A Jersey City ordinance that takes effect on Dec. 11 bars sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, day-care center, park, playground, sports facility, library, theater or convenience store. These zones cover the entire city.At the rate things are going, registered sex offenders will be barred from living, or doing anything else, within 1000 feet of the Earth's surface. Some will argue this is a good thing.
As a result of the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act, you can't legally transport a firearm in Phoenix unless you have a carry permit or keep it locked and unloaded. In New Haven, Conn., the only substantial piece of land not covered by a drug-free zone is the Yale University golf course.
Consider the Georgia woman who was labeled a sex offender because she performed fellatio on a 15-year-old when she was 17. Last year she had to move because she was too close to a day-care center. Now she and her husband may have to move again because they're too close to a school bus stop, a location added to the state's list of restrictions in April.Consensual sex, not usually considered a predatory behavior. People dying in nursing homes, not usually considered a threat. (And there's a case I'm dealing with right now, where a 16-year-old has been accused of lewd conduct with a girl under age 13. We (including the alleged victim) are pretty sure there's no substance to the charge. One of the big concerns has been making sure the boy doesn't have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.)
Georgia's law, which has been challenged in federal court, also would exile all 490 registered sex offenders in DeKalb County, mostly men who as teenagers had consensual sex with younger girls. It even applies to sex offenders dying in nursing homes.
These zones add to the workload of the police, and since predators can leave their homes and look for victims elsewhere, I'm not sure if they actually prevent crimes. (It would be interesting to do a study to see if such zones actually prevent the kind of offenses they're intended to.)
Crime-free zones can also create a false sense of security. If you believe, because you're near a school, there's no need to guard against sexual predators, you might let your guard down. Furthermore, when you declare a school a gun-free zone, you advertise to a predator that everyone in the school is unarmed, and won't shoot back. (Buford Furrow bypassed the Getty Center and other Jewish centers that had security guards, and shot up a day school in Granada Hills. They had no one capable of shooting back.)
And there's also a "gotcha!" effect:
The victims of such laws also include innocent gun owners who are transformed into felons when they unwittingly traverse a school zone on the way to target practice or hunting grounds. The gun-control analyst Alan Korwin warns that the 1,000-foot limit set by federal law subjects millions of Americans to a five-year prison term simply for venturing out of their homes with their guns.
Do you live in a gun-free, drug-free, or registered-offender-free zone? Are you sure?