John R. Houser, a 59-year-old white "drifter," opened fire during a screening of Trainwreck at a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater on Thursday, killing two people and wounding nine others before turning his handgun on himself. Before long, gun-rights advocates were claiming that the cinema's no-firearms policy contributed to the carnage.
"It’s just another example of how gun control policy leaves law-abiding citizenry vulnerable to attack, and this isn’t anything new," Townhall's Matt Vespa wrote, comparing it to attacks in other gun-free zones such as the shooting at a military recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee, earlier this month.
Louisiana is one of 30 states where residents can openly carry a firearm without a permit, but businesses are allowed to forbid weapons on their premises. The Grand Theatre does so, stating in their conduct policy that “possession of firearms or weapons of any kind regardless of whether openly or concealed, with or without a permit,” is prohibited. Or, as Breitbart put it, “The movie theater chain does not even allow law-abiding citizens with concealed carry permits to carry for self-defense.”
Other right-wing websites jumped on this angle, and similar sentiments were expressed on Twitter:
Bob Owens, the editor of BearingArms.com, was especially keen to make his point:
This argument has been made repeatedly after massacres in gun-free zones, including the Aurora cinema shooting in 2012 the Washington Navy Yard attack in 2013. The theory is that if more people are armed, then a shooter's rampage will be stopped sooner, thereby limiting casualties.
Statistics compiled by Mother Jones show that none of the 62 mass shootings in the last 30 years have been stopped by armed civilians. In fact, in two cases in 2005, bystanders who attempted to get involved were wounded and killed, and after the 2011 shooting in Tuscon "an armed citizen admitted to coming within a split second of gunning down the wrong person—one of the bystanders who'd helped tackle and subdue the actual killer." As the magazine reports, "Veteran FBI, ATF, and police officials say that an armed citizen opening fire against an attacker in a panic-stricken movie theater or shopping mall is very likely to make matters worse."
Gun-rights and gun-control advocates alike agree on one thing: Anyone who wants to commit a massacre won't be dissuaded by a business' no-firearms policy. And we can't expect places like the Grand Theatre to install metal detectors and screen every guest.
But the logical response is not to allow guns everywhere, as the presence of guns increases aggression and the odds of deadly violence; rather, it's to further restrict gun ownership, and outlaw gun possession in public—whether concealed or carried openly. Houser reportedly had an old criminal record and mental health issues:
And yet, he still managed to get his hands on a gun. At a gun show, perhaps? Online? There are many ways to get your hands on a gun, legally or otherwise. We won't be safer until doing so becomes much more difficult. It's rather simple logic, but bears repeating: You can’t bring a gun into a crowded movie theater if you don’t own one in the first place.