Trump Echoes Conservative Media’s False “Gun-Free Zone” Talking Point

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump echoed conservative media’s tendency to blame mass shootings on so-called “gun-free zones,” saying of the June 12 attack at gay nightclub Pulse that left 49 dead, “if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had.” In fact, the gunman engaged in a firefight with three police officers during the massacre at the the Orlando, Florida, nightclub. 

Trump Suggested That Armed Club-Goers Could Have Taken Out Gunman

Trump: “If You Had Guns On The Other Side, You Wouldn’t Have Had The Tragedy That You Had.” Trump suggested that someone armed with a gun could have stopped the attack at Pulse nightclub during a June 13 CNN appearance, claiming, “if you had some some guns in that club, the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had”:

ALISYN CAMEROTA (co-host): This guy was on the FBI’s radar. In fact, he was interviewed twice by FBI agents in 2013 and 2014. They were concerned that he did have radical ties to extremists or to terrorists, and yet they concluded that there was nothing they could do about it and he was allowed to own a gun. He had a carry license. Are you comfortable with people who the FBI has identified as possibly having radical ties owning weapons?

DONALD TRUMP: Well in this case he was actually licensed, which is sort of an amazing thing. He went out, he got licensed, he was fully licensed, so he had the right to have a gun. So for all of those people that want to have people go out and get licensed, here is an example of somebody that went out and got licensed and he was able to get a gun. Gun owners even more than ever need to be able to protect themselves. And by the way, if you had some some guns in that club, the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had and people in that room--

CAMEROTA: But there was, I mean, but Mr. Trump, there was an armed security guard, there was an armed security guard.

TRUMP: -- had guns with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him, right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having. And nobody even knows how bad that tragedy is, because I think probably the numbers will get bigger and bigger and worse and worse. I hear that the injured are so gravely injured. But if you had guns in that room, even if you had a number of people having them strapped to their ankle or strapped to their waist, where bullets could have flown in the other direction right at him, you wouldn’t have had the same kind of a tragedy. [CNN, New Day, 6/13/16]

Facts Of The Shooting Contradict Trump’s Claims

Three Police Officers Reportedly Engaged The Gunman In A Firefight Prior To Hostage Situation. According to a timeline released by the Orlando Sentinel, the suspected gunman exchanged gunfire with three police officers who responded to the sound of gunfire. After the exchange of fire, the suspect reentered Pulse and took hostages:

2:02 a.m.

A uniformed Orlando police officer working at the club off-duty first heard gunshots. Omar Mateen was outside with an AR-15, a handgun and an explosive device.

The officer fired at him, police said. Two more officers showed up and opened fire.

Mateen fired back, and walked back into Pulse, trapping dozens of people inside. [Orlando Sentinel, 6/13/16]

Trump’s Statement Echoed Conservative Media Figures Who Rushed To Make Baseless “Gun-Free Zone” Claims

Discredited Gun Researcher John Lott: “ANOTHER MASS PUBLIC SHOOTING In A Gun-Free Zone.” Lott, the inventor of the discredited “more guns, less crime” hypothesis that argues more permissive concealed carry laws reduce crime, reacted to breaking news of the shooting the morning of June 12 by writing on Twitter, “ANOTHER MASS PUBLIC SHOOTING in a gun-free zone” before erroneously suggesting that places where guns are not allowed are disproportionately the sites of mass shootings:

Fox’s Napolitano: “All It Would've Taken Was One Sober Person With A Gun.” Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano claimed that the gunman who carried out the Pulse nightclub massacre “could easily have been disabled, disarmed, or taken out completely during the reloading process if anybody had been armed”:

ANDREW NAPOLITANO: Before you askme about the FBI, I would like to follow up on your last question to Katrina. Nobody in that club had a gun. The club was a no gun zone. The only person that had the gun was the killer. Could you imagine if even a half-dozen people, Geraldo pointed this out earlier this morning, if just a half-dozen people had been armed. He had to reload his weapons many times. It's impossible to shoot the weapon while you are reloading it. He could easily have been disabled, disarmed, or taken out completely during the reloading process if anybody had been armed. This is in a very, very pro-gun state. The owners of the club, the owner of the private property prohibited the guns, not the government.

STUART VARNEY (host): Do you think America is ready for not the availability, but the presence of guns in a variety of situations, like, for example, in a nightclub where people are drinking? I'm not so sure to be honest Judge -- I’m not so sure I really want firearms around when people are loaded --

NAPOLITANO: But the events couldn't possibly have been worse than they were. All it would've taken was one sober person with a gun. [Fox Business Network, Varney & Co., 6/13/16]

RedState Contributing Editor Ben Howe: “Avoid ‘Gun Free Zones.’” Howe wrote on Twitter:

NRA News Commentator And Conservative Radio Host Dana Loesch: “End Gun Free Zones.” From Twitter:

To read more about conservative media’s tendency to ignore the factual circumstances of mass shootings to aid in pushing arguments about “gun-free zones,” click here.

Most Shootings Are Not In “Gun-Free Zones” And There Is No Evidence Civilians Carrying Firearms Stop Shootings

Study: Only 13 Percent Of Mass Shootings Between 2009 And 2015 Took Place In So-Called “Gun-Free Zones.” An analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety looked at the 133 mass shootings between January 2009 and July 2015 and found that only 13 percent of those mass shootings took place in a “gun-free zone,” while the vast majority of shootings took place where carrying a gun is legally permitted:

Ninety-four of the 133 incidents (71%) took place wholly in private residences. Of the 38 incidents in public spaces, at least 21 took place wholly or in part where concealed guns could be lawfully carried. All told, no more than 17 of the shootings (13%) took place entirely in public spaces that were so-called “gun-free zones.” [Everytown for Gun Safety, 8/20/15]

Mother Jones: There Is “Zero Evidence To Support” Claims That Shooters Target “Gun-Free Zones,” Armed Civilians Stop Mass Attacks. A Mother Jones investigation into public mass shootings in America found that none of 62 mass public shootings over a 30-year period analyzed by the magazine were stopped by citizens with firearms, and that “in cases in Washington and Texas in 2005, would-be heroes who tried to take action with licensed firearms were gravely wounded and killed.” The investigation also revealed that “not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns”:

Among the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns. To the contrary, in many of the cases there was clearly another motive for the choice of location. For example, 20 were workplace shootings, most of which involved perpetrators who felt wronged by employers and colleagues. Last September, when a troubled man working at a sign manufacturer in Minneapolis was told he would be let go, he pulled out a 9mm Glock and killed six people and injured another before putting a bullet in his own head. Similar tragedies unfolded at a beer distributor in Connecticut in 2010 and at a plastics factory in Kentucky in 2008.


No less a fantasy is the idea that gun-free zones prevent armed civilians from saving the day. Not one of the 62 mass shootings we documented was stopped this way. 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. Law enforcement agents train rigorously for stopping active shooters, they say, a task that requires extraordinary skills honed under acute duress. In cases in Washington and Texas in 2005, would-be heroes who tried to take action with licensed firearms were gravely wounded and killed. In the Tucson mass shooting in 2011, 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. [Mother Jones, 4/1/13]

In Fact, Studies Show More Guns Are Linked To More Gun Violence, Not To The Thwarting Of Attacks

Johns Hopkins Center For Gun Policy And Research: Concealed Carry Laws Most Consistently Linked To Increase In Aggravated Assault. An October 2012 report from the Center for Gun Policy and Research summarized existing research on concealed carry laws and found that looser restrictions on carrying firearms in public resulted in a “one to nine percent increase in aggravated assaults”:

So-called right to carry (RTC) laws allow individuals who are not legally proscribed from possessing firearms to carry concealed weapons in public, either by making it easy to get a permit to do so, or by not requiring such permits at all. Arguments for RTC laws are premised on the idea that everyone who is eligible to legally own a firearm is law-abiding, and is at low risk for committing a violent crime. Research cited above concerning weak standards for legal firearm ownership calls this into question. A recent review of concealed carry permit holders in North Carolina examined criminal offending in the group over a five-year period. During that period, more than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of crimes (excluding traffic violations), including more than 200 felonies and 10 murders or manslaughters. An additional 900 had been convicted of a drunk driving offense, an offense commonly associated with substance abuse.


The most consistent finding across studies which correct for these flaws is that RTC laws are associated with an increase in aggravated assaults. Using various statistical methods, estimates range from a one to nine percent increase in aggravated assaults as a result of RTC laws. [Johns Hopkins University, Center for Gun Policy and Research, October 2012]

Harvard Injury Control Research Center: “In Homes, Cities, States And Regions In The US, Where There Are More Guns,” There Is A Higher Risk Of Gun Homicides. According to a series of peer-reviewed studies published by researchers at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, higher levels of gun ownership are associated with higher homicide rates at the city, state, and national level in the United States and other developed nations:

Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide. [Harvard Injury Control Research Center, accessed 6/13/16]