“Get rid of gun free zones,” Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump tweeted after a gunman massacred five in Chattanooga last month. “Gun-free zones an easy target for killers” an opinion headline on Fox News read after a white supremacist shot up a black South Carolina church and killed nine. Conservative sites also blamed gun-free zones after massacres at multiple movie theaters and other shootings.
If conservatives are so convinced that gun-free zones attract killers, then why do so many conservative places and events ban guns?
Across the country, from conservative confabs to Republican presidential libraries and even to gun shows, loaded weapons are frequently prohibited. When an explanation is given, the reason is invariably for the safety of visitors.
Here is a list of some of those conservative places that ban loaded guns:
Gun Shows- Perhaps the most surprising conservative venue that bans loaded weapons are gun shows. Crossroads Gun Show, which tours across the country, explained why even concealed carry permit holders can’t bring loaded weapons into the event: “Safety is our Number One Priority, and a safe environment in the show can only be maintained if there are no loaded guns in the show.” This past weekend, gun shows from Florida to California to Ohio prohibited visitors to carry loaded firearms.
Political Conferences- Conservative conferences frequently prohibit guests from bringing firearms. One recent example was the Morning in Nevada PAC’s Inaugural Basque Fry, a sold-out event featuring GOP presidential candidates Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, George Pataki, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker. The event’s FAQ page answered the question “Can I bring licensed firearms?” with a simple “No.”
George W. Bush Presidential Library- Though Bush was a strong proponent of gun rights, his presidential library in Dallas demands that all visitors leave their firearms at home. According to a sign posted outside, guns are prohibited “For the security of our visitors, staff and facility.”
Republican Conventions- Firearms were banned at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, even as delegates inside passed language into the party platform affirming that Republicans “acknowledge, support, and defend the law-abiding citizen’s God-given right of self-defense.” State Republican conventions also regularly forbid guns. Indiana Republicans recently enacted legislation allowing guns in school parking lots, but held their 2014 convention in a facility that forbid firearms.
Trump Hotels And Golf Courses- Despite Trump’s vociferous opposition to gun-free zones, numerous Trump hotels and golf courses, from Chicago to Los Angeles to Honolulu, do not allow firearms on the premises, even for concealed-carry permitholders.
NRA Events- Though the National Rifle Association said gun-free zones “encourage criminals and psychopaths,” the group held some of its annual meeting events in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, which bans weapons. The year prior, the NRA held events in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, another gun-free zone.
Town Halls- Guns are frequently prohibited at GOP congressional town hall meetings, especially after the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in 2011. Even stalwart conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) opted to ban firearms at their town halls.
Presidential Campaign Stops- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a prominent gun advocate who has signed legislation expanding gun rights, prohibited “guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, selfie-sticks, martial arts weapons/devices, or knives of any size” from his presidential campaign kick-off event. Other GOPers, like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) in 2012, have also banned concealed firearms at their events.
GOP Debates- Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, which hosted the first Republican presidential debate earlier this month, declared that “firearms and other weapons of any kind are strictly forbidden.” Guns will also be forbidden in the upcoming GOP debate held in Colorado.
Congress- Republicans enjoy a majority in both wings of Congress and could change the rules to permit firearms on Capitol grounds if they wished. It would not be without precedent; until 1967, there was no rule prohibiting guns in or around Congress. However, strict security was implemented in the early 1980s after a series of high-profile shootings and bombings.
Of course, there’s a good reason why many conservatives don’t actually want to have guns in their own areas or events. Contrary the NRA’s claims, the vast majority of mass shootings don’t happen in gun-free zones. There’s also no evidence that a mass shooter ever chose his target because it prohibited firearms.
Instead, study after study has shown that more guns leads to more killings. In addition, even armed civilian bystanders with good intentions of stopping a shooter can wind up exacerbating already violent situations, as nearly happened in the Giffords shooting.