Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

The case for gun rights is stronger than you think

By William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor
updated 3:54 PM EST, Wed December 19, 2012
William Bennett argues that schools would be safer with at least one armed person there who is well-trained in firearms use.
William Bennett argues that schools would be safer with at least one armed person there who is well-trained in firearms use.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • William Bennett: Arming, training one person in a school could help prevent shootings
  • He says armed people have stopped instances of mass killing
  • Killers may target places where they know they can't be shot down, Bennett says
  • Bennett: Guns help prevent crime and improve public safety

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

(CNN) -- On NBC's "Meet the Press" this past Sunday, I was asked how we can make our schools safer and prevent another massacre like Sandy Hook from happening again. I suggested that if one person in the school had been armed and trained to handle a firearm, it might have prevented or minimized the massacre.

"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," I said. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. Has to be someone who's trained. Has to be someone who's responsible."

William Bennett
William Bennett

Well, I sure did get mail. Many people agreed with me and sent me examples of their son or daughter's school that had armed security guards, police officers or school employees on the premises. Many others vehemently disagreed with me, and one dissenter even wrote that the blood of the Connecticut victims was ultimately on the hands of pro-gun rights advocates.

To that person I would ask: Suppose the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary who was killed lunging at the gunman was instead holding a firearm and was well trained to use it. Would the result have been different? Or suppose you had been in that school when the killer entered, would you have preferred to be armed?

Evidence and common sense suggest yes.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



In 2007, a gunman entered New Life Church in Colorado Springs and shot and killed two girls. Jeanne Assam, a former police officer stationed as a volunteer security guard at the church, drew her firearm, shot and wounded the gunman before he could kill anyone else. The gunman then killed himself.

In 1997, high school student Luke Woodham stabbed his mother to death and then drove to Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi, and shot and killed two people. He then got back in his car to drive to Pearl Junior High to continue his killings, but Joel Myrick, the assistant principal, ran to his truck and grabbed his pistol, aimed it at Woodham and made him surrender.

These are but a few of many examples that the best deterrent of crime when it is occurring is effective self-defense. And the best self-defense against a gunman has proved to be a firearm.

LZ Granderson: Teachers with guns is a crazy idea

Survivor: I didn't live normal childhood
Dan Gross and Steve Dulan on gun control
How well do Japan's gun laws work?
U.S. senator rethinking gun laws

And yet, there is a near impenetrable belief among anti-gun activists that guns are the cause of violence and crime. Like Frodo's ring in "The Lord of The Rings," they believe that guns are agencies of corruption and corrupt the souls of whoever touches them. Therefore, more guns must lead to more crime.

But the evidence simply doesn't support that. Take the controversial concealed-carry permit issue, for example.

In a recent article for The Atlantic magazine, Jeffrey Goldberg, by no means an avowed gun-rights advocate, declared, "There is no proof to support the idea that concealed-carry permit holders create more violence in society than would otherwise occur; they may, in fact, reduce it."

Goldberg cites evidence from Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, that concealed-carry permit holders actually commit crimes at a lower rate than the general population.

The General Accountability Office recently found that the number of concealed weapon permits in America has surged to approximately 8 million.

According to anti-gun advocates, such an increase in guns would cause a cause a corresponding increase in gun-related violence or crime. In fact, the opposite is true. The FBI reported this year that violent crime rates in the U.S. are reaching historic lows.

This comes in spite of the fact that the federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Supporters of the ban (not including anti-gun groups who thought it didn't go far enough in the first place) claimed that gun crime would skyrocket when the ban was lifted. That wasn't true at all.

In fact, after the expiration of the ban, The New York Times, whose editorial pages are now awash with calls for more gun restrictions, wrote in early 2005, "Despite dire predictions that America's streets would be awash in military-style guns, the expiration of the decade-long assault weapons ban in September has not set off a sustained surge in the weapons' sales, gun makers and sellers say. It also has not caused any noticeable increase in gun crime in the past seven months, according to several city police departments."

But let's take the issue one step further and examine places where all guns, regardless of make or type, are outlawed: gun-free zones. Are gun-free zones truly safe from guns?

John Lott, economist and gun-rights advocate, has extensively studied mass shootings and reports that, with just one exception, the attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011, every public shooting since 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns. The massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary, Columbine, Virginia Tech and the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, all took place in gun-free zones.

Do you own a gun that fell under the now-expired federal weapons ban?

These murderers, while deranged and deeply disturbed, are not dumb. They shoot up schools, universities, malls and public places where their victims cannot shoot back. Perhaps "gun-free zones" would be better named "defenseless victim zones."

To illustrate the absurdity of gun-free zones, Goldberg dug up the advice that gun-free universities offer to its students should a gunman open fire on campus. West Virginia University tells students to "act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter." These items could include "student desks, keys, shoes, belts, books, cell phones, iPods, book bags, laptops, pens, pencils, etc." Such "higher education" would be laughable if it weren't true and funded by taxpayer dollars.

Eliminating or restricting firearms for public self-defense doesn't make our citizens safer; it makes them targets. If we're going to have a national debate about guns, it should be acknowledged that guns, in the hands of qualified and trained individuals subject to background checks, prevent crime and improve public safety.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of William J. Bennett.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT