Right-wing media have seized on the robbery of a restaurant that does not allow patrons to bring guns to claim that places with such policies invite attacks, but research has found no evidence that places that do not allow guns attract crime.
According to local news reports, three gunmen broke through the back door of The Pit restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, and demanded money. A manager gave the robbers a "small cash box," while employees at the front of the store shepherded 20 customers to safety. Two employees sustained minor injuries.
Conservative media have directed ridicule and scorn at the store's owner because The Pit has a sign in its front window letting guests know that firearms are not welcome. (No evidence has been presented that the sign played any role in the robbery.)
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards joked that it was "the weirdest thing" that The Pit had been robbed, considering the no guns sign, and added, "This sign on the door didn't stop those armed robbers from coming inside." Guest Dave Kopel of the NRA-funded Independence Institute said that if the robbers "paid any attention" to the sign at all, "it likely enticed them to pick that place to rob."
Conservative website Rare wrote, "Don't bring a gun to The Pit -- unless, of course, you plan on robbing the restaurant," while Western Journalism asked, "Did this restaurant just ask to be robbed?" The Washington Times reported that the robbers "ignored" the sign disallowing firearms -- although no evidence has been presented that the robbers were even aware of the sign.
In North Carolina, businesses that do not want guns carried on their premises must post a conspicuous sign disallowing the practice; otherwise individuals with permits to carry concealed weapons are free to enter the business with a firearm, even in bars or restaurants that serve alcohol.
The implication by conservative media is that in the absence of the sign an individual with a concealed firearm could have fended off the three armed gunmen at The Pit. But even this scenario doesn't square with what is known about the robbery. For instance, the robbers entered and left through the back, and did not encounter customers.
More generally, there is no indication that robberies in North Carolina tend to occur where "no guns" signs are posted. While a North Carolina gun blog was quick to photograph and circulate images of The Pit's sign, other recent North Carolina robberies failed to attract the attention of local gun rights activists.
There is no evidence that the carrying of concealed firearms reduces crime generally. In fact, the best research shows that permissive concealed carry laws increase the incidence of aggravated assault.
While conservative media have not established any real relationship between signs and armed robberies, Harvard Injury Control Research center director David Hemenway noted in his book on gun policy that academic studies have found "[h]igher levels of gun ownership appear to be associated with higher rates of robbery with guns but not with overall robbery levels." In other words, where there are more guns, there are more gun robberies.
Although the situations are obviously different, research into mass shootings has demonstrated that the perpetrators do not choose targets based on the presence of concealed firearms. An analysis of mass shootings between 2009 and 2013 by gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that no more than 15 percent of incidents occurred in public spaces that disallowed guns. A 2013 Mother Jones analysis of 62 mass shootings over a 30 year period could not identify a single shooting where "the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns."
Image by flickr user stevensnodgrass.