More guns in ''gun free'' zones

By Jim Irvine

On Monday May 22, 2006 Timothy Baker Jr. took a .38 caliber revolver, walked into the Euclid Office & Medical Plaza and into the office where his estranged girlfriend worked. Neither the restraining order Sherell Chunn had against him, nor the “no guns” sign at the entrance stopped him.

Baker had a prior offense of aggravated menacing involving another girlfriend. This is an “offense of violence” and thus would be a disqualifying offense for the purpose of obtaining a CHL. I have no reason to believe he ever applied for one. Further, it is likely that Baker was illegally in possession of a gun under disability because of the restraining order. There is no doubt that Baker broke numerous laws before his confrontation in the doctor’s office, but laws do not stop criminals.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
has an excellent article describing what happened. I’m going to focus on the expected and unexpected from this story.

Among the things that are common in these events, it happened in a victim zone (often called a “gun free” zone) it was apparently pre-planned and personal, a non-armed citizen unsuccessfully tried to stop an armed criminal, hundreds of lives were disrupted, law enforcement responded in a timely manner, and it resulted in at least one fatal gunshot.

Among the things that are not so common in these events, the unarmed person was not killed after he attempted and failed to gain control of the criminal’s gun, and no other persons were injured.

When I called the leasing office to discuss their building they confirmed that it is a “gun free” building. Obviously it wasn’t on Monday! After asking questions about why they posted; were they asked to by another entity, and the possibility that posting might not be in best interest of the safety of their tenants and customers, they replied, “I understand your call, but we are not interested.” Not interested in stopping this from happening again, not interested in saving lives, not interested in your safety.
Click on 'Read More' for continued analysis.

As posting signs will never stop criminals, and may actually attract them, it is only a matter of time until some victim successfully sues a business owner for their negligence involving an obviously unsafe environment. A call to the Euclid police department to inquire if they recommend posting signs was not returned.

The shooter is dead, so it’s impossible to fully answer “why” he took the actions he did. We do know that he has a history of violence and that his actions toward his victim have been bad enough to justify a restraining order against him. He did not care about the court order, or the law. He was distraught and determined to confront his victim.

When deciding where to bring about this confrontation, he had many choices. The victim has a home, a car, and may go to a mall, grocery store, hair salon, health club, or many other locations that a boyfriend would be familiar with. But he chose a place of work, where there are many other people. Why?

While we will never know for sure, we do know that the work place has a sign that reads, “No guns.” While this will stop law abiding citizens, those licensed by the state to carry a firearm for defense, including off-duty peace officers, it seems to be a magnet to the criminally minded. When a criminal profiles a victim, he chooses one he expects to victimize. When he chooses a location, he chooses one that plays to his favor. A “No Guns” sign tells the criminal, “Your victim is disarmed, and there is no one here who can come to her aid. Bring a gun and no one can stop you.” And Monday, no one did stop him. He stopped himself, thankfully before harming anyone else. Is it any wonder 90% of multiple victim homicides happen in a location where the victims may not defend their lives with a firearm? The real question is why anyone would want to advertise that fact.

It is staggering the number of unarmed people who try to disarm a criminal with a gun. While this works great for the likes of Jack Bauer on “24” and other Hollywood films, it usually ends up adding one to the victim count. The good doctor, while certainly well meaning, acted foolishly trying to disarm the gunman. He escaped injury/death only because a distraught man decided to let him live. I strongly recommend against trying any such action. In fact, even if you are armed with a gun, it is often best to simply try to escape a room with a violent criminal. I carry a gun to decrease my chance of getting shot. Removing people from a potentially volatile setting is a great way to save lives.

If you think you are the kind of person who would step in like the doctor did to try to save someone from a killer, or even if you think you would fight back and not be a helpless victim, do yourself a favor and get your concealed handgun license (CHL) so that you can legally carry the tool you need to do the job. Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference. Don’t take a knife (or just your hands) to a gun fight.

A police negotiator talked with Baker for an hour. He reportedly calmed him down, but he still took his life. The intended victim was saved, and that is great news. Obviously the police did a good job in that respect. But sometimes it does not work out that way.

Of course most days you will not be attacked. Most days you will not win the lottery either, but do you ever think you might? You are far more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than you are to win any lotto drawing. The question you need to ask yourself when you go forth unarmed is, “Do you feel lucky?”

Instead of trusting your life and your family to luck and hoping others respond in your hour of need, you have another choice. Protect yourself. Over 70,000 people are licensed to carry a firearm in Ohio.

So what would have happened if the doctor or anyone else in the room would have responded with a firearm? The truth is we can never say for sure, because each situation is different. All we can do is look broadly at other armed resistance situations.

Professor Gary Kleck has shown that 2,500,000 times each year someone uses a firearm to stop or prevent a crime. In 95% of those cases, no shots are fired by either side. Criminals respond well to force. It’s one of the things they understand. You can always decide not to respond with a gun you are carrying, but if you ever want the option to respond with a gun, you need to plan ahead.

It’s your life. Spend some time thinking about it.

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