In recent years, American news headlines have been inundated by unfortunate and shocking stories of gun violence. Sadly, many of these stories take place in our churches and our schools.Columbine. Sandy Hook. Charleston. These institutions and countless like them have become the site of armed attacks – and the epicenter of a heated debate over whether guns should be allowed in schools and churches.Our country has always had a history of gun violence, but in light of current events, it seems the right to bear arms has never come at such a high cost. Should guns be allowed in our places of learning and worship? We think the answer is no.GUN VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES – BY THE NUMBERSJust how far has this violence gone? Let’s take a look at some of the numbers behind the headlines.ChurchesThe latest FBI Hate Crimes Statistics report revealed that there were 6,121 hate crime incidents in 2016. 21% of these attacks – nearly one in four – were motivated by religion.Another 57% of these crimes were motivated by race. Churches can be places where people of a certain race congregate, making them a common target for race-based violence as well.And in church attacks, guns appear to be the weapon of choice. Firearms are used in the majority (57%) of violent episodes in faith-based organisations – this from a nationwide analysis of church violence between 1999 and 2015.SchoolsThere have been 272 school shootings in America since 2013. This does not include incidents in which guns were brought to school but not discharged – or where the firearm was discharged off, but near, school grounds.See a map of where these shootings took place here.As far as the danger to our children goes, that number is just the tip of the iceberg. A school district in Washington D.C., for example, recorded at least 336 gunshots in the vicinity of schools over just one school year.How can this be happening? How do guns find their way into our schools and our churches? What can we do to protect our children and places of worship?Well, most of these questions have answers rooted in the laws controlling guns in America.HOW GUN LAWS WORK IN SCHOOLS AND CHURCHESIn the United States, the laws stating where guns are and aren’t allowed are determined on a state level. Some states have a blanket ban on guns in these places. Many only ban guns that are in plain sight while allowing concealed weapons in. Others allow all legal firearms to be carried unless a school or church specifically posts signs prohibiting them.The state-by-state differences in these laws – and especially changes to these laws – is the source of much debate. But given the rate of violence in these institutions, and the risk that any firearm poses to a developing child, or a group of people gathered for worship in a country that has a known tendency towards hate crime, wouldn’t it seem reasonable to keep guns out altogether?Tighter laws on gun control are proven to reduce homicide and black market gun trading, after all. So why not ban them?This is often where the argument for safety comes in.THE SAFETY MYTH: GUNS HELP PROTECT AGAINST VIOLENCEOne commonly held view is that if the ‘good guys’ have guns, they can protect everyone else against any ‘bad guy’ that might burst in. This argument is a big reason guns are allowed in public places. Statistics have proven though, that this argument isn’t correct.About 30 careful studies on just this idea show that more guns are linked to more crimes. And not just shootings – murders, rapes and others as well. Far less research shows that guns help. Murder and suicide are more common in homes with guns, and the same goes for schools and churches. And even in the event of an attack, carrying a gun doesn’t protect the individual holding it. The shooter will most likely scout the room before attacking, and if they see a gun or holster, its owner will be the first target.More guns in schools also makes it easier for children to find them and use them, either accidentally or in a fit of passion – not understanding the consequences of their actions.CONCLUSION: GUNS HAVE NO PLACE IN CHURCHES OR SCHOOLSThe newspaper headlines, the statistics, and the facts on guns all point to the same thing: guns have no place in churches or schools.The facts are conclusive: if guns are allowed in churches and schools, we can only expect more violence.The damage already done is too great: there have been too many hundreds of shootings already. Families are being torn apart. A culture of fear is developing around the school and church – two places that are invaluable in maintaining the fabric of a healthy society. And these shootings have effects that reach far beyond the incidents themselves. A recent analysis found that after a fatal shooting at a school, enrollment drops, and students’ standardized test scores fall by nearly 5 percent.How many more shootings must take place before serious action is taken to keep guns out of schools and churches?