Terrorists Prefer “Gun‐​Free” Zones

May 8, 2002 • Commentary

The Washington Post reports (May 3, p. A1) that 20,000 pilots want permission to carry guns in the cockpit to protect themselves from hijackers. Not a good idea, says D.C. congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton: a gun in the cockpit could harm innocent bystanders. After all, Norton explains, “We know guns in the homes are more likely to be used for killing relatives and for suicide.” Packed into that 18‐​word sound bite is one major error for every six words. Pretty impressive, even for a politician.

First, the home‐​airplane analogy simply doesn’t fly. Yes, in both places a wrongful shooting harms the victim. But in an airplane, unlike a home, a rightful shooting can save hundreds of lives.

Second, Norton has her cause‐​and‐​effect backwards. Using a gun is a means of committing suicide, not a cause. Indeed, the desire to commit suicide is the reason (cause) for using the gun. If the gun weren’t already owned, or easily obtained, some other means would do just as well.

Third, and most important, the real benefits of arming pilots (and homeowners) are the countless acts of violence that are deterred, without a shot being fired.

If anti‐​gun zealots could get their arguments straight, they might realize that misconceived “gun‐​free” policies are just as enticing to hijackers on airplanes as to armed robbers in the inner cities.

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