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December 13, 2007

Colorado hero shows gun law must change

(an editorial from The Daily Telegram, a Michigan paper)

At issue: A woman using a handgun to stop a killer in a “soft target,” a church.

Our view: The case shows why Michigan school staff need an option for training and concealed carry, not “gun-free zones.”

Another month has brought more shooting sprees in what commonly are “gun-free zones.” Four died in two separate shootings Sunday in Colorado. Eight were murdered last Wednesday in an Omaha, Neb., shopping mall. Seven students were slain recently in Finland. That followed a Cleveland school shooting in October.

Only in the latest attack did an adult have a right to a gun to defend herself and others. And that attack Sunday at a crowded Colorado church ended abruptly when citizen volunteer Jeanne Assam used her handgun to stop the killer before he could murder dozens of other innocent people.

“When the shots were fired, she rushed toward the scene and encountered the attacker there in a hallway. He never got more than 50 feet inside our building,” senior pastor Brady Boyd told reporters. “There could have been a great loss of life yesterday, and she probably saved over 100 lives.”

But if a similar killer entered a Michigan school, even a former police officer such as Assam could not legally protect students with her firearm. That’s because Michigan unwisely made schools gun-free zones except for active-duty law enforcement, which basically means that mass murderers can rest assured law-abiding staff are unarmed. Time and again we see how intermediate steps such as counseling or unarmed guards fail to stop killers such as Cho Seung-hui (Virginia Tech), Jeff Weise (Red Lake, Minn.) or others. Rather than discourage psychopaths, gun-free zones assist their quests for high body counts and ill-deserved fame.

Michigan House Bill 5162 would give law-abiding adults who pass background checks and concealed weapons training a choice to protect their students, if their district approves. Private citizens saving lives by using firearms to stop killers have been documented in case after case — a high school in Pearl, Miss., a college at Appalachian School of Law and now a church in Colorado. In each case, the arguments raised by opponents against concealed carry laws were shown to be hollow. The citizen’s firearm was not taken away by an attacker, the scene did not become a free-fire zone and the citizen did not accidentally hit innocent bystanders.

Survivors are asking how many victims might have been saved if the Omaha shopping mall had not banned firearms, which are legal elsewhere in Nebraska. If officials cannot keep victims safe — and will not allow them to protect themselves — then some believe those officials ought to be held liable in lawsuits for violating the victims’ true “equal protection” rights. Gun-free zone liability acts have been introduced in Georgia and Arizona, and are being considered in other states.

Must a score of Michigan school children end up victims before House Bill 5162 receives a House Judiciary Committee hearing? We would much prefer to see the headline “Hero saves 100,” than “Lawmaker: ‘I never thought it could happen here.’ ”

Copyright © 2006 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some Rights Reserved.

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