Early 1970s. A young girl ascends high into the sky on a swing on her school's playground. "This is the safest place in the world," she shouts to her friend swinging next to her. It is recess in a small town in Idaho. She has been terrified since her mom warned her about "danger areas" like public parks, public restrooms, theaters, and getting separated from her parents in crowded places. "Mom, what's a 'kid nap'?" Her carefree world completely shatters when her mom answers, "stealing kids from their parents." However, her mom assures her that even though there are a lot of kids at school with not very many adults to watch over them, she will always be safe at school. "No one is mean enough to go to a school and hurt sweet, innocent children," her mom says.
January 1989. A disturbed drifter opens fire on a school playground in Stockton, Calif., killing five children and wounding 30 others. The young girl from Idaho now holds her newborn baby girl close. "Dear God," she prays, "please comfort the families of the victims and send guardian angels to watch over our schools. And—please, can you make the 'bad guys' go away?"
Longing to keep schools the safest place in the world and protect her children, this young mother becomes caught up in the notion perpetrated by most media, politicians, and other groups that banning guns and passing gun control laws will reduce crime and make the bad guys go away. After some research on the number of gun control laws passed, she discovers that even though there are more than 20,000 gun control laws on the books nationwide, crime has increased. She also learns that in states with more guns, fewer gun control laws, and laws that allow ordinary citizens to carry concealed handguns, violent crime drops.
Armed with those facts, she helps lobby for the right of Utah citizens to carry concealed weapons and later to keep the law intact for law-abiding citizens to have the right to carry concealed firearms on school campuses. She cites statistics that show that between 1977 and 1995, 15 shootings took place in schools of states without laws stipulating the right to carry concealed handguns, and only one took place in a state that had such a law. There were 19 deaths and 97 injuries in states without right-to-carry laws, but only one death and two injuries in states with such laws.
Additionally, the federal government enacted the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1995. This prohibits anyone from taking a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. Despite this act, there were shootings at 33 schools in just one year from Aug. 1, 1997, through July 31, 1998. "A logical conclusion would be that posting signs banning firearms and creating gun-free zones on school campuses and other vulnerable institutions is a note of encouragement for cowardly criminals who prefer easy victims—especially victims who can't shoot back," she states.
April 20, 1999. Two students at Columbine High School open fire on their peers and kill 12 students, one teacher, and wound 23. The United States grieves the loss of young, innocent lives.
April 21, 1999. Parents nervously send their children off to school, praying their child's school will not be the next killing zone. The young girl from Idaho is now in her 30s.
As usual after a mass shooting, she fields a steady stream of phone calls from other worried parents. Many express relief that if a shooting happened at their school, there may be a "good guy" with a gun and their child could at least have a fighting chance against a "bad guy" with a gun. Some parents are angry, blaming guns for the senseless killings. The pro-gun activist mother, in tears, then calls the Utah state representative who had tried, unsuccessfully, to ban law-abiding citizens from carrying concealed weapons to school. "It was very hard to send my daughters to school today, Dave. Please, I'm willing to put our differences aside and work together and find the causes of these types of crime and stop them from happening in the future." "Set up a time, and let's do it," Dave replies.
Janalee Tobias is the president and founder of Women Against Gun Control.