Maybe Guns In Schools Aren’t Such A Bad Idea After All

gun free zone sign

It may seem shocking to us today in this era where the idea that the existence of guns in society is in and of itself a cause for violence, but there was a time when guns in US schools were pretty common:

In 1975, New York state had over 80 school districts with rifle teams. In 1984, that had dropped to 65. By 1999 there were just 26. The state’s annual riflery championship was shut down in 1986 for lack of demand. This, sadly, is a familiar story across the country. The clubs are fading from memory, too. A Chicago Tribune report from 2007 notes the astonishment of a Wisconsin mother who discovered that her children’s school had a range on site. “I was surprised, because I never would have suspected to have something like that in my child’s school,” she told the Tribune. The district’s superintendent admitted that it was now a rarity, confessing that he “often gets raised eyebrows” if he mentions the range to other educators. The astonished mother raised her eyebrows — and then led a fight to have the range closed. “Guns and school don’t mix,” she averred. “If you have guns in school, that does away with the whole zero-tolerance policy.”

But how wise is that “zero-tolerance policy”? Until 1989, there were only a few school shootings in which more than two victims were killed. This was despite widespread ownership of — and familiarity with — weapons and an absence of “gun-free zones.”

It seems pretty hard to argue that so-called “gun free zones” have accomplished anything but putting targets on the back of those in the “gun free zone.”

Making a school or a campus or any other place a “gun free zone” attracts shooters who know they’re likely to find unarmed prey in those areas. The shootings we all want to stop are happening, overwhelmingly, in “gun free zones.”

Maybe it’s time to do something about that.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Lianne

    Anectodal, but a principal at an elementary school set up punching bags for some boys who were rowdy throughout the day in the classrooms. The boys were to come in before school, punch to their hearts content. The behavior for most of them improved. He eventually added some other sparing activities—I don’t remember exactly what they were, but those activities gave him time with the boys outside his office and provided a release for their anger, frustration, restlessness,etc in a ‘safe’ and acceptable environment.

    Human nature is human nature. Providing a safe, acceptable outlet for shooting would probably reduce violent acts with guns. Chicago should give it a try.

    As an aside, did anyone notice that Obama mentioned reducing gun violence from Detroit, over the Appalachians, to New Town. I guess the Western 2/3’s of the country can have our way with guns. ( Unless, he meant New Town, ND, not Conn.) But, what I found MOST surprising was that he did not mention Chicago. Or at least he didn’t in that bit that I heard. I must admit, I didn’t listen to speech.

    • SusanBeehler

      I agree with boys needing more physical activity at school, be it punching bags, more recess more physical things not just sitting at a desk for the majority of the day.

      • Lianne

        it was the federal government that removed recess from schools along with P.E. because it was a waste of money. P.E. did find its way back in later under the get in shape edits from the federal government.

        • WOOF

          The Feds removed recess and PE ? When? How?

        • flamemeister

          There is also fear of liabilities.

  • HG

    Many of the WW2 generation participated in school shooting sports and competitions. I personally know a few elderly women who were excellent marksman for the Los Angeles, CA high school.

  • mickey_moussaoui

    The NRA should sponsor marksmenship training in all public/private highschools. Market it as a competitive sport between schools with education grants. Throw some money out there and watch these schools change their attitude. It worked for Apple computers and all they did was offer an education discount on a already over priced product.

  • SusanBeehler

    The school associations testifying at the hearings today are NOT for having guns in school. They would like the state to provide more resource officers but they are not for just having guns allowed.

  • NAC

    As I predicted (although it wasn’t a very hard prediction to make
    considering the relentless and knee-jerk nature of the anti-gun lobby)
    Feinstein’s proposed gun laws FAR exceed the original so-called anti-assault
    rifle law of 1994 thru 2004. Such law, BTW, statistically proved irrelevant, or
    ineffectual or whatever you want to call it. It didn’t matter. Feinstein has
    taken aim at pistols and shotguns, too. NOT just those pesky AR15s. This is
    nothing short of an assault on the 2nd amend, and let us hope saner minds
    prevail in the Senate, and they choose freedom over unjustified fear (or even
    worse motives!!!). While listening to TV last night, and flipping around some
    of the news networks, the characterizations of the NRA, and like-minded folks,
    was just incredibly negatively biased, as if they (we?) were a Neo Nazi group
    with notches on their guns, looking for more folks to slaughter. So protecting
    our Const rights is now somehow sinful. But, there’s no bias in the

    they OUGHT to be looking at is this stuff below…a list of school incidents,
    and DRUG interactions;

    this list is FAR from complete;

    Drug Date Where
    School Shooting Anafranil Antidepressant 1988-05-20 Illinois **29
    Year Old WOMAN Kills One Child: Wounds Five: Kills Self
    School Shooting
    Threat Antidepressant 2003-05-31 Michigan **Teen Threatens School Shooting:
    Charge is Terrorism
    School Shooting Threat Antidepressant 1999-04-16 Idaho
    **Teen Fires Gun in School
    School Violence Antidepressant 2005-11-19 Arizona
    **Violent 8 Year Old GIRL Handcuffed by Police at School
    School Shooting
    Antidepressant 2006-09-30 Colorado **Man Assaults Girls: Kills One &
    School/Assault Antidepressant 2009-11-04 California **School Custodian
    Assaults Student & Principal: Had Manic Reaction From Depression
    School Hostage Situation Antidepressant WITHDRAWAL 2006-11-28 North
    Carolina **Teen Holds Teacher & Student Hostage with Gun
    School Shooting
    Antidepressant WITHDRAWAL 2007-10-12 Ohio **Teen [14 Years Old] School Shooter
    Possibly on Antidepressants or In Withdrawal
    School Shooting Antidepressant
    WITHDRAWAL 2007-11-07 Finland **Student Kills 8: Wounds 10: Kills Self: High
    School in Finland
    School Shooting Antidepressant? 2002-01-17 Virginia
    **Possible SSRI Withdrawal Mania: 3 Dead at Law School
    School Shooting
    Antidepressant? 2007-04-18 Virginia **Possible SSRI Use: 33 Dead at Virginia
    School Shooting Antidepressants 1992-09-20 Texas **Man, Angry Over
    Daughter’s Report Card, Shoots 14 Rounds inside Elementary School
    Threat Antidepressants 2007-04-23 Mississippi **Student Arrested for Making
    School Threat Over Internet
    School / Child Endangerment Antidepressants
    2008-02-27 Canada **Wacky School Bus Driver Goes Berserk: Also Involved
    School Threat Antidepressants 2008-03-20 Indiana **Teen [16 Years
    Old] Brings Gun to School: There Is a Lockdown
    School Shooting Plot
    Antidepressants 2009-09-22 England **Two English School Boys Plot to Blow Up
    High School
    School Stabbings Antidepressants 2001-06-09 Japan **Eight Dead:
    15 Wounded: Assailant Had Taken 10 Times his Normal Dose of Depression
    School Violence/Murder Antidepressants* 1998-05-04 New York **Sheriff’s
    Deputy Shoots his Wife in an Elementary School
    School Shooting/Suicide Celexa
    2002-10-07 Texas **Young Girl [13 Years Old] Kills Self at School With a
    School Shooting Celexa & Effexor Antidepressants 2001-04-19
    California **Teen Shoots at Classmates in School
    School Violence Celexa
    Antidepressant 2002-01-23 Florida **Violent 8 Year-Old Boy Arrested At
    School Shooting Celexa Antidepressant 2006-08-30 North Carolina **Teen
    Shoots at Two Students: Kills his Father: Celexa Found Among his Personal
    School Shooting Threats Celexa Antidepressant 2010-01-25 Virginia
    **Senior in High School Theatens to Kill 4 Classmates: Facebook Involved: Bail
    School Hostage Situation Cymbalta Antidepressant WITHDRAWAL 2009-11-09
    New York **Man With Gun Inside School Holds Principal Hostage
    Suspension Lexapro Antidepressant 2007-07-28 Arkansas **Student Has 11 Incidents
    with Police During his 16 Months on Lexapro
    School Threat/Lockdown Lexapro*
    2008-04-18 California **Violent High School Student Shot to Death on Campus by
    School Shooting Related Luvox 1993-07-23 Florida **Man Commits Murder
    During Clinical Trial for Luvox: Same Drug as in COLUMBINE: Never
    School Shooting Luvox/Zoloft Antidepressants 1999-04-20 Colorado
    **COLUMBINE: 15 Dead: 24 Wounded
    School Hostage Situation Med for Depression
    2006-03-09 France **Young Ex-Teacher Holds 21 Students Hostage
    School Knife
    Attack Med for Depression 2006-12-06 Indiana **Teen Knife Attacks Fellow
    School Machete Attack Med for Depression 2001-09-26 Pennsylvania
    **Man Attacks 11 Children & 3 Teachers at Elementary School
    Shooting Plot Med For Depression 1998-12-01 Wisconsin **Teen Accused of Plotting
    to Gun Down Students at School
    School Suicide/Lockdown Med For Depression
    2008-02-20 Idaho **Teen [16 Years Old] Kills Self at High School: Lockdown by
    School Stabbing Med For Depression 2008-02-29 Texas **Teen [17 Year
    Old GIRL] Stabs Friend & Principal at High School
    School Murder Attempt
    Med For Depression 1995-03-04 California **Young Woman Deliberately Hits 3 Kids
    with Her Car at Elementary School: Laughed During Attack
    School Shooting Med
    For Depression 2009-03-13 Germany **16 Dead Including Shooter: Antidepressant
    Use: Shooter in Treatment For Depression
    School Bomb Threat Med For
    Depression 2009-06-29 Australia **Vexed Father Makes Bomb Threat Against
    Elementary School
    School Hostage Situation Med For Depression 2010-12-15
    France **17 Year Old with Sword Holds 20 Children & Teacher
    School Stabbing Med For Depression 2011-10-25 Washington **Girl, 15,
    Stabs Two Girls in School Restroom: 1 Is In Critical Condition
    Shooting Plot Med For Depression WITHDRAWAL 2008-08-28 Texas **18 Year Old Plots
    a Columbine School Attack
    School Shooting Threat Med for Depression*
    2004-10-19 New Jersey **Over-Medicated Teen Brings Loaded Handguns to
    School Knifing/Murder Meds For Depression & ADHD 2010-04-28
    Massachusetts **Sixteen Year Old Kills 15 Year Old in High School Bathroom in
    Sept. 2009
    School Shooting Meds For Depression & ADHD 2011-03-18 South
    Carolina **Teen Shoots School Official: Pipe Bombs Found in Backpack
    Violence Paxil 2004-10-23 Washington DC **Young Boy, 10 Year Old, Has Violent
    Incidents at School
    School Hostage Situation Paxil 2001-10-12 North Carolina
    **Young Man Holds Three People Hostage in Duke University President’s
    School Arson Incidents Paxil 2002-04-12 Michigan **Unusual Personality
    Change on Paxil Caused 15 Year Old to Set Fires inside High School
    Hostage Situation Paxil & Effexor Antidepressants 2001-04-15 Washington
    **Teen Holds Classmates Hostage with a Gun
    School Shooting Paxil [Seroxat]
    Antidepressant 2004-02-09 New York **Student Shoots Teacher in Leg at
    School Shooting Paxil [Seroxat] Antidepressant 2001-03-10 Pennsylvania
    **14 Year Old GIRL Shoots & Wounds Classmate at Catholic School
    Shooting Prozac Antidepressant WITHDRAWAL 1998-05-21 Oregon **Four Dead: Twenty
    School Shooting Prozac Antidepressant 1992-01-30 Michigan **School
    Teacher Shoots & Kills His Superintendent at School
    School Shooting
    Prozac Antidepressant 2005-03-24 Minnesota **10 Dead: 7 Wounded: Dosage
    Increased One Week before Rampage
    School Threats Prozac Antidepressant
    1999-10-19 Florida **Teen [16 Years Old] Threatens Classmates With Knife &
    Fake Explosives
    School Threat Prozac Antidepressant 2008-01-25 Washington
    **Student Takes Loaded Shotgun & 3 Rifles to School Parking Lot: Plans
    School Shooting Prozac WITHDRAWAL 2008-02-15 Illinois ** 6 Dead: 15
    Wounded: Perpetrator Was in Withdrawal from Med & Acting
    School Massacre Plot Prozac Withdrawal 2011-02-23 Virginia **Teen
    Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison For Columbine Style Plot
    School Hostage
    Situation Prozac/ Paxil Antidepressants 2001-01-18 California **Teen [17 Years
    Old] Takes Girl Hostage at School: He is Killed by Police
    School Shooting
    SSRI 2010-02-19 Finland **On Sept. 23, 2008 a Finnish Student Shot & Killed
    9 Students Before Killing Himself
    School Knife Attack Treatment For
    Depression & Strattera 2009-03-10 Belgium **Three Dead in School Day Care:
    Two Children & a Caregiver: Happened Jan 23, 2009
    School Stabbing
    Wellbutrin 2006-12-04 Indiana **Stabbing by 17 Year Old At High School: Charged
    with Attempted Murder
    School Threat Wellbutrin Antidepressant 2007-04-24
    Tennessee **Young Boy, 12, Threatens to Shoot Others at School
    Zoloft Antidepressant 2006-02-15 Tennessee **Teen Attacks Teacher at
    School Stand-Off Zoloft Antidepressant 1998-04-13 Idaho **Teen [14
    Years Old] in School Holds Police At Bay: Fires Shots
    School Shooting Zoloft
    Antidepressant 1995-10-12 South Carolina **15 Year Old Shoots Two Teachers,
    Killing One: Then Kills Himself
    School Shooting Zoloft Antidepressant &
    ADHD Med 2011-07-11 Alabama **14 Year Old Kills Fellow Middle School
    School Incident/Bizarre Zoloft* 2010-08-22 Australia **School
    Counselor Exhibits Bizarre Behavior: Became Manic On Zoloft

    Indicates a school shooting or school incident.
    * Indicates a legal case won
    using SSRI defense.
    ++ Indicates an important journal article.
    + Indicates
    a highly publicized case.
    num An age < 25 covered by FDA black box for