Here’s an interesting article about how it might have been a good thing if the attendees at the Bible study meeting in Charleston had been armed. That’s not just a fanciful thought. Mass murders, even mass murders at churches, have been thwarted before by a good guy wielding a gun and stopping the bad guy (and here I use the word “guy” in the completely non-PC sense that includes “woman”):

Murray had already shot and killed two people in the parking lot when he burst into the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Before he could pull the trigger again, however, the 24-year-old shooter was gunned down by Jeanne Assam, a volunteer security guard with a concealed-carry permit.

That was eight years ago, but even though Ms. Assam was credited for saving as many as 100 lives that day, a dozen states continue to restrict the carrying of concealed firearms in churches — including South Carolina.

There have been quite a few similar cases of a law-abiding citizen with a gun (often an ex- or off-duty police officer, but not always) stopping or even preventing a mass shooting. A list of similar incidents can be found here. That there are not even more is probably due to the fact that mass shootings are actually quite rare to begin with—despite our perceptions that they are common, and despite the fact that even a single one is too many—and so it is not surprising that there are not so very many cases where a witness pulled a gun and even tried to stop such a shooting. Another reason is likely to be that mass murderers understand that they will be more likely to achieve their goals if they attack people in a gun-free zone, and so many attacks occur in such places.

But the shoot-em-up fantasy of someone like MSNBC’s Bob Shrum appears to lack any real-world precedent:

“Now I cannot imagine the horror that could have occurred if people were sitting around with concealed weapons, this thing started, and you have a full-scale gunfight,” said Democratic advisor Bob Shrum on Friday’s episode of MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.”

“You might not even have three survivors,” said Mr. Shrum, a top campaign aide to now-Secretary of State John Kerry during his failed 2004 presidential bid.

So, a bunch of unarmed people who are sitting ducks, completely at the mercy of an armed predator bent on mass murder, would be better off that way than to take their chances having an armed defender? What’s the better percentage deal, do you think?

I actually haven’t been able to find a single instance (although I suppose they may exist) where anything resembling Shrum’s vision has actually occurred—where an armed citizen trying to stop a mass murder already in progress escalated the situation. Even an article appearing in the leftist Mother Jones could do no better than to discover two situations in which the would-be defender was also shot.

The entire idea of a gun-free zone is an odd one. After all, who is going to abide by the law? The only people it disarms are the law-abiding, who were not likely to suddenly slip into mass murderer mode. And an actual mass murderer could not care less about the rule, and what’s more he will gravitate to such venues for his massacre because he knows that’s where he’s likely to encounter the least resistance.

So most so-called gun-free zones are actually what Dave Kopel calls pretend gun-free zones, meaning that the only people without weapons there are likely to be those who wouldn’t think of using them to murder in the first place.

The only true gun-free zone would be one with highly effective metal detectors at the entrance, and even then, unless the entrance is protected by several armed guards (not just one), a determined shooter can just shoot his way past a guard before going through the detector, especially with the element of surprise. Since most venues cannot afford (or do not want) such a complex and expensive arrangement, that leaves us with pretend gun-free zones versus areas in which concealed carry is allowed.

Which would you choose, if you were a gunman bent on doing harm? The pretend gun-free zones, of course, which makes them (paradoxically) the most potentially dangerous environment of all.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]