A CBS Evening News segment in response to the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College featured Sheriff David Clarke, a frequent Fox guest with a history of inflammatory statements, pushing the debunked myth that gunmen in mass shootings target “gun-free zones.”
On October 2, CBS Evening News host Scott Pelley announced a new series called “Voices Against Violence” as part of “the national conversation about violence” after the recent mass shooting that killed nine and wounded nine more at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. One of the featured speakers was Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who claimed that shooters target “gun-free zones” because they “know that nobody is going to be able to interrupt [them] until mass carnage occurs”:
SHERIFF DAVID CLARKE: I'm Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Any time we have a horrific incident like a mass shooting, these things have a tendency to become politicized. One of the things that I would do to reduce -- we're not going to be able to eliminate these entirely -- but to reduce the likelihood that there's mass carnage, is to get rid of these gun-free zones. These gun-free zones -- theaters, churches, college campuses, elementary schools -- are chosen by the perpetrator for a reason. He knows that nobody is going to be able to interrupt him until mass carnage occurs. And we ought to give people the individual freedom, the individual right to -- under certain circumstances like a concealed carry license -- to go armed in these venues in case something like this happens for their own protection, and to have a chance. Look at Chicago, Illinois. Look at Washington, D.C., the federal district. If gun control really worked, those would be two of the safest areas in the United States. In fact, they're two of the most violent.
Clarke's “gun-free zones” claim is not supported by any evidence. According to an analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety, only 13 percent of the 133 mass shootings that occurred between January 2009 and July 2015 took place in “gun-free zones.” An analysis by Mother Jones found that, of 62 public mass shootings over a 30 year period, not a single shooting was stopped by a civilian carrying a firearm. Mother Jones also found that gunmen do not choose to target locations because guns are not allowed, but rather for personal reasons such as a workplace grievance.
Clarke has a history of making outrageous statements and associating with fringe personalities and organizations. During a 2013 appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, Clarke responded to Jones' claim that “the Obama Marxist types” wanted to confiscate guns, stating, “I believe that if somebody tried to enforce something of that magnitude you would see the second coming of an American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison.” He also claimed that Obama had encouraged violence in Ferguson, Missouri after a police officer killed resident Michael Brown by calling for calm “with a wink and a nod.” Clarke was named “sheriff of the year” by the far-right fringe group Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), whose leader proposed using women as human shields during a 2014 dispute between Cliven Bundy, a lawless Nevada rancher, and the Bureau of Land Management. And in a 2014 speech to the National Rifle Association, Clarke said, “If you're going to stand with me, you have to be willing to resist any attempt by government to disarm law-abiding people by fighting with the ferociousness of a junkyard dog. For it says in the Declaration of Independence that it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for our future security.”