Donald Trump Echoes Right-Wing Media Falsehoods In Vowing To “Get Rid” Of “Gun-Free Zones”

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called for an end to “gun-free zones,” parroting a prominent right-wing media claim that more civilians carrying guns would prevent mass shootings. However, there is no evidence the claim is true and research instead shows more guns are linked to higher levels of violence. This instance is just the latest example of Trump parroting right-wing media myths in his talking points.

Trump Promises To End “Gun-Free Zones,” Claiming They Attract Shooters

Trump Says He Will “Get Rid Of Gun-Free Zones On Schools” And Military Bases. During a January 7 campaign rally in Vermont, Donald Trump vowed to “get rid” of “gun-free zones” on schools and military bases if he were to become president, saying a “gun-free zone” is “bait” to a “sicko.” Trump claimed that the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California “would be a whole different story” if more “good guys” were armed:

Donald Trump said he wants to end gun-free zones in schools during a Vermont rally held at the same time as President Obama's televised town hall promoting gun control.

“I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, you have to,” Trump told a cheering crowd Thursday night in Burlington, Vt. “And on military bases, my first day it gets signed, ok? My first day. There's no more gun-free zones.”


At his rally Thursday night, Trump went through a list of terrorist events, including the recent ISIS-inspired shootings in San Bernardino, Calif. and in Paris, and said that if only more “good guys” were armed “it would be a whole different story.”

“Now, you know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That's bait,” Trump said.

“A gun-free zone...That ends immediately. We're going back to sanity in this country. [The Hill1/7/16]

Trump's Call Echoes Right-Wing Media's False Claims That “Gun-Free Zones” Are Targeted By Shooters, And Having More Guns Would Stop Shootings

Rush Limbaugh: Shooters Target “Gun-Free Zones” Because “There's Not Going To Be Any Resistance.” During the October 5, 2015, edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, host Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed “92 percent of mass shootings since 2009 have occurred in gun-free zones,” arguing that “schools are not being chosen randomly” but rather shooters target them because “there's not going to be any resistance.” Limbaugh said “It's the arrival on the scene, of somebody else with a gun” that “shuts down” attempted shootings:

RUSH LIMBAUGH: The law exists because society as a whole has deemed this or that to be right or wrong, moral or immoral, good or bad, harmful or not. It's how we lay down our markers. And they just want to keep piling law on law on law.


But clearly, folks, it just has no impact. Here's another stat. And this is from the same writer, A.W.R. Hawkins: 92 percent of mass shootings since 2009 have occurred in gun-free zones. Ninety-two percent. These schools are not being chosen randomly. They're not chosen just because there's a collection of kids that make good targets or students there. They're chosen because there's not going to be any resistance. And what is it that shuts down every one of these sprees when they start? It's the arrival on the scene, of somebody else with a gun. Not somebody waving a law and a piece of paper, not somebody on a megaphone, “You are breaking gun law, you are violating gun law; we command you to stop.” What you hear next is bang bang, couple more times. There aren't any shooters on site because it's a gun free zone. The law-abiding, of course, obey the law and they don't have any guns, not even the security people. Ninety-two percent of mass shootings since 2009 occurred in gun-free zones. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show10/5/15]

Following Oregon Umpqua Community College Shooting, Fox News Repeatedly Called Campus A “Gun-Free Zone.” Following the October 1, 2015 mass shooting on the campus of Umpqua Community College (UCC) in Roseburg, Oregon, Fox News ran 23 segments incorrectly calling the campus a “gun-free zone” -- even though other news reports explained that there were armed students on campus -- with Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse using the false claim to editorialize that because “this was a gun-free zone ... the gunman had no fear of being shot himself by other students”:

Fox News ran 23 segments where it was claimed that UCC was a “gun-free zone.” The claims came from Fox News reporters, hosts, guests and soundbites of GOP presidential candidates making the claim. The claim was debunked in only two cases.

In one of these instances, during the October 1 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor, guest David Jaques, the publisher of the Roseburg Beacon News, explained “it's not a gun-free zone,” citing a statement from UCC's past president.

False claims about UCC being a “gun-free zone” were not limited to conservative punditry on Fox News. During breaking news coverage of the shooting on October 1, Fox News correspondent and breaking news anchor Trace Gallagher falsely reported, “As we know, and have been reporting, Umpqua Community College is a gun-free zone.”

On October 2, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse falsely reported UCC was a “gun-free zone” during several news reports. During the October 2 broadcast of Happening Now, La Jeunesse falsely reported, “This was a gun-free zone.” Later on Outnumbered, La Jeunesse editorialized further, saying, “This was a gun-free zone, so the gunman had no fear of being shot himself by other students.” 

Several segments on Fox News included some attempt to explain Oregon law or UCC policy relating to guns, but still reached the false conclusion that the campus was a “gun-free zone.” [Media Matters10/8/15]

Frequent Fox Guest David Clarke: “Get Rid Of These Gun-Free Zones” To “Reduce Likelihood That There's Mass Carnage.” Appearing during an October 2, 2015, segment on CBS Evening News, frequent Fox News guest Sheriff David Clarke claimed that “to reduce the likelihood that there's mass carnage,” society should “get rid of these gun-free zones,” as they “are chosen by the perpetrator for a reason,” which is that "[h]e knows that nobody is going to be able to interrupt him until mass carnage occurs":

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. [CBS, CBS Evening News10/2/15]

Laura Ingraham: Victims Of San Bernardino Shooting Were “Sitting Ducks” Because No One Pulled Out A Concealed Gun. During the December 3, 2015, broadcast of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show, host Laura Ingraham called victims of the San Bernardino, California shooting “sitting ducks,” saying, “Not one person apparently had an ability to defend himself or herself yesterday,” while suggesting that someone with a concealed gun could have stopped the attack:

LAURA INGRAHAM: How many of you wish one of these - in one of these shootings we had someone who was carrying a concealed carry weapon. Someone who was armed, so they're not sitting ducks. I feel so bad, people are just - they're sitting ducks. They can't do anything to defend themselves. And even if you have a gun sometimes it's not going to work out, but at least you have a fighting chance, you have something. Not one person apparently had an ability to defend himself or herself yesterday. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show12/3/15]

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 Jones4/1/13]

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 12/3/15]

Donald Trump Has Repeatedly Used Right-Wing Media Myths For His Talking Points

Trump Used Rush Limbaugh's False Claim That Unemployment Was Over 40 Percent. Appearing on the July 15, 2015, edition of Fox News' Hannity, Trump told Sean Hannity, “Somebody actually last week said we have a 40 percent unemployment, so I've been saying 19 - 21 percent, but somebody actually came out last week and said we have a 40 percent, and they might very well be right.” Trump was referring to Rush Limbaugh, who earlier that month claimed on his show that “the actual unemployment rate in the United States of America is not 5.5 percent ... It is 42.9 percent.” In reality, unemployment was around five percent at the time. [Media Matters7/16/15]

Trump Relied On Debunked Breitbart News Report To Claim US Has Over 30 Million Undocumented Immigrants. During an appearance on CNN's The Lead on July 8, 2015, Trump claimed, “We have 34 million [undocumented immigrants] in the country. I used to hear 11, now I hear it's 34 million.” Trump appears to have gotten his information from a long-debunked 2014 Breitbart News report, and experts had confirmed that the real number of immigration “hovers around 11 million.” [Media Matters7/16/15]

Trump Parroted False Conservative Media Claim That Bill Clinton Banned Guns On Military Bases. In a July 2015 interview with, Trump claimed, “President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on [military] bases.” Trump's claim came from right-wing media's attempt to blame Clinton for 2013 Washington, D.C. Navy Yard shooting. In fact, the 1993 regulation came from a 1992 directive issued under former President George H.W. Bush that actually allows guns to be carried on military bases under many different circumstances. [Media Matters7/16/15]

Trump Repeated A False Claim From Sean Hannity That Obama Wanted To Bring In 250,000 Syrian Refugees. During an October 2015 New Hampshire town hall event broadcast by NBC, Trump repeated a false claim previously made by Sean Hannity when he told Matt Lauer, “we're going to take in 250,000 people, they're coming from areas we don't know. They have no papers, no documents ... this could be the greatest Trojan horse of all time.” The week before, Sean Hannity made the claim on his Fox show, telling Trump, “This president has committed to nearly 250,000 [refugees] coming to America.” A PolitiFact report noted the claim was false and came from a hoax website. [Media Matters10/27/15]