Gun Free Zone Statistics and Facts

Gun Free Zone

Gun possession and use is a highly-politicized topic in the U.S., with some people believing that guns should be permitted and controlled while others believe gun possession and usage is guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and therefore a right that exists outside of attempts to regulate them. This division puts every definition in question including what does gun free zone mean, and what is a mass shooting. The F.B.I.’s statistic on active shooting incidents does not require casualties.

What is a Gun Free Zone?

A gun free zone is an area within which guns are not allowed to be carried except by qualified law enforcement personnel – and, oftentimes, others with concealed carry permits. These zones are most often:

  • surrounding schools, parks, and playgrounds;
  • include hospitals;
  • may be established locally to incorporate colleges, bars, shopping malls, and recreation facilities like stadiums.

In some states with permissive gun laws and limited regulation of firearms, there is an ongoing effort to eliminate restrictions on concealed weapons carried on college campuses. Proponents argue that law-abiding gun owners, with their judgment records considered, are capable of preventing mass shootings on campuses. The belief is that these responsible individuals may be able to intervene effectively, neutralizing assailants before they can inflict significant harm, and possibly before law enforcement arrives on the scene.

Do Most Shootings Take Place in Gun-Free Zones?

There were 277 active shooter incidents in the United States in the period 2000-2018, according to  F.B.I. statistics. While the federal agency tracks the number of shootings, locations, number of victims, and other statistics about such events, little else is an undisputed fact.

Gun rights advocates say that gun-free zones are a better predictor of gun violence than criminal records. F.B.I. gun-free zone statistics dispute that claim.

What States Has the Most Gun Owners?

Texas is a gun-lover’s state with few restrictions on carrying or permitting weapons. The state does not allow local jurisdictions to create gun-free zones and relaxed its laws on weapons on public college campuses in 2017 yet allows the colleges to create their gun-free zones in “sensitive areas.” The University of Texas at Austin allows concealed carry of weapons in many parts of campus except for the stadium. In 2019, in light of several mass shooting events in the state, Texas legislators relaxed laws limiting concealed carry in schools, houses of worship, and hospitals.

Gun Free Zone Laws and Regulations

Where Do Most Mass Shootings Occur

Gun Free School Zone Act

A Gun-Free School Zones Act was passed by Congress as part of the 1990 crime bill, severely limiting anyone’s ability to possess or carry a gun within 1,000 feet of a public or parochial school. There were limits to the law, including allowances for hunters on adjacent land, for law enforcement officials, and for those with guns used in sporting events. Although the U.S. Supreme Court declared the original law unconstitutional, some minor tweaks in 1996 included the words “interstate commerce” and it has been upheld by lower courts since then, including many convictions. One conviction under the law was for a woman who had a gun in her apartment within 1,000 feet of a school.

Since the gun-free zone was established around schools many states have moved to disassemble the law, such as Idaho’s overriding law that says colleges and universities cannot decide their gun-free zones. Likewise, Tennessee allows even non-students to carry concealed weapons on campuses. Virginia, Colorado, and Oregon have had similar rulings that licensed gun owners may not be kept from carrying legal weapons in common areas of colleges and universities.

Post Office as a Gun Free Zone

Many federal buildings and properties, including courthouses, federal office buildings, Veterans Administration hospitals, and post offices are included in gun-free zones. Military bases historically banned weapons but regulations have relaxed since recent events such as the Fort Hood mass shooting events in 2009 and 2014 when disgruntled soldiers opened fire on unarmed fellow soldiers.

Some businesses have declared their outlets as gun-free zones, including Whole Foods, Disney World, Costco, and Waffle House. Other retail stores and entertainment establishments have not, making the task of tracking gun use in gun-free zones very challenging.

Gun Free Zone Statistics

It’s difficult to establish non-controversial facts about gun free zones except to note that the zones are controversial. At issue:

  • Mass shootings are not defined and counted the same by different groups as some require four or more victims while others say the threshold is three or more victims.
  • Some do not count shootings in the commission of a crime like robbery the same as a school shooting, further skewing statistics.
  • The patchwork of state and local laws and regulations makes it impossible to determine if gun-free zones are effective or if, as some say, they only create opportunities for those seeking to harm others.
  • Those who claim that arming more individuals will reduce mass shootings have not been able to provide proof.
  • The Rand organization, a nonpartisan think tank, studied the issue and determined that there were 30 firearm accidents and other incidents in schools involving armed resource officers in the period 2014-2017, which represents more potentially hazardous incidents than armed intruders or active shooters over the same period.

FBI Gun Free Zone Statistics

  • There were 277 active shooter incidents in the years 2000-2017 with a total of 2,430 victims;
  • The majority of incidents took place in commercial areas (about 43 percent) with 26 percent of those being areas open to pedestrian traffic;
  • Educational facilities represented 20 percent of the total, with 15 percent of those at K-12 schools;
  • Government properties were nearly 9.5 percent of the total, with military installations just 2.5 percent of that;
  • the year 2017 saw30 active shooter incidents with 729 victims, the highest tally of any year studied (the Las Vegas music festival shooting resulted in 59 dead and over 800 wounded by one estimate).


In summary, exploring gun-free zones, gun violence locations, state firearm ownership, and related policies reveals the complex dynamics of firearm regulation. While gun-free zones aim to enhance safety, their effectiveness depends on various factors. Gun violence is concentrated in areas with higher crime rates, emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies. State differences in firearm ownership highlight the diverse attitudes and policies. Analyzing policies and statistics underscores the delicate balance between individual rights and public safety. To address these challenges, a nuanced, collaborative approach considering evidence-based measures and societal context is crucial for fostering safer environments.


Is it Illegal to Conceal Carry in a Gun Free Zone?

Violation of federal gun-free zone laws can elevate a gun possession charge from a misdemeanor to a felony and even to a federal-level offense.

Are Gun Free Zones Safer?

The safety of gun-free zones is a subject of debate. While the intention behind such zones is to enhance public safety by restricting firearms, their effectiveness depends on factors like enforcement, overall gun control measures, and public awareness. Some argue that gun-free zones create safer environments, while others contend that these policies may not prevent determined individuals from committing acts of violence. The debate underscores the need for comprehensive approaches to gun violence prevention that consider various factors beyond the designation of specific zones.

Where Do Most Mass Shootings Occur?

Mass shootings can occur in various settings, but common locations include educational institutions, workplaces, and public spaces like shopping malls or entertainment venues. These incidents often unfold in areas where there is a concentration of people, making it crucial for communities and institutions to address safety measures and implement effective prevention strategies.

How to Reduce the Risk of Mass Shootings?

Reducing the risk of mass shootings involves a comprehensive strategy. This includes enforcing gun control measures, enhancing mental health support, implementing early intervention programs, engaging communities in education and reporting, improving security measures, monitoring social media for warning signs, considering ammunition regulations, investing in research, coordinating among relevant agencies, and promoting community policing to build trust. This multifaceted approach aims to address the complex factors contributing to mass shootings.