent individuals will be vulnerable to both initial assailant and defending gunfire.
Once shooting happens near/at a school, the people armed–even those acting in defense of innocents with some training–who are involved are still a potential danger. Add that to the fact that they might attract suppressing fire then a school suddenly turns into a battlefield. From a responder’s perspective, it makes sense to make the source(s) of risk manageable.
Even in a simple scenario, summoning well trained police to handle one shooter is better than getting well trained police to intervene in a gunfight between two haphazard shooters fighting on a school yard while kids are near by.
Statistically, we’d want to compare crime & death rates–my haunch is that even though it’s frequent in the media, there are fewer of the one-angry-shooter-attacking-a-school-mass-shootings compared to incidental deaths in areas where violent crime remains high.
A real example from East Detroit:
The peace zones for life initiative was created because the community and police couldn’t outright stop an ongoing gang war & drug dealers who were fighting/selling near an East Detroit school & park.
However, what the community, police, and even offending gang members could do was get gang leaders (and their gangs) to agree to contain or move the violence elsewhere and invite them to take responsible care of the area that was designated as a peace zone (around the school & park).
Because many of the gang members also lived or frequented the neighborhood, as the park and school was cleaned up and used as a more public community center, they also started helping out the community or consider more legal ways to “work”.
Tactically speaking, this is almost exactly the same way military squads strive to secure a location, and eventually set up a cordon to contain, capture, or kill the enemy in combat.
In the case of peacebuilding in a place like some of East Detroit’s neighborhoods, you need both short-term security (“safe zones”/”gun free” zones, where people are already dedicated & capable of managing), and long-term work toward stability (slow, subtle, strategic things like community relations, fellowships for coaching/mentoring priority individuals, economic revitalization, etc.).

It’s more about re-establishing stability in the neighborhood in the “near” term (near in quotes means: it still may take several years). Of course, security isn’t the same as viability. This means an entire component of long-term community relationships, education, & economic mobility needs to follow.

Educating people about how the tactics for peace work is a big step. The other 90% of the effort comes from following through on-the-ground to execute the strategy.

Setting aside knee-jerk reactions to gun violence through gun control, I think it has aspects worthwhile for re-establishing stability in neighborhoods in early stages, and for maintaining security.
For statistics on deaths:
See this video which compares the number of Americans (U.S. I assume) killed by gun violence to those killed by terrorism.More Americans were likely to die from lightning strikes than from terrorism in 2010. More US citizens died from gun related homicides than terror attacks, and that ranked 13th among leading causes of death. Suicides in the US rank 8th, and the most frequent means for completing suicide was by firearm.

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