Chicago Tribune: States poised to make it easier to carry guns

File this story under "truths the Ohio papers refuse to print":

States poised to make it easier to carry guns
Chicago Tribune

Gun rights advocates in several states are gaining in their efforts to liberalize firearm possession laws as public support for stronger gun-control regulation wavers.

Legislatures in Missouri, Ohio, Minnesota and other states are poised to approve bills making it easier for people to carry guns in public.

The reasons behind this move speak to the complex nature of politics and guns in a post-Sept. 11 America. Ferocious debates have divided legislatures, police organizations and the academic community. Members of those groups argue the polar claims that arming citizens will make people safer or that more guns will produce more crime.

In the meantime, dire visions of Dodge City-caliber mayhem that were forecast two years ago by critics of Michigan's new concealed-carry law have not materialized, according to Michigan State Police.

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Although the National Rifle Association-sponsored move to liberalize state gun ownership laws predates the 2001 terrorist attacks, public concern about homeland security seems to have aided the gun lobby's efforts and fanned the political flames of controversy.

Some measurements of public sentiment suggest a groundswell of support for relaxing gun ownership regulations. A Gallup Poll in late 1990 showed that 78 percent said gun sale laws should be stricter. That percentage has dropped each year, falling to 51 percent in January.

The University of Chicago's General Social Survey in 2001 found strong majority support for specific measures to regulate firearms, promote firearm safety and prevent criminals from obtaining guns.

A little more than half of respondents - 52 percent - said they favor allowing concealed-carry permits, but only for those with special needs, such as private detectives.

In Michigan, where critics warned that as many as 200,000 people might apply for gun permits in the first year, about 71,000 people have sought permits since July 2001. Michigan's violent crime rate dropped slightly last year, but state police officials do not attribute the decline to gun ownership.

"There really aren't any significant issues that have come to light in terms of road rage or people pulling out their guns in a dispute," said 1st Lt. Kari Kusmierz of the state police. "But we can't draw any conclusions about the law's impact."

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