An Alternative to Gun Free Zones

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

It’s not what you think.


Do gun free zones really make us safer?

Nearly all of the 173 mass shootings [1]in the US so far in 2019 and the innumerable gun incidents that were not mass shootings occurred in gun free zones.

Schools, malls, offices, churches and arenas are predominantly gun free zones.  Organizations declare gun free zone policies and post signs at entrances often to meet statutory requirements and reduce insurance premiums. But…does this approach really make us safer? The idea of gun free zones seems like a sensible and family friendly approach that increases the safety of everyone in attendance.  But….who has the guns? Figuring out which people are carrying guns with a high degree of accuracy and denying admission requires dedicated armed security staffing and expensive equipment.  Will you operate an airport-style checkpoint or even a less invasive handheld metal detector arrangement? With armed checkpoints, confidence levels increase but never achieve one hundred percent.  Without checkpoints, what is a gun free zone really?

Disturbed individuals intent on random killing, as well as, angry persons settling a grudge are unconcerned with no-gun policies.  In fact, a 2015 article in the Chicago Tribune suggests that there is evidence that mass shooters have sought out gun free facilities because they will not be exposed to potential interruptions to their quest to kill as many as possible.[2]

Many people who are not bad actors also carry guns.  Presently, the open carry of handguns is permitted in all but five states plus DC.  Concealed weapons are permitted in all states.[3] Absent an armed checkpoint, will you have your on-site resources, who are likely to be unarmed, confronting citizens who believe themselves to be rightfully carrying a weapon?  Are local law enforcement resources prepared to respond to these types of events?

Walmart, the largest retailer, allows open carry of weapons for properly licensed customers.  Target, another large retailer, seems to stop short of outright weapon prohibition by stating ”….. we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.”[4]

CBS News – Unusual places you can bring a gun

Concealed guns, state gun carry laws along with inconsistent policies for private property make it very difficult to make sure that gun free zones are actually free of guns. It may be time for a different approach.


Gun Detection Zones

Almost all states and jurisdictions have laws addressing the improper exhibition of a firearm also known as brandishing a weapon. [5] These laws and their interpretations vary widely across jurisdictions and this information is not offered as legal advice.  Very generally, “brandishing” means to display, show, wave, or exhibit the firearm in a manner which another person might find threatening.  In some states it’s a Misdemeanor crime and in others a Felony. A security approach that focuses on improper gun display incidents could provide another safety layer for public places.  Under this approach close coordination with law enforcement may be easier since they are better prepared to respond to more clearly prosecutable offenses For those who fear prosecution, knowing that security is specifically set up to swiftly detect a brandished gun, summon law enforcement and collect photographic evidence within seconds might be a much stronger deterrent than simply a gun free zone notification. For those intent on killing, rapidly detecting a brandished gun shaves minutes off the law enforcement and EMS response potentially saving lives.

Video Gun Detection

Austin Texas based, Athena Security, Inc.,  offers a video weapon detection system that works with most surveillance camera systems that are already in place. The video weapon detection system monitors camera feeds and recognizes drawn guns, knives, fights and slip/falls within seconds of seeing them. Once a threat is recognized, an alert is sent to security resources and can be shared with responders via a smartphone app. To lean more email

[1] Gun Violence Archive.

[2] Take a gun to the mall.  John R. Lott Chicago Tribune February 2015

[3] State and local requirements and restrictions apply including requirements
for permits, restrictions on weapon types that can be carried, prohibited 
facilities and many others.

[5] “brandishing” or “improper exhibition” or “defensive display” or “unlawful 
display” depends specifically on your state and jurisdiction. 
Consult your attorney before acting.