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Standing Guard: Danger! Gun Free Zone

Friday, February 22, 2008

When thoughtful people consider the concept of “gun-free zones,” words like “futility” come to mind. But in light of recent horrific events, there is another word that more accurately sums it up: “dangerous.”

The peril of gun-free zones for law-abiding citizens was demonstrated by two terrifying events involving two sociopaths bent on murdering many innocent people at random. One involved helpless victims denied the life-saving force of firearms, and the other was marked by the intervention of a courageous private citizen armed with a carry permit and a semi-automatic handgun.

The first act of public terror and mass murder occurred December 5, 2007, at a busy mall packed with Christmas shoppers in Omaha, Nebraska.

Described by an eyewitness as “smiling” as he fired, the twisted 19-year-old murderer killed eight innocent people before he committed suicide. In doing so, he failed to obey the signs that announced firearms were prohibited in the mall, just as he violated a host of laws prohibiting murder and mayhem.

His motive? Fame. Media attention. He was a disciple of the Columbine High School murderers.

What is relevant is that there was no law-abiding person in this gun-free zone equipped to meet his evil through the good use of deadly force. Reportedly, the gun-free zone covered mall security guards as well.

There was an immediate demand by the media and the gun ban crowd to know where he obtained the firearm. And there was a predictable demand for a ban on semi-autos.

The truth, deemed irrelevant by the media, is that the Omaha murderer stole his rifle from his father. He was also a convicted drug felon, and his mere possession of any firearm was a federal felony.

So this twisted young man broke gun laws. He broke laws against murder. He broke the mall’s “no guns” policy. Perhaps he even parked in a handicapped zone. In the end, it was all irrelevant.

What is relevant is that there was no law-abiding person in this gun-free zone equipped to meet his evil through the good use of deadly force. Reportedly, the gun-free zone covered mall security guards as well.

An eyewitness, in an anonymous Web posting, wrote:

“I am not allowed to carry a gun at all in Westroads Mall. If the laws did not oppress my rights . . . I would certainly have had it in the mall.

“Honestly, and as God is my witness, when I saw him shooting and as I watched for a few seconds trying to figure out what he was going to do and what I should do, the thought that went through my mind was, ‘If I had a gun, I have a perfect shot.’”

Gun-free zones? Whether it is by edict of private business, or by government, there is no proclamation that can stop an evil person from committing an evil act. There is no law that can stop an evil person from obtaining an instrument to commit evil. Look at our worst, most restrictive top-security prisons. Violent criminals—under 24-hour monitored lockdown and constant scrutiny of guards—make lethal weapons to commit murder and assault.

Within four days of the Omaha mass murders, another killer—likely encouraged by the media attention to the Omaha killer—acted. This 24-year-old, with a similarly bent mindset but more heavily armed than his role model, began a two-location murder spree. Just after midnight, Sunday, December 9, this disaffected church member entered the Youth With a Mission training center in Arvada, Colorado (a Denver suburb), and began randomly shooting. When he was through, two young people died and two others were critically wounded.

Some 13 hours later, at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, the killer murdered two teenage sisters. At the entrance hall of the large church, he was prepared to randomly take many more innocent lives. That is, until he was confronted by a private citizen armed with a semi-automatic handgun.

Her name is Jeanne Assam, a participant in the church’s volunteer security force of parishioners with Right-to-Carry permits.

Jeanne Assam exhibited extraordinary courage, advancing and firing well-aimed shots, as the murderer was firing at her. Unflinchingly, she nailed him. Wounded, he committed suicide.

Assam was aided by a 59-year-old Vietnam veteran, Larry Bourbonais, who distracted the killer—and for his efforts was shot in the arm. It is Bourbonais who recounted the story of Assam’s extraordinary heroism.

There were thousands of people on the church campus at the time. There is no doubt that had Assam not taken her stand and used her personal firearm, the carnage inflicted by the murderer would have been massive.

Remarkably, much of the media reaction was positive, but some hid behind the idea that she was a security guard and thus held powers and rights beyond those of ordinary citizens. But in fact, this extraordinary woman was not a “super guard,” she was a super citizen, who exercised her rights and showed remarkable bravery.

As the senseless tragedy of Omaha and the drama of Colorado Springs were unfolding, the U.S. Supreme Court was preparing to hear the Heller v. District of Columbia case, the most important case ever on the viability of the Second
Amendment—on whether or not the most dangerous gun-ban zone in America is constitutional. At stake is the 30-year-old law under which defense in the home by the law-abiding residents of the nation’s capital using any firearm is a criminal act. If the high court upholds the individual right to keep and bear arms, it may mark the beginning of the end to the dangerous futility of gun-free zones, which leave innocent citizens as easy prey for those who ignore the laws of the land.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.