Gun-free zone designation as feckless as smoke free

ACHTUNG: The following is a not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

The news of the shootings and killings of six people this weekend near Chicago and the astonishing shootings in Denmark have prompted assertions again that areas designated as gun free still get hammered. Indeed, declaring a certain area to be gun free is about as effective as the designated non-smoking areas of bygone days.

I told a story in an editorial two years ago about silly no smoking regulations in restaurants to help explain the persistent misleading assertion that the City of Chicago bans guns, yet it has among the worst numbers of gun-related deaths annually.

Back in the mid-1970s, all restaurants were required to provide at least one smoke-free area or table in the facility. The idea was to give the non-smoking patrons a respite from the foul odors and health hazards of cigarette smoke in confined quarters. However well-intentioned, it was a really dumb idea.

One of my favorite eateries back in those days was Lopez Taco House in downtown Albion, where I showed up often on Wednesdays to take advantage of the wet burrito special. While sports editor Chip Mundy and I were chowing down on our favorite dish, I couldn’t help but notice there was one lonely table with a big card on it, stating, “This table is reserved for our non-smoking patrons only.”

While perusing the entire seating inside the restaurant, it was painfully clear that if a non-smoking couple came there to eat, they indeed would have no smoke at their table, but it was perfectly legal for everybody else throughout the eatery to light up. Therefore, there really was no escape from the smoke, which was the original intent of the law.

I concluded back then that about the only place non-smokers could get away from smoke was at Albion teacher Jerry Redding’s restaurant in Jackson, which declared itself to be an entirely smoke-free facility. Jerry’s not long afterward went belly up, a victim of being ahead of its time.

Now come constant reminders on Facebook that in Chicago it is illegal to purchase firearms within the city limits, but Chicago has one of the highest gun murder rates in the world. The suggestion is that banning guns, just like a token of banning smoking in restaurants is totally ineffective in stopping the problem.

I hear tell from many astute observers that Chicago is surrounded by nearby communities with many businesses that are more than happy to legally sell guns, and that’s where the crooks and bad guys go to purchase their weapons.

This also reminds me of so many school districts that foolishly declare their facilities to be drug free or gun free. Such prohibitions do almost nothing to curb the scourge. And places that publicly boast of being gun free are almost inviting trouble.

To be sure, officials will say there is a disincentive to carry or sell drugs in such zones because of harsher penalties, but that works about as well as the death penalty in curtailing murder. In other words, they don’t do what we’re too often told they will do.

It should shock to no one that I have no respect for most politicians. The reason is that I sincerely believe the purposes of government are to solve problems and be a fair referee. Everything else is just window dressing.

Unfortunately, during my somewhat sordid career in community journalism, nearly all of what I’ve seen is politicians do the bidding of their donors who repay them with handsome sums to help them get re-elected. Among those donors is the NRA, which just wants to sell more guns.

Journalist Bill Moyers all these years has often called America’s political system nothing more than legalized bribery. He is absolutely correct. But, as the late comedian George Carlin so eloquently said more than a decade ago, “Nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care.”


  • Thank you Dave, for your observations. One clarification: “way-back-when-” schools were declaring themselves “Drug Free Zones” the purpose was that violators of that policy could receive a harsher penalty, up to 2 times the fines, jail time etc. I believe the “Gun Free Zones” are the same. I agree, non-smoking tables were initially a joke. But now, with enough pressure, every restaurant patron sits at a “non-smoking” table.

    I repeat myself. The obvious need to ban manufacture and sale of assault style rifles and multi-shot clips to non-military persons is imperative! Perhaps this will change when a politician’s or NRA official’s young relative is shot in a school or just standing on the sidewalk watching a parade, or enjoying an outside concert. What is that old saying: walk a mile is someone else’s shoes….

  • As worthless as speed limit signs and caution signs. I live on Dahlia Street and see how worthless speed limit signs are! Gun free zone, what a joke. Nobody knows you have one until you fire it?

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