We don't know when the country's next mass shooting will happen. With two tragedies a week apart last month, we know it won't be long.
But we can be reasonably certain where it will happen: A place where people aren't allowed to carry a firearm.
On July 23, John "Rusty" Houser, a man with a history of mental illness, shot 11 people at a Lafayette, La., movie theater, killing two, before taking his own life. That followed the horrific July 16 shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez shot up a strip-mall military recruiting center and a Naval reserve center, killing five service members.
The Grand Theater in Lafayette, where Houser carried out his massacre, prohibits patrons and employees from carrying weapons, even if they have concealed-carry permits. And at both the Chattanooga recruitment storefront and the reserve center — as with military installations across the country — service members were unarmed. One Navy officer shot at Abdulazeez with a personal weapon, and a Marine might have done likewise. The FBI recovered two personal weapons from the scene.
The military is investigating whether they were allowed to have those weapons. How about giving them medals instead? Abdulazeez finally was killed — by police.
Gun-free zones are the common denominator in recent American massacres. Homicidal maniacs are intent on breaking the oldest law of all — thou shalt not kill — so they certainly aren't going to pay attention to a directive that they disarm during their search for victims. On the contrary, the cowards prefer to prey on people they know are incapable of defending themselves.
The Washington Navy Yard, where 12 people were killed in a 2013 active-shooter event, was disarmed. James Holmes, who killed 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012, picked the only nearby cineplex that advertised its gun ban. Nidal Hasan killed 13 unarmed people at Fort Hood in 2009. The worst mass shootings of all have taken place at schools, where carrying a weapon was a crime. In 2012, Adam Lanza killed 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. And in 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech.
Yet as each one of these horrific events fades in our consciousness to make room for the next, every call for a "national discussion" on guns ignores the laws we pass and the signs we post that tell the next crazed killer where to hunt. Case in point: A story from The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach that ran on the front page of the July 27 Review-Journal. His lengthy analysis of shooting rampages covered mental illness — another undeniable link — but made no mention of killers selecting locations where guns aren't allowed.
All of these gun bans, illogical responses to previous acts of violence, ensure that mad men will have minute upon minute to gun down the defenseless before armed law enforcement can arrive. In the Chattanooga attacks, police already were on Abdulazeez's tail when he crashed through a gate at the reserve center. How many more people might he have killed if he hadn't shot at the recruitment center first?
If the highly emotional gun violence debate actually addresses gun-free zones, the gun-control lobby is quick to set up straw men. The point of rolling back such bans is not to arm everyone, everywhere, including holsters for teachers at the front of every class. It's to plant a seed of doubt in the heads of would-be killers, who'll know there's a chance that at least one person might be able to shoot back. It's to give people an opportunity to defend themselves in public places, if they want it.
Can we at least take down the signs and see what happens?