INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—According to economist, researcher, and author John Lott, two of the most popular gun control proposals have little to no impact on gun crime and exacerbate the problem for the people they are supposed to protect.

“Those are the people who are harmed,” Lott told seminar participants at the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis.

Lott is considered an authority on guns and crime, having authored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and ten books on the subject. He led two seminars discussing the effectiveness of gun-free zones, red-flag laws, and other gun control measures.

He said the story of Nikki Goeser encapsulates the shortcomings of these laws.

Goeser is the author of “Stalked and Defenseless: How Gun Control Helped My Stalker Murder My Husband in Front of Me.” She is also the executive director of the Crime Prevention Research Center, of which Lott is the president.

Goeser was scheduled to speak at the event but could not attend due to family obligations.

Fourteen years ago, Goeser and her late husband, Ben, operated a karaoke business. A man the couple had met became infatuated with her and began stalking her.

Goeser had a license to carry a concealed pistol, but at the time, in her home state of Tennessee, it was illegal to carry a firearm in any business that served alcohol.

One night, while running their karaoke business, Goeser’s stalker showed up and shot her husband seven times in front of her. Goeser’s situation was known to the police, but the stalker had been undeterred.

According to Lott, Goeser has said she isn’t sure she could have stopped the crime if she had had her pistol. But she is confident that complying with the law ensured that she couldn’t protect her husband or herself.

“As the title of her book says, she was denied the chance,” Lott said.

Lott told the gathering that Goeser’s story is a perfect example of the problems with gun-free zones.

According to statistics from the CPRC, 94 percent of mass shootings since 1950 have occurred in gun-free zones.

Lott said one well-known mass killer explained his reasoning in a manifesto written the year before he struck.

The 19-year-old man who killed ten people in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store on May 14, 2022, has been described as a right-wing racist, Lott said. But, while he was an avowed racist, Lott said the shooter described himself as an environmentalist and eco-terrorist.

In his manifesto, the shooter claimed that minorities were damaging the environment by having too many children. This is why he decided to attack black people.

“Attacking in a weapon-restricted area may decrease the chance of civilian backlash,” Lott quoted from the shooter’s writings. “… ‘areas where CCW are outlawed or prohibited may be good areas of attack,’ and ‘areas with strict gun laws are also great places of attack.’”

Lott said that, rather than disarming everyone, the state should consider ways of promoting the lawful carrying of firearms. For example, when it comes to school shootings, Lott is a proponent of arming teachers.He said that 20 states now allow teachers to be armed, with Oklahoma, Utah, and Ohio having some of the most liberal laws. From the school shooter’s perspective, not knowing which, if any, of the teachers are armed makes a school a more challenging target.

“You have literally thousands of schools across the country with armed teachers,” Lott said.

To date, he said, he knows of no accidental shootings or incidents at a school during school hours connected to an armed teacher. And no school shootings have occurred at those schools. He said this is a proven plan that can work.

“We don’t need to guess,” Lott said.

In most instances, the shooter knows they will likely be captured or killed. In fact, Lott said most mass shooters he has studied left writings making it clear that they planned to die after killing as many people as possible.

Lott said the sentence for carrying a gun in a prohibited place in Tennessee is six years in prison.

Considering the fact that a mass killer, if taken alive, could receive life in prison or the death penalty, Lott wondered how much of a deterrent an extra six years would be.

“It’s like there’s no penalty for these people,” Lott said.

Depression Doesn’t Always Lead to Suicide

Goeser’s stalker had exhibited delusional behavior and been classified as mentally ill, according to reports. He continued to stalk Goeser by sending her love letters from prison. He was convicted of felony stalking by mail, which has delayed his release date to 2028.

Lott said the prospect of the stalker’s release brings up another problem.

In Goeser’s book, she wrote about her overwhelming grief and depression after her husband’s murder. She said she sometimes didn’t know if she could hold on.

“But that doesn’t mean she was suicidal,” Lott said.

Lott said that, under red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, Goeser could have been disarmed if someone in her life thought she might attempt suicide or try to hurt herself.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws. These allow family members, household members, law enforcement, or all three to go before a judge and request that the individual’s guns be confiscated to prevent them from hurting themselves or others.

Many People Just Give In

The person subject to the order should be allowed to present a defense or have a lawyer represent them. Lott said that legal protection is so expensive that, in many cases, the individual gives in rather than lose thousands of dollars in a legal fight they may lose anyway.

“They pretty much remove all the [legal] protections,” Lott said.

Lott said there is no reason to believe that simply taking a gun away from a suicidal person doesn’t mean the suicide has been prevented. He pointed out that there are many ways to commit suicide, and someone determined to do that will need more help than taking away one means.

He acknowledged that most laws carry penalties for those who make false claims. However, he said those are rarely prosecuted because, short of getting a confession, “It’s unbelievably difficult to prove.”

Lott said all 50 states and the federal government already provide a better option than red flag laws—involuntary civil commitment. This process was designed to ensure that people unable to care for themselves adequately could be evaluated and treated if necessary.

Red Flag Laws Fall Short

According to Lott, the person may hire an attorney or have one appointed. Like other legal proceedings, the judge will hear from both sides and decide based on the evidence provided.

“Civil commitment laws can do everything red flag laws can do and somewhat more,” Lott said.

Lott said a significant issue clouding the debate is that the public doesn’t fully understand the problem. And he lays the blame at the feet of the media and entertainment industries. Lott told the group that since machine guns were outlawed in the 1930s, only one murder has been committed with such a weapon.

However, in television police dramas, criminals regularly fire fully-automatic weapons at their victims and police. In many shows, wise, seasoned, though fictional, police officers extol the benefits of gun control. Lott showed a clip from one television show that drew laughs from the seminar attendees.

In that scene, a woman asks a detective who refused to carry his duty weapon into a gun-free zone if he was nervous about facing the bad guys unarmed. The detective told her he was not worried.

“The bad guys won’t have guns either,” the TV cop said.

According to Lott, the news media focuses heavily on crimes committed with guns but pays short shrift to defensive gun uses. This is largely because statistics show that 95 percent of defensive gun uses involve no shots being fired. In those cases, the criminal flees, or the intended victim holds the perpetrator until the police arrive.

With the heavy focus on gun crime and the complete exclusion of coverage of guns preventing crimes, Lott said it’s easy to understand why some people view guns the way they do.


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