Myth #6 - "Concealed carry reform will take us back to the Wild West!"

Myth #6 - "Concealed carry reform will take us back to the Wild West!"

Persons who go to the effort and expense of obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon (which, to use Florida's 1987 law as an example, requires 6 months or longer residency, being over 21 years of age, able bodied, not a drug abuser or alcoholic, completion of a firearms safety course, no felonies or violent misdemeanors or record of being committed for mental illness, sworn application on file listing name, address, place and date of birth, race, and occupation, and including a statement that the applicant meets the above criteria, a $125 application fee [renewable after three years for $100], a full set of fingerprints, and a color photo), and who submit to a full background check to verify the application and check fingerprints, are not the sorts of people who abuse firearms. The permit process acts quite effectively to select for law-abiding citizens rather than trigger-happy criminals, and the records of those states which have liberalized their concealed carry laws show this. Of the 204,108 licenses issued in the Florida law's first 6 1/2 years of operation, seventeen (17, or .008%) were revoked for unlawful conduct while the firearm was present, and many of these violations were either technical (such as carrying into a restricted area, like an airport or bar) or non-gun related (such as revoking a permit due to a drunken driving arrest). In Oregon, over 60,000 concealed carry permits have been issued, and none has been revoked.

In light of these successes, many other states, Tennessee, Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Utah, Arkansas, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky South Carolina, and most recently, Michigan, have joined the ranks of states protecting the individual right to self defense through reformed concealed carry laws. One state, Vermont, even allows concealed carry without a permit, and has little crime. (The complete list of 33 states having non-discretionary, or so-called "shall issue" concealed carry laws: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CT, FL, GA, ID, IN, KY, LA, ME, MI, MS, MT, NV, NH, NC, ND, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT*, VA, WA, WV, WY. *VT requires no permit.) The impact of such laws on fighting crime is debatable at a purely statistical level, but states which issue concealed carry permits to their law-abiding population show less violent crime in general than those which do not, and rates of some crimes (such as homicide and robbery) which are 50% lower than states in which concealed carry is not permitted. These states, it could be argued, may have had less crime than restrictive states to begin with, but the dire predictions by "gun control" advocates that violent crime would increase in these states following liberalization of concealed carry have not proven to be valid.

At an individual level, many carry permit holders have already saved their own lives and the lives of others in the face of criminal violence. Armed citizens, permit or not, kill almost as many criminals each year as do law enforcement officers (some 348 out of 763, or 46% of justifiable homicides in 1992), and armed citizens are less likely to have "bad shoots" than the police, since, unlike the police, they aren't usually arriving late at the scene and then having to figure out who the bad guys are. Armed citizens may in fact kill far more criminals in justifiable shootings than the police, since statistics which are available reflect only the initial determinations about a shooting incident, and not the verdict in the case after it has actually been tried. Police are more often given the benefit of the doubt in shooting incidents than are private citizens. But, as is pointed out elsewhere, the true measure of the ability of firearms to fight crime isn't found in the body count, but in criminals wounded, deterred from violence by fear that a potential victim may be armed, or driven away without even firing a shot.

The fact that laws against carrying weapons were ineffective against crime was no secret to Thomas Jefferson, who hand-copied this quotation from the 18th century Italian criminologist Cesare Beccaria's 1764 book On Crimes and Punishments into his own notebook on law and government, a quote which sums up well the arguments of those who defend the right to keep and bear arms:

"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty --so dear to men, so dear to the enlightened legislator-- and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer? Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. They ought to be designated as laws not preventive but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree."

Recommended Reading:

Guns, Crime, and Freedom, Wayne LaPierre
Regnery Books, ISBN 0-89526-477-3, (1994)
LaPierre devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 4) to this. Guns, Crime and Freedom is also out in "trade paperback" (an oversize paperback) from HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-097674-8 (1995).
[Wayne LaPierre is the chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, and one of its spokesmen.

Commonplace Book, Thomas Jefferson
(G. Chinard ed., 1926), p.314

Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, Gary Kleck, Aldine de Gruyter, ISBN 0-202-30419-1 (1991), pp.411-414
[Dr. Kleck's book is a valuable resource for all participants in the "gun control" debate. Point Blank received the American Society for Criminology's highest honor, the Hindelang Award, at the ASC's 1993 annual meeting, for the most important contribution to the criminology literature in the preceding three years.]

Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation (1992)

Florida Statutes, title 46, sec. 790.06, pp.590-597 (amended 1992)

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