By: José Niño
As Second Amendment supporters know all too well, gun-free zones are criminal safe spaces. According to researcher John Lott, nearly 98 percent of mass shootings in America have occurred in gun-free zones from 1950 to 2019.
The gun-free zone disaster did just not fall from the sky. Our “enlightened” political class made sure to turn our schools and related venues into soft targets for criminals under the guise of public safety. Federal gun-free zone policy was kicked off in 1990, when Republican President George H.W. Bush signed the Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA) into law with strong bipartisan support. Former Vice President and now 2020 presidential contender Joe Biden was the key sponsor of this legislation. The GFZA banned people from bringing firearms within one-thousand feet of private, public, and parochial elementary and high schools. Various states have expanded upon this form of civil disarmament and have carved out substantial anti-self-defense zones throughout their states.
There has been some pushback at the federal level with Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie introducing the Safe Students Act, which would have repealed the 1990 GFSZA. This legislation has not gained much traction, however. Recognizing the obvious roadblocks at the federal level, gun owners have been forced to get creative in trying to reform gun-free zone policies.
In one case, a Tennessee gun rights activist filed a lawsuit against a venue that failed to prevent a fatal attack against her husband. In 2009, Nikki Goeser witnessed her stalker murder her husband in cold blood at a bar. With very little options at her disposal, she turned to the courts to at least receive a modicum of justice. She filed a lawsuit against the bar for negligence in not being able to adequately protect her husband.
Sadly, Goeser was denied her justice. In accordance to Tennessee law, business owners are only obligated to protect their patrons if a risk can be foreseen. Due to the bar and its surrounding neighborhood being located in a low-crime area, along with the shooter’s lack of a violent criminal background, his murderous outburst was not considered “foreseeable.” Thus, the bar had no obligation to protect Goeser’s husband and could not be held liable for the incident, according to a Tennessee Court of Appeals’ decision in 2014.
There was a silver lining to Goeser’s tragic experience and her subsequent legal disappointment. Goeser went on to become the Executive Director of the Crime Prevention Research Center, where she has led the charge for reforming American gun laws in a way that empowers law-abiding gun owners.
Some elected officials have answered the call and have come forward with proposals that could prevent tragedies like the one Goeser had to endure and hold venues liable for not adequately protecting patrons or attendees. One of those was Michigan State Representative Gary Eisen, who introduced House Bill 4975 in 2019. This bill would have removed governmental immunity from lawsuits dealing with injuries that occurred on government property where guns are prohibited.
Similarly, Eisen sponsored House Bill 4976, which would obligate government entities, private businesses, and individuals who establish gun-free zones on their respective properties to provide security for the people who enter these venues. The overall intention of this legislation is to mandate businesses or government buildings with gun bans to at least make proactive security decisions, such as hiring security guards. This bill has remained dormant thus far.
Similar efforts are being replicated in Minnesota this year. State Representative Jeremy Munson introduced a bill, HF 3051, that would enable legal, concealed carry holders to sue business or property owners if they suffer an injury or losses as a consequence of a violent encounter that could have been defused had they been allowed to legally carry in said venue. According to Alpha News, “The bill would add language to the statute that would allow individuals to civilly sue a ‘property owner or entity’ that has voluntarily posted signs banning guns on their property.” This law does “not extend to properties that are required by state or federal law to post signs.”
Munson’s bill was referred to the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee in the Minnesota House. Due to Democrat control of Public Safety Committee, it’s unlikely the bill will receive a hearing during the 2020 legislative session of the Minnesota legislature.
The only significant gun-free zone reform to take place in the past year happened when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law in 2019 that would allow teachers to be armed in educational facilities. For now, it seems that state and local level approaches are the most practical ways for gun owners to gradually chip away at gun-free zone policies.
José Niño is a Venezuelan-American political activist writing from Fort Collins, Colorado. Contact him at [email protected].