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Guns @ Your Library

There’s a spectre haunting Michigan libraries: the spectre of unarmed patrons. Apparently, libraries in Lansing, MI are so dangerous that there are some Michiganians who fear going into them unless they’re armed.

Kind Reader let me down today, but Infodocket provided this juicy story: Michigan Court of Appeals to consider legal challenge to Lansing library weapons ban.

The library system bans weapons, and that really irritates some guys (I’m assuming they’re guys, but I could be wrong), guys who are never happy unless they have a six-shooter strapped to their manly cowboy thighs, if there are any cowboys in Michigan.

The cowboys’ attorney asks, “Are libraries immune from crime?”

The answer to that is pretty obvious. No! Numerous people have stolen rare books and materials from libraries over the years and tried to sell them on Ebay. A good library is just an invitation to thieves, so let’s shoot ’em.

On the other hand, have there ever been any violent crimes in public libraries, in Michigan or otherwise? There are, what, about 10,000 public libraries in America. Is there any evidence of crime that would require self defense with a handgun? There couldn’t be many.

The library system’s lawyer claims that carrying guns in the library would mean added security costs for the library, which they don’t want to pay, and possibly couldn’t afford anyway. That’s the sort of twisted logic that drives the cowboys crazy. One of the commenters is perplexed and appalled:

So the library doesn’t want to spend money on security, and they don’t want law abiding citizens to carry a firearm for protection. That makes no sense. Have they not realized that “gun free zones” is [sic] where most mass shootings take place?

Before I comment on the crazy, I should add that I think the left-wing irrationality that equates banning guns with stopping crime is pretty much the same as the right-wing irrationality that banning marijuana reduces its use. Criminalizing harmless behavior solves no problems. There are plenty of sane and rational gun owners in America (though not the Yoopers depicted in Escanaba in da Moonlight).

However, that commenter isn’t one of them. It actually does make sense for a library not to want to hire armed guards to protect patrons from armed people milling in the stacks mouthing the words as they read Guns & Ammo while fondling their pistols.

And why does it make sense? Because most mass shooters are white males, and a bunch of them carrying firearms in the library is a cause for alarm.

I’m also pretty sure there has never been a “mass shooting” in a public library. Ever. The kind of people who use public libraries just aren’t the mass shooting types. Some of them might be malodorous and certifiably insane, but not in the mass shooting kind of way.

That anyone would use the threat of public library mass shootings to argue that library patrons should all arm themselves shows they don’t know much about mass shootings or public libraries.

What kind of paranoid fantasy world are these people living in, anyway? Mass shootings are jarring and tragic, but the saving grace is that statistically they don’t happen very often.

Research reported in this article “indicates that from 1976 to 2008, there were 852 massacres, involving 4,131 victims and 1,176 perpetrators.”

4,131 shooting victims is terrible, but if these statistics are to be trusted, in the same period there were over 600,000 murders in America. Even in a relatively low murder year, there are more people murdered in America in four months than in 30 years of mass shootings. An average of 129 deaths a year in a population of 311,000,000. The math is on our side.

Deaths by auto accident in the same period? About 1.5 million people. And, as with mass shootings, none of them occurred in a public library.

The legal argument may or may not succeed, but the crazy argument fails completely.



  1. Some folks would rather be safe than a statistic.

    Libraries love to brag about how anything and everything can come through their doors, and if you work in a library that isnt some small town deal in podunk county, you are well aware of what can happen there just from the situations that arise during a “normal” week.

    All it would take is one irate patron or headcase from the streets deciding to go Columbine and you will have dozens injured or worse. What are you going to do to stop that? Libraries barely have anything approximating security.

    I think lots of patrons would feel safe knowing that law-abiding gun owners are around and the crazies may think twice knowing that too.

    But hey, if you think it’s all goofy then go ahead and take your chances. I’m sure you think a stern look, and dialing 911 is going to serve as a deterrent, right?

    P.S. How many schools were victims of massacres before 1997? Bet they though lawful gun carriers there was a stupid idea too.

    • Cut Both Ways says:

      “Gun owners shot by other gun owners” is a statistic too…

    • strangerspeaks says:

      I’d like to point out that “law-abiding” does not equal “reasonable, responsible adult”. That the ability to not have oneself arrested in your first 18 years of life does not make you a good judge of character, does not give you the ability to calmly evaluate a situation, does not equate out to mental stability. Following laws does not make an individual any less prone to overreacting or grand-standing.

      It is our right in this country to be allowed to possess and, with proper licensing, carry weapons with the intent to protect ourselves. And I have defended this right on several occasions when patrons have notice extra baggage on one particular gentleman. It is, after all, his right.

      I work in one of the lowest socio-economic communities in my area. Gang activity is a major issue. Sirens are always going off. There is literally a bullet hole in one of our libraries windows. Hardly a week goes by without some thirteen-year-old, in all their bluster, threatening bloody murder as we escort them out the front door.

      And yet nothing scares me more than that law abiding citizen, thinking that they are doing the right thing, drawing on one of those kids and sending the situation spiraling out of control.

      Because the gentleman with the gun is not reasonable or responsible. He is not mentally stable. But he is 18 and he does have a permit. And it is his right.

    • Joneser says:

      Well, if that’s the way you want to live your life . . .

    • “I work in one of the lowest socio-economic communities in my area. Gang activity is a major issue. Sirens are always going off. There is literally a bullet hole in one of our libraries windows. Hardly a week goes by without some thirteen-year-old, in all their bluster, threatening bloody murder as we escort them out the front door.

      And yet nothing scares me more than that law abiding citizen, thinking that they are doing the right thing, drawing on one of those kids and sending the situation spiraling out of control.”

      You make the perfect librarian. You expose your staff to all types of danger, cursing the good people for “maybe” doing something to scare some poor kid that is about ready to blow your head off (Or maybe you are one of those librarians that will be hiding in their office while the clerks take the bullet) because you want to make sure your bleeding heart is worn on your sleeve.

      You will go to your death before you have one of those people singe one hair on the bad guys.

      “Because the gentleman with the gun is not reasonable or responsible. He is not mentally stable. But he is 18 and he does have a permit. And it is his right.”

      Wow….ok. I’m sure dialing 911 will do a better job.

    • Way Barra says:

      So Jack, when the “good people” you are referring to “do something to scare some poor kid”, you mean brandishing, right?

    • strangerspeaks says:

      Wow, Jack, that’s an awful lot of vitriol for someone simply stating a differing point of view. I do, however, appreciate your opinion on the subject matter, and particularly the manner in which you choose to express it, as it validates so many of the things I had to say earlier. You are obviously a model law-abiding citizen.

  2. As a 52 yr old woman in KS with a CCL, I often go into libraries with my gun on me. It isn’t so much that I worry about a shooting inside the library, as books stacked together make decent cover. I’m more concerned about the walk to/from my car, or having my gun stolen out of my parked car. Libraries here in KS have to be posted according to the KS statutes to be off-limits, and not all of them are posted, thank goodness.

  3. There’s no good reason to need a gun in the library, but there’s also no good reason to keep guns out of the library. You’re infinitely more likely to die driving to the library than to be shot once you get there. Both sides of this argument are stupid.

  4. The issue is not about guns in libraries. Would it be acceptable for me to be told I couldn’t express my views on something? So if the First amendment to the Constitution OK to protect, why is the Second Amendment so subject to interpretation? Law abiding citizens exercising their constitutional rights do not require armed guards watching them. This article is very misguided and ignores the simple fact that bearing arms is a constitutionally protected right, not a privilege.

    • Development Arrested says:

      Okay, but shouldn’t I have the right to go into work without the need to feel worried about people having guns? So your so called second amendment right supersedes my rights just because I bunch of guys thought it was important over 200 years ago?

      (I mean yeah people could sneak in with a gun. You can’t completely eliminate the risk of something like, but it’s different to be told that any yahoo with a gun HAS to be allowed in.)

      In my state, the legislature made it so guns are allowed in all public libraries because they’re “public”. For some reason, I don’t think someone would be allowed to take a gun into the building where they work for some reason.

    • DeeLemon says:

      It’s been law in Indiana that libraries cannot, under any circumstances, prohibit patrons from bringing guns into the library. It’s interesting that we can prohibit other types of weapons (guess their lobby isn’t as strong as the NRA). I really appreciate that our “representatives” in the legislature restrict the right of citizens to carry guns into other government buildings, but libraries don’t get that kind of protection. The only restriction we are allowed is that staff members cannot bring their gun in while they are working. Off the clock – no problem!

    • JW Librarian says:

      I think ZBoater is right. If Americans want to shoot each other, they have every right to do so.

  5. I’m not American, so this is an actual question, not a rhetorical one. As property owners, does the library not have some right to control what people bring in, like dogs and cameras? It isn’t the same as a sidewalk.

    • Mehman, to answer your question depends on the laws of the particular area. In general, libraries are not property owners. The libraries are public property, owned by the people, not private property. In Florida, the state legislature has preempted local governments from regulating firearms and ammunition. The legislature decides where a person having a state-issued concealed weapon/firearm license may lawfully carry a firearm. Libraries are not on the prohibited list here.

    • Most libraries in the U.S. are public (supported by taxes, owned by a government entity). Therefore, we ARE the property owners.

    • Yeah, I understand that. But these things aren’t absolute. People can’t walk into a library and demand to use someone’s office computer or the staff room because they pay taxes. Or sleep in the building overnight. Or similarly, use the shower at the fire station. And most public buildings restrict dogs and photography inside the premises – if they do these things, can they restrict guns?

    • Development Arrested says:

      No, Mehman, you don’t understand. In (the United States of) America people are super into gun rights. There’s little use in fighting this. The gun rights people are powered by the NRA, a super powerful, super rich lobbying group (think tobacco lobbyists whose product kills instantly instead of slowly, over time)that uses their money to prevent passing gun control laws and stirring up “controversies” like this at the local level.

    • Oh no worries, DA. I’m somewhat familiar with the US gun debate. But I thought it a good question as to whether or not libraries had any sort of property right to make rules about what does and what doesn’t come into the premises in this case as they might in other cases. I’ve had “this is a public building” thrown at me when I enforce library rules, but again, the fact that this building is owned by the government doesn’t give people the right to do anything they want.

      Presumably, Starbucks has the right to make rules and policies about people entering their stores, but chooses to allow people to carry within private property. Do libraries have any similar rights? Judging by the way things are going, it doesn’t look like it, at least in this case.

      Seems interesting that in many libraries, you can’t look at porn while carrying your Glock.

    • Thanks, Rich. I don’t think your comment was posted until later. Your Florida example may well be the case elsewhere, as it removes the library’s ability to have gun rules while leaving its ability to make and enforce other rules.

    • Development Arrested says:

      Hey, Mehman, I want to let you know that I wasn’t trying to belittle you with that “you don’t understand” thing. This is just a hot button issue with me.

      But you know, America, love it or leave it, just don’t try to change it.

    • DA – no worries! I figured that was the case…

  6. Zboat,

    The first amendment is interpreted all the time, as is the rest of the amendments. That’s how our system works.

  7. I Like Books says:

    Obviously the library should have handguns available for checkout.

    • Development Arrested says:

      Ammunition you have to buy though.

    • Cut Both Ways says:

      2013’s Mover & Shaker award for rental guns pre-loaded with bullets…

      However, the safety is licensed to the gun manufacturer and has to be unlocked with proper DRM permissions.

  8. anonymous says:

    This is silly. The library shouldn’t have any policy that is not in harmony with the community’s laws and policies regulating firearms in any other public space or building. The library and its board do not have the expertise to countermand local or state firearm regulation and have no compelling reason to do so. This clearly seems to be a political statement by library directors rather than a statutorily authorized prerogative based on any real evidence. Perhaps that state or community tolerates open firearms carry in public buildings or perhaps it does not. Whichever, the library should not be unilaterally entitled to make up its own rules in this regard. This will properly be determined by the courts based on state law, as it should be.

  9. gatoloco says:

    Maybe akin to the library as club example we could provide gun loans or rentals. I have seen the precedent a shop near where I used to live. They had a sign stating Se Rentan Armas! However if patrons want a fully auto AK or M16, we couldn’t provide that, but at least we could provide the information to override.

    On a serious note, I was born in the ghetto, still live in the city, and am just sick of gun violence. What a lot of people don’t want to hear is that a pistol ain’t gonna keep someone with a cowboy attitude safe in the heart of the ghetto. There is no substitute for being smart.

  10. As I understood it the original problem had to do with open carry not concealed carry. Concealed carry is fine. Big visible guns scare kids among other things.

  11. Librarian says:

    Guns are not allowed in the Michigan Urban Library where I work, unless you are a law enforcement officer. We had one shooting on our porch in front of our main entrance. The shooter had a license for it but it was concealed before he pulled it out to shoot into the air. His daughters called and notified him that his wife and her lover were at the library. So he came armed with a purpose.

    We have enough incidents with people armed with only their hands (and knives, scissors, pepper spray etc.) I don’t think guns should be allowed, especially openly carrying.

    • anonymous says:

      Anyone inclined to hunt down a spouse in broad daylight in a public building is unlikely to be deterred by a library policy. On the other hand, it sounds to me like the spouse has a pretty good argument to carry a weapon for purposes of self-defense against a known and credible threat.

  12. bibliophile says:

    You can carry a concealed gun into a library in NH, too. Also into the State House. I think these are both terrible ideas but Live Free or Die :(

    • Development Arrested says:

      Well, at least the legislators have the courage to have the same rules applied to them.

  13. My opinion is that, for most people, owning guns for self-defense is extreme overreaction. I think carrying them around town on your hip to prevent violence in parking lots is ree-diculous. BUT! regardless of anyone’s personal opinion, the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment by the courts should be upheld, and librarians with a liberal axe to grind shouldn’t impose their personal beliefs on other citizens by inventing ineffectual library rules that defy the law. Here in the South it usually cuts the other way, with religious nut government administrators refusing access and services to teh gays and the ladies and whatnot. Either way, it’s wrong.

    Serious question, though, to you gun aficionados commenting, since I have no idea. What do the licenses to carry guns look like? Can I, as a library worker, card you and ask to see the license if I see the gun? What about a private business owner or maybe, say, another parent at a public park? What can I do about it if you can’t produce the license? I have never quite understood what we, as the other people around you, are supposed to do. Thanks for any thoughts or advice…

    • Joneser says:

      Yeah, they want to stick a you know what up ladies’ you know whats, but you can’t use the actual name for the you know what place.

    • booknerd says:

      Mlisa, I’ll try to answer your questions. The licenses will look different depending on which state you’re in, but they should be about the size of a driver’s license.

      As for asking to see the concealed carry license/permit, you shouldn’t. The only people who really have a right to see it on demand are people in law enforcement, so if you want a person’s right to carry verified, call the cops. Honestly, though, you should never realize that a person with a permit is armed. Concealed carry means exactly that, concealed. In my state, the only people allowed to carry a gun in the open are law enforcement.

      Don’t approach someone and start asking if they can show you their license. What if they don’t have one and they’re carrying illegally? If you really feel threatened, call the police and let them handle it.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. People tend to get up in arms about this (pun totally intended), but I tend the take a “to each their own” perspective.

    • Really Mlisa – – what services precisely are denied to “ladies” and gays? Please give an actual answer.

  14. cranky librarian says:

    Now remember we are in a library if you need to discharge your firearm you will need a silencer. Shhhhhhh….

    • anonymous says:

      In the US, silencers are regulated the same as full-auto machine guns and are difficult to come by. In Europe, silencers are mandated for many circumstances. Of course, silencers don’t really work like they do in the movies. But they do tend to prevent hearing loss. I think libraries should require silencers as a matter of policy, in the interests of protecting all the other library customers. Library patrons, however, should just pony up for ear plugs.

  15. Here’s my two cents. Every single library in Michigan that is being funded under the CIPA program is defrauding the federal government since a Michigan state law requires all libraries to leave one computer unfiltered, and that violates CIPA, yet the libraries are certifying that they are complaint.

    This is state-wide CIPA fraud.

    Until Michigan libraries become complaint with the law, they should have no say in the current law as they have unclean hands.

    “Michigan Libraries at Risk of Massive E-Rate Fraud; Michigan Library Privacy Act May Need Amending”

    • Joneser says:

      Well, then there’s Florida’s governor with his Voter ID schtick. Do you agree with States Rights in this case?

    • “Well, then there’s Florida’s governor with his Voter ID schtick. Do you agree with States Rights in this case?”


      And yet you demand ID to check out books or sign up for a library card?

  16. Joneser says:

    But what about guns? Do they make our Libraries Safer? Let’s not cloud the issue with CIPA and the Internet.

  17. Solo Boy says:

    I’ll never forget one Saturday morning standing in line at one of the checkout counters at the main branch of the Cincinnati Public Library. The kid directly in front of me had a revolver visible in his baggy pants’ right pocket.

    At the time (4 years ago) Cincinnati did not have a conceal carry law. I suppose that’s why he didn’t bother to hide it…


  18. I guess everyone has forgotten about the SLC library incident.

  19. Librarian in TX says:

    Everyone one of you except Casper need to do some literature searches. June 15, 2012 “Doctors say a man is paralyzed from the waist down after getting shot in a library bathroom” Oh but you laugh and say libraries are safe. Get a life and do your research before mouthing off about life in a public library. When was the last time you visited one???

    • “Kind of weird reading this after the shooting in CO. Still, I’ve heard some gun nuts state that it would have been a good thing for justice in a dark theater full of noxious smoke and chaos if everyone were armed. I’m sure the armed theater goers would have ONLY hit their target and no one else in the melee.”

      Again, Librarians that rather you get taken out by a criminal than to “sully” the good name of the library by someone being able to save the lives of patron by actually bringing a gun to a GUNFIGHT.

      So what is YOUR plan as to deal with someone that comes into your library and starts wasting innocent people?

      Duck? Run? Call the police and hope for the best until they get there? Shush them???

      The people in that theater in hindsight would have loved to have had the CHANCE to take him down. That establishment didn’t allow “gun nuts” to go in with their protection.

      “Well no one could see, so no biggie! They were being choked by tear gas anyway”! *facepalm*

      The “gun nuts” followed the rules. The criminal looked at the sign, walked in anyway and now lots of people are dead.

      But beware the “gun nuts”?

      “As far as libraries and guns? No. I work in an urban librarian in a infamously dangerous town and I’ve never experienced a situation that would have called for guns. In fact, there have been situations that if guns were available they may have been used.”

      So? With that callous attitude towards patron safety, I can only assume that there are likely lots of them that avoid that branch rather than take a risk knowing that the place is in a crime hole.

    • JW Librarian says:

      Jack, what you are suggesting is an arms race. This is something that countries have been trying to curtail for years and with good reasons, it doesn’t work to produce international security. What does work is arms reduction from all world actors. On a microcosmic level, that means making guns harder to obtain, not illegal, but harder to obtain.

      With that said, it would be naive to think that we should all just frolic to our libraries thinking everything is okay. THAT IS WHY WE HAVE SECURITY OFFICERS. You know, those trained, capable individuals who are equipped to deal with all sorts of criminal scenarios.

      You also seem to think that because there are occasional, highly outlier situations, such as a person going on a shooting spree in a movie theater, that it justifies a populace armed to the teeth in one big Wild West showdown of paranoia and petty squabbles. Well, that’s the sort of thing Western Civ has been trying to avoid, however incrementally, over the last century. The only way things are really going to change is when the need for gun violence is the exception rather than the rule.

      I have a feeling that this worldview is actually happening today as there is much less fatal violence today then there has been in a long time. True, guns are still freely available and therefore that means there must be other factors in why this decline, but at the same time, these outlier occurrences might be lessened if we were at the very least able to keep better tabs on folks buying unusual amounts of ammo, guns, and other death-dealing technology in short periods of time like the CO killer was doing, i.e. a red flag and way of reporting the suspicion.

      The library I work in, again, is in a very crime ridden city and not once in its 100 year history has there been a fatal or potentially fatal violent crime committed on its premises. This is not to say that it can’t happen tomorrow, but the way the “gun nuts” (as opposed to the majority of gun owners who are normal, reasonable, and responsible) have it we live in a shoot em up Wild West world. We don’t.

  20. JW Librarian says:

    Kind of weird reading this after the shooting in CO. Still, I’ve heard some gun nuts state that it would have been a good thing for justice in a dark theater full of noxious smoke and chaos if everyone were armed. I’m sure the armed theater goers would have ONLY hit their target and no one else in the melee.

    As far as libraries and guns? No. I work in an urban librarian in a infamously dangerous town and I’ve never experienced a situation that would have called for guns. In fact, there have been situations that if guns were available they may have been used.

  21. JW Librarian says:

    Librarian in TX, I happen to work in one and have for many years, an urban one in a city with a high crime rate. A few accounts of violence in a library reported in the media is not proof that all libraries are dangerous all of the time. You need to stop interpreting outlier occurrences as the norm. I mean, do you understand the basic concepts of statistical reasoning?

    • Development Arrested says:

      No, most people don’t understand statistics (heck, I’ve met librarians that don’t understand inferential stats which is really scary since they should be equipped to at least evaluate research). Most people’s view of the world is based on the confirmation bias cherry-picking facts that line up with their world view.

      This is what happens when you live in a society that rejects science and live in an echo chamber.

  22. I don’t live in Michigan or Indiana, so I don’t understand their law. The way I’m interpreting it here, as long as you have a license, you are allowed to carry a concealed weapon into any public building. Here we have metal detectors in most court buildings, city halls, state buildings and even some schools. You are not allowed to bring guns into these buildings even with a permit. Is this not the case in Michigan? Does every public building, including family court, have to allow in weapons?

    • No, in michigan you cannot legally carry (concealed or open) in a courtroom or federal government building in addition MCL 28.425o states pistol free zones (excluding the parking lot):

      -Schools or school property but may carry while in a vehicle on school property while dropping off or picking up if a parent or legal guardian

      -Public or private day care center, public or private child caring agency, or public or private child placing agency.

      -Sports arena or stadium

      -A tavern where the primary source of income is the sale of alcoholic liquor by the glass consumed on the premises

      -Any property or facility owned or operated by a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other place of worship, unless the presiding official or officials allow concealed weapons

      -An entertainment facility that the individual knows or should know has a seating capacity of 2,500 or more

      -A hospital

      -A dormitory or classroom of a community college, college, or university

      -A Casino

  23. I cannot believe the things people write. I think they
    do it for the fun, and to annoy other people.

    They can be that stupid, furthermore, i bet these poor
    souls are in the teens..( we know the brain really does
    not mature until 21?) I don’t know, the fact is that
    our good judgment takes a long time to develope

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