In the wake of the Newtown massacre, as well as the theater killings in Colorado earlier this year, there has been a clamoring for more gun control legislation.

University of Wisconsin – Madison student Joseph Diedrich looks at the numbers and the history and concludes gun ownership actually protects Americans.

“Would you feel safe putting a sign in front of your home saying, ‘This home is a gun-free zone?’ Law-abiding citizens might be pleased by such a sign, but to criminals it would be an invitation.”

That is an anecdote offered by noted gun researcher John Lott, who along with Professor William Landes did a study in 1999 which found that “from 1977 to 1999, states that adopted right-to-carry laws experienced a 60 percent drop in the rates at which (gun) attacks occur and a 78 percent drop in the rates at which people are killed from such attacks.”

More recently, Lott pointed out that “with just one single exception, the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

As far as public policy is concerned, Lott and Landes recommend that to reduce the occurrence and severity of mass shootings, the general public must have increased availability and easier access to firearms. Their study also concludes that concealed handgun laws reduce the number of multiple victim public shootings.

“Attackers are deterred and the number of people injured or killed per attack is also reduced (in part because) the presence of citizens with concealed handguns may be able to stop attacks before the police are able to arrive,” their study finds.

Therefore a reduction in the strictness of gun control, including an elimination of gun-free zones and a rejection of weapons bans, may be the better way forward. Nevertheless, with statistics set aside as emotions run deep, many of America’s elected leaders see things differently.

After reviewing the actual effectiveness of legislation targeting assault weapons, Diedrich offers the following conclusion:

In addition to bans on the weapons themselves, gun-free zones seek to reduce gun violence and mass shootings. But evidence suggests that gun-free zones, much like the related weapons bans, actually achieve—or, at the very least, are correlated with—a reduction in safety.

Lott and Landes found that mass shootings tend to occur in places such as schools and shopping malls precisely because shooters know they will encounter little resistance there.

Many fewer people may have been killed in Newtown and Aurora if law-abiding citizens would have been able to defend themselves with firearms. Stricter gun control does not appear to be an efficacious way of preventing such horrific events from occurring again in the future.