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Gary Marbut


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Too many talking heads are frothing over the Florida school shooting. All this rabid attention surely inspires copycat repeats. Of course school shootings and mass murder are terrible. But, let's ask some intelligent questions about what's going on.

Many commentators bring up various suggestions about mental health, from more taxpayer funding, to wider screening, to better record keeping and sharing, to using mental health evaluations to strip people of their civil rights. So, what's the deal with mental health and "gun violence"? (I put "gun violence" in quotes because the issue is really about violence against people, by any method. One of the largest mass murders in U.S. history was done in a New York City nightclub with a quart of gasoline; another used fertilizer.)

I have explored the intersection of mental health and gun violence. I have written about that intersection and posted that online. Please review my study at:

There are important points in this analysis you need to be able to understand and express to friends, elected officials and in letters to the editor. Especially relevant is that people with mental health challenges are no more likely to be violent than the general population.

Why do most of these incidents happen in schools? Well, duh! It's because of "gun free zones." I put that in quotes because such places are never "gun free." They are only gun free for the law-abiding victims. But "gun free zones" are low-hanging fruit full of ripe, defenseless victims for a madman planning yet another copycat killing spree.

To cure this defect, the Montana Shooting Sports Association proposed the Montana School Safety Act in the last session of the Montana Legislature, House Bill 385. HB 385 would have allowed trained and qualified school employees to be armed at work, to protect themselves and our precious children and grandchildren. See the bill copy at:

HB 385 didn't pass. Opponents said it's just too dangerous to have guns in schools. Leave defense of our children to the professionals, they said. Oh, but keep the fire extinguishers in the buildings, they said, because the staff of a school with a beginning fire can't afford to wait for professional firefighters. Yeah, right.

How bad could a school shooting be? How many children could a madman possibly shoot in the target-rich environment of a school? Well, I tested that. Read about and see videos of my test at:

It could be very bad — much worse than the recent shooting in Florida.

So, what's the solution? It certainly won't prevent drunk drivers to take cars away from sober people. And, it won't inhibit madmen to make it more difficult for law-abiding people to purchase or possess firearms. That's obvious.

One solution is to get rid of gun free zones — all of them. They're dangerous places and magnets for violent madmen.

When one of these incidents happens, what's the first thing people on the scene do? They call for police. Why call police? It's not because of the nifty clothes police wear, and not because of the fancy cars they drive, but because police have guns they can use to shoot the perpetrator. The intended victims are calling for guns. Why shouldn't the intended victims have guns so they can shoot the perpetrator themselves rather than wait fatal minutes for police to arrive?

We should quit trying to examine the subject of mass murder through the lenses of law and psychology, but we might try using the lens of sociology. More gun control laws have not worked anywhere. Demands for more or better mental health care most likely will only obscure the issue and delay more workable solutions.

Gary Marbut is president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, accepted as an expert in state and federal courts concerning self defense and use of force, and the author of "Gun Laws of Montana."

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