Should terrorists try to launch a Paris-style terrorist attack in the United States, Americans’ chances of becoming victims may depend on whether local authorities make it easy for them to lock and load.
The terrorists who hit multiple venues throughout the French capital last Friday struck “soft” targets where armed personnel were unlikely to be. They chose a country where civilians were almost certain not to have guns.
John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, is the co-author of a study published in July that found a statistically significant lower number of murder and violent crimes in states with high percentages of adults who legally carry firearms, compared with states that have low legal-carry numbers.
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But what about terrorism? Fewer guns could mean more carnage.
Lott said would-be terrorists likely would make the same calculations as would-be criminals.
“Some places, like Washington, D.C., or New York or Los Angeles would be more attractive [targets] than places like Dallas or parts of Florida,” Lott told LifeZette.
By these criteria, Chicago, the poster boy among cities for strict gun laws and a high murder rate, also would qualify as an inviting ISIS target.
Asked about the rate at which gun-control laws take weapons out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt said they’re “about 99 percent effectively.”
“None of the good guys [in Paris] had a gun … That set the stage for guys who appear to have gotten, from what we can tell, fully automatic weapons,” he said.
Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun-control group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was wounded in a shooting, argued in January that tougher laws would “make it harder for suspected terrorists to get guns.”
France’s restrictive gun laws did not stop terrorists from acquiring Kalashnikov assault rifles.
But France’s laws did not stop terrorists from acquiring Kalashnikov assault rifles.
France has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. Gunpolicy.org, a database maintained by the University of Sydney School of Public Health in Australia, says France prohibits possession of automatic firearms like the ones used by the terrorists, and allows private possession of semiautomatic weapons only under restrictive permits. Handgun possession is banned except for narrow exceptions, and civilian possession of rifles and shotguns is tightly regulated.
It is illegal in most cases to carry concealed guns, and their transport is severely restricted. Those who do own guns also must regularly train at firing ranges and undergo annual psychiatric evaluations.
Gunpolicy.org says there are 31.2 guns per 100 civilians. That is more than four-and-a-half times the rate of Britain, but less than a third the rate of the United States. And restrictions on carrying concealed guns meant that gun owners predictably would not have been armed in public.
“Just forget about having a handgun, particularly if you take it away from the shooting venue,” Pratt said.
Lott drew a parallel between French gun laws and Israeli policy from that country’s founding through the 1970s. The Israeli government in recent months has moved to loosen restrictions in response to “lone wolf” acts of terror in the country.
“For years, they tried what the French are doing,” he said.
Lott noted the French government put 10,000 soldiers on the streets in January in response to attacks on Jews, and mobilized an additional 1,500 amid last week’s attacks. He said the approach is doomed to failure because terrorists can easily find targets that soldiers and police cannot cover.
“They have many options,” he said. “It’s simply impossible for the government to put enough troops to defend every place.”
Pratt said it would be his “prayer” that Europe would re-evaluate its restrictive gun laws in the wake of last week’s attacks. But, he said, “there’s an absolute refusal on the part of our left” to acknowledge the role of radical Islam.
“This blindness to Islam goes back a long way,” he said.