Six Tips for Dealing with Gun-Free Zones

Gun-free zones are a fact of life. Airports, banks and most schools are obvious examples that people deal with all the time, regardless of their politics or preferences. Photo: author

Gun-free zones are a fact of life. Airports, banks and most schools are obvious examples that people deal with all the time, regardless of their politics or preferences.

Photo: author

Gun-free zones are a part of life for just about everyone I know. If you have kids in school, if you fly on commercial aircraft, if you travel overseas, if you drink alcohol, if you travel frequently in the US and don’t carry a badge, and/or if you don’t let your gun politics or desire to have a gun prevent you from doing business in the many national chains and local stores that exercise their private-property rights to restrict your ability to carry a gun, you have to deal with gun-free zones.Before we go any further, I believe in private-property rights just as much as I believe in the right to keep and bear arms. I also believe in obeying the law. Let’s be clear about my stance on carrying a gun where you know you are forbidden by law: Don’t do it.

Next let’s get the political rhetoric out of the way. In 2016 in the United States of America, your right to keep and bear arms is infringed. There are laws on the books that I may not agree with, but that we need to fight politically to get changed, not arbitrarily ignore because we wish they weren’t so. Supporting state groups like GOAL (MA), NJ2AS (NJ) and national ones like the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation is a good way to contribute to pushing back the infringements we suffer under. Getting involved in local politics yourself and, of course, voting are good ideas as well.

Back to the topic at hand: gun-free zones are real and most of us have to deal with them from time to time. That doesn’t have to mean you’re incapable of defending yourself. Just a few days ago, in my old stomping grounds of Columbus, Ohio, patrons responded to a violent armed threat with improvised defensive tools (including a chair) and won, with no serious injuries to any of the good guys. The business was posted as a gun-free zone. Everyone knows the story of the men who stopped a well-armed and determined terrorist on a train in France last year. There are many other stories of armed offenders conducting or attempting mass killings and acts of personal violence being stopped by people who weren’t able to (or simply didn’t choose to) have a gun on them at the time. Here are some things I want you to keep in mind about gun-free zones:

Whether you have a gun or not, the basic tactics for responding to a spree killing are the same.

Whether you have a gun or not, the basic tactics for responding to a spree killing are the same.


Of course, the first thing you are going to want to do if violence erupts, regardless of whether you have a gun or not, is to get away. The first step is always to avoid a problem if you can and that doesn’t change in the face of a violent event in public. If you can evade the bad guy, do so. If you can’t get away, but you can hide or barricade yourself to make it harder for the threat to get to you, that is the next best step. Ultimately, however, you may have to respond… whether you have a gun or not.


Just because you don’t have a gun doesn’t mean you can’t defend yourself. Don’t let “preferred” be the enemy of “possible.” It is naïve and, honestly, weak to think that just because you don’t have a gun, you can’t fight back against an attacker. This shouldn’t be questioned. Anyone who thinks that simply having a gun is what makes them safe should think twice about carrying a gun around. Thinking the gun is what makes you magically safe is the same mentality that anti-gunners use to convince people that the presence of a gun magically puts you in danger. It’s just not true. Without mindset, training, and opportunity to use it effectively, the gun is just an inanimate mechanical device. You are the one who takes action and applies skill to use a gun. You can take the same type of action and apply different skills to defend yourself without one.


Go back and read the locations and circumstances I listed at the beginning of this article. There isn’t a single one that you couldn’t carry some type of defensive tool in. Defining “defensive tool” is important. The best way I can articulate it is the way we discuss it before going into force-on-force training scenarios to prevent people from bringing weapons in that could seriously injure someone in the training event: “Anything you carry with you for the primary or secondary purpose of causing damage to someone who is trying to hurt you or someone you care about.” Using that definition, a knife, chemical spray or electrical device, sharp key fob, keys themselves, sturdy metal pen, hooked wooden cane, coin purse, roll of quarters, your backpack, or just about anything else could be considered a defensive tool. Thinking ahead of time about what you can carry and how you can use it to increase the amount of damage you could do to a bad guy are the first steps. Formal training in the use of your chosen tool, or improvised tools in general, and practicing the employment of the tool(s) are vital, just as they are with a firearm.

Guns are great defensive tools, but they do not magically make you safe. And they aren't always the best tool for every situation. Photo: author

Guns are great defensive tools, but they do not magically make you safe. And they aren’t always the best tool for every situation. Photo: author


You don’t have to be a martial artist, or even all that physically fit, to defend yourself. The will to fight is the most important ingredient. Knowing you can affect the bad guy is important to empower you. Think about natural tools and natural targets. What tools do you have? Hands, fingers, elbows, knees, feet. What targets exist on the bad guy? Eyes, throat, ribs, groin, skull. Once you are in contact with the bad guy, simply grabbing their head, throat, arms or legs can significantly affect their ability to hurt you. Using your body weight and pushing, smashing, or crushing them against a wall, table, the ground, or a vehicle are all better than cowering on the ground hoping they suddenly decide to stop being violent. For more tips, check out our videos on unarmed self-defense.


Especially in regard to attempted spree killings in gun-free zones, this point cannot be overstressed. Even if we are talking about a classroom full of middle schoolers, no individual attacker is going to be able to maintain their assault if they are dog-piled by several human beings. If the defensive strategy is no more sophisticated than each person grabbing a limb and holding the attacker down, this will effectively stop an attack. Add in some force to the head, attacking the bad guy’s airway, and use improvised or specific defensive tools and I’d put my money on any group of five people within arms’ reach of an armed attacker being able to stop him. Motivating others to take action, preparing those you spend time with, or even simply inspiring others to act in the moment by leading the response are all important to capitalizing on the group defense opportunity.


Improvised tools come in all shapes and sizes. Furniture, utensils, fire extinguishers, glassware, bottles, writing tools, janitorial supplies, blankets, and hot or caustic fluids can all be found in public spaces where you are sometimes prevented from carrying a firearm. As noted above, they can be used to increase the amount of damage you do to a threat. Thinking about these things ahead of time and taking a quick look around when you settle into a new area are how you prepare to use them. Of course, you can also practice defending yourself with these types of items, especially if you happen to frequent or work in the same gun-free zone all the time. In the latter case, you can also stage specific innocuous or common items within easy reach to be used in an emergency.

If you travel frequently, you are bound to go places where carrying a gun isn't an option.

If you travel frequently, you are bound to go places where carrying a gun isn’t an option.


Keep these tips in mind when you are thinking about how you are going to restrict your life based on the ability to carry a gun. Ultimately, acts of violence are incredibly rare in our society, especially acts of mass violence that get sensationalized and stick in the public consciousness. It’s also a great idea to share these tips with others when the topic of gun-free zones comes up. Think about it: a gun-free zone is attractive to a would-be killer in the US because they expect less resistance to their evil actions, right? If we, as a society, spent more time letting the bad guys know we are prepared to meet our responsibility for personal defense regardless of whether we happen to be carrying a gun or not, then the once-soft targets start to look a lot harder. And that is how we discourage evil acts in the first place. Yes, “an armed society is a polite society.” But a society ready to fight in their own defense regardless of the circumstances can keep those not-so-polite types in check.

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58 Responses to “Six Tips for Dealing with Gun-Free Zones”

  1. Wayne

    I live in California & we have a great county sheriff who issued over 22 K CCW. But in certain areas like SF , San Jose you are caution on carrying a gun GFZ are a joke these anti-gun lunatics They never learn bad guys do not give a rat butts about any zones :(

  2. steven matthews

    Sounds great if the criminal doesn't have a gun. You still might be killed if you used one but its better than a chair.

  3. Dale Slater

    I have a Tennessee CCP which has 36 states with reciprocity. Anyone can guess which 13 states do not. 13 states and the District of Columbia are places my family and I will never ever visit, drive through, or spend one cent in. If these places do not recognize my 2nd amendment rights and my right to protect myself and family, there will never be an instance where we visit or vacation. What it means in short, 72% of the United States is free and 28% are under communist rule.

  4. Paul

    Have to say that except for places like airports, courthouse, etc. where there is a strong statute and police on premises, I will carry discreetly if I am so inclined. Not participating in virtue signaling by the likes of Trader Joe’s and a few restaurants. Concealed means concealed and my .380 micro compacts stay concealed.


    Thank you for the great comments! Best advice is aware of the surroundings at all times, hoping for the best preparing for the worst!!

  6. Ken

    In GA if you have a carry permit and carry your legally owned weapon into a business that says gun free zone on the door and you are somehow outed so that the business owners or employees know you are carrying, they cannot have you arrested on that alone. However, if you are told to leave and you do not, they can have you arrested for criminal trespass. So conceal well and understand that if violence breaks out, you have your weapon and under GA law, you can defend yourself legally. But, if they discover you have a concealed weapon and tell you to leave, do it immediately or face arrest. Places where it is illegal to carry such as a courthouse do not fall under this provision so never carry in those places.

  7. Baron

    A few comments: -Specific to my state, (FL), carrying a firearm into a private business, as a customer, is only a violation if it is detected, they ask you to leave, and you refuse to do so, in which case it's trespassing. I wouldn't trust any carry on a daily basis if you're an employee, however. Sometime you'll slip, the gun will be seen, and you'll be fired. Same if you use your firearm, whether customer or employee, in a "righteous" manner. You'll likely be banned from the store in the future, and fired if you're an employee. However, it'm my policy to avoid doing business in such places unless absolutely necessary. -I always carry at least one "backup" weapon, a folding knife with a blade just under 3", which is legal almost anywhere except when traveling by commercial air. If part of a security detail, in addition to that and my concealed firearm, I carry an impact weapon as well. The ultimate backup, faster than anything if in close quarters, if TFT training on strike zones and how to best strike them. -You can now carry in a church with a school- new law this year. It does not specifically state that you can do so if there is a church school in session at the time, but I would avoid doing so. IMHO, Sunday School doesn't count. -I have a separate car gun, when I'm the driver, for rapid access if needed. It's far too slow to access my on-person CCW when in the driver's seat. If going to a place where you can't even have a gun in the parking lot, I'll scout out if there's a nearby place I can park and leave the car gun in the car. If there's no such place convenient, I'll rely on the backup weapon(s). You can always carry a cane into a federal building and, even if they make you exchange canes while you're in there, you still have a good impact weapon with some reach.

  8. Howard Terban

    Great and important read!!

  9. Cary

    Rob— When did you live in Columbus?

  10. rohit aggarwal

    thanks for the information