Was Rick Perry right on guns at the movies?

Rick Perry: gun-free zones 'are a bad idea'
SOTU Tapper: Rick Perry: gun free zones 'are a bad idea'_00021321


    Rick Perry: gun-free zones 'are a bad idea'


Rick Perry: gun-free zones 'are a bad idea' 02:14

Story highlights

  • Philip Holloway: Rick Perry is right that gun permit holders should be able to be armed at movie theaters
  • But he says Perry's suggestion that they could stop active shooters may be going too far

Philip Holloway, a CNN legal analyst, is a criminal defense lawyer who heads his own firm in Cobb County, Georgia. A former prosecutor and adjunct professor of criminal justice, he is former president of the Cobb County Bar Association's criminal law section. Follow him on Twitter: @PhilHollowayEsq. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)In response to last week's theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry called "gun free zones" a bad idea, saying that movie-goers should be allowed to attend while carrying arms, and that "it makes a lot of sense to send a message across this country ... If we believe in the Second Amendment, and we believe in people's right to protect themselves and defend themselves, and their families."

Philip Holloway
I agree with Perry 100% on that statement. In fact, at first I thought his choice of words was odd because moviegoers across the country (including myself) are frequently armed -- although most people would never know it because people who legally carry concealed weapons conceal them very well.
For example, in my home state of Georgia, a permit holder can carry, openly or concealed, a firearm into movie theaters or other public places with very few exceptions.
    But then I recalled what some of my lawyer friends from the Northeast have told me about gun laws in, for example, New York, where gun possession -- even with a permit -- is a practical impossibility. For example, it is a felony that carries a mandatory three and a half year jail sentence to possess a loaded handgun in one's car in New York without a permit. The laws vary widely from state to state.
    In my home state of Georgia, it has been legal to possess a firearm in one's car without a permit for as long as I can remember, and I cannot fathom that that will ever change. So unfortunately, it is clear that the Second Amendment is not treated the same throughout these United States and to that extent I agree with Perry -- the Second Amendment should be respected evenly in all states.
    So Perry has a point: Law-abiding citizens who can pass a background check should be able to carry guns in their cars, movie theaters, shopping malls and almost anywhere. The Second Amendment is an important one -- equally as important as the First Amendment, which protects the opinion that you are reading right now. If I have a right to live, I have the right to protect my life from the likes of James Holmes or anyone else.
    That being said, let's talk about an armed citizen in a movie theater during an active shooter situation, because Perry's solution is a little too simplistic in my view. Ask any cop, and you'll learn that active shooter situations are very complicated and there is often no perfect tactical solution.
    A gun is one potential tool that might be used by an officer or an armed citizen during an active shooter scenario in a movie theater. But considering that conditions will be dark and often loud, once the shooting starts, so does the panic of the moviegoers. That dark, loud, chaotic scene is the tactical reality behind the shot some armed citizen or officer may be wishing to take.
    It is not realistic to think that:
    1. The bad guy can always be easily identified. There may be muzzle flashes, but the shooter could be moving around. If there are muzzle flashes, are they coming from the gun of the bad guy or perhaps an armed citizen or the police?
    You will be held accountable for every round you fire, and your intention to save lives will be irrelevant if an innocent third party gets killed.
    2. You will hit your intended target. I practice shooting regularly, and I also train with law enforcement agencies. I shoot well enough but when I practice night firing at the range with no lights, as police frequently do, my shot placement (along with everyone else's) is much less accurate.
    Now factor in the noise and the pandemonium that can be expected in a movie theater and ask yourself -- is it safe to take this shot? The answer is most likely "no" -- at least not until you have moved yourself close enough to the bad guy that there's no way to miss and that would need to be very, very close -- assuming you've survived long enough to get that close.
    3. Your average concealed carry permit holder will know how to react when the shooting starts. Many permit holders train regularly and some never train (a mistake in my opinion), but seldom do any that I know of train for an active shooter -- especially one in the unique environment of a movie theater. These situations simply exceed the average permit holder's ability to make an effective and accurate shot.
    If you're still not convinced, look up the video of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
    His well-armed Secret Service team could have easily turned John Hinckley into Swiss cheese, but they knew better than to fire into that crowd and chose the wiser option of simply overpowering the shooter rather than risk killing innocent people at that rope line. And this was in broad daylight.
    There's no question that good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns, and there are more examples to prove this point than can be listed here. And Perry is correct that "gun free zones" simply advertise where a murderer is least likely to meet armed resistance.
    Indeed, more than 90% of mass shootings occur in so-called "gun free zones" as was the case last week in Lafayette since the Grand Theater was a "gun free" zone. So in the final analysis, Perry misses the mark on whether armed citizens in that theater would have made a difference -- with the possible exception that had that shooter expected armed resistance, the Grand Theater might have been spared and the shooter might have gone to some other "gun free zone" to do his evil.
    It is not beyond the realm of possibility that an armed citizen could have made a difference at the Grand Theater, but it is unlikely.
    So even though a personal sidearm may not be ideal in an active shooter situation in a theater, there remains the possibility that one could prove useful. Rick Perry and everyone else, where it is legal, can decide for themselves.
    As for me, I will keep my gun, but in the hope that it will remain unused and unneeded.