Editorial analysis: New York Sun logic vs. Toledo Blade emotion

By Chad D. Baus

Anti-gunners have been trying to make much of late out of a series of stories published last week by the Florida Sun-Sentinel, which revealed that among those who have been issued Florida CCW licenses, 1,400 were people who pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies but qualified because of a loophole in the law, 216 were people with outstanding warrants, 128 were people with active domestic violence injunctions against them, and six were registered sex offenders.

The investigation, completed just before access to the list of the roughly 410,000 persons who have been issued licenses to carry a concealed handgun in Florida was privatized under a new state law, is the exact type of protest piece that many in Ohio had predicted would come if the legislature had followed through on various attempts to close the Buckeye State's media access loophole in the 2005-2006 session.

That there are imperfections in any government program (or any human activity, for that matter) should come as no surprise. But to call into question the entire concealed carry program because the paper disagrees with less than half of once percent of licenses issued in the state of Florida is lunacy.

One New York newspaper sees this witch hunt for what it is. One Ohio newspaper does not.

Click on 'Read More' for the complete commentary.

Excerpts from the New York Sun editorial will be presented in blue type. Excerpts from the Toledo Blade editorial will be posted in red.

Let's begin with the headlines:

    Legally armed and dangerous

    Concealing the Facts

When one considers that we are talking about less than one half of one percent of all Florida license-holders, there can be no doubt as to which headline more accurately portrays the original Sun-Sentinel investigation, and the anti-gun media's subsequent piling on.

After describing the nuts and bolts of the Sun-Sentinel investigation, here is how the Blade and Sun editorials addressed the findings:

    The lobbying muscle behind the concealed-carry movement was quick to deflect blame from the Florida law itself to enforcement gaps, or even "bleeding-heart, criminal-coddling judges and prosecutors," whose missteps put guns in the hands of criminals. But critics put the blame squarely on the National Rifle Association, which they say pressures lawmakers to ignore problems that can lead to what happened in Florida.

    Proponents of packing hidden heat like to emphasize the inherent safeguards and training courses built into permit programs and how applicants for concealed-carry licenses are judiciously screened for questionable backgrounds. Clearly, insist the gun-rights zealots, it's not criminals who seek licenses to carry concealed handguns, it's law-abiding folks who apply for their own protection.

    Yet in one of the first states to allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, hundreds of criminals were able to exploit the system to legally arm themselves with hidden guns.

    Our first thought was that Floridians are grown-ups possessed of rational minds and capable of making their own laws without the Times' haranguing. This is what Floridians have done over the last two decades by repeatedly electing representatives who believe Americans have a right, vouchsafed in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, to keep and bear arms. It's a right that has been called the palladium of American liberty....

    Since the Jack Hagler Self Defense Act went into effect in 1987, crime in Florida has gone down by almost every measure there is. According to statistics provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, firearm murders in Florida between 1987 and 2005 dropped in real terms to 521 from 697. Expressed as the number of firearm murders per 100,000 persons, the drop is even more dramatic, to 2.9 from 5.8. That's a change of 50%. The drop in violent crime overall is less precipitous but equally steady, including drops in the rates of murder, aggravated assault, robbery, and sexual assault.

Interesting tactic by those Sun editors, no? How novel they are at introducing actual facts, logic, and crime data into the argument. I couldn't have written a better rebuttal to the anti-gunners' cries about Florida had I done it myself.

    The repeated claim by the NRA and others that a legally armed populace makes for a safer one has clearly been challenged in Florida.

    Unfortunately, legally armed and dangerous in the Sunshine State may be closer to the truth..

    Predictions of wild-West style shootouts and lawlessness have proven false. That's not what happened. Not in Florida or in any of the other 37 states with legalized concealed carry. There is nothing "lethal" or "gruesome" about permitting law-abiding citizens to defend themselves by carrying a weapon — or simply to carry a weapon without defending themselves. The truth is that if there is a lesson to be drawn from the Sun-Sentinel's reporting, it's not, as the Times suggests, that there is something wrong with existing laws. Rather it is that judges should start treating criminals as the law prescribes.

    In Florida, the law on concealed carry allows persons who have committed serious crimes and have reached plea agreements with judges to have their records scrubbed, to become eligible once more to receive a concealed carry license. An ordinary person might expect an editorial writer opining on all this, particularly in a city where the mayor is trying to make an issue out of "illegal" guns, to look into the statistics on crime and include these facts in an editorial, if only to deal with them.

There they go again, those silly New York Sun editors, thinking that facts and logic and data should play into the gun control argument. Gun controllers won't know what to do with a piece like this, so they'll just ignore it. But not us!

The Sun editors are on a roll, and their opening paragraph serves to put the focus exactly where it needs to be as one considers the Florida story, and the anti-gun media's reaction to it:

    In respect of gun control, we don't mind saying that it's not the issue that keeps us up at night. But as an emblem of the irrational streak in our political debate these days, it's without peer...

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