John Lott in Dispatch: ''Concealed carry would benefit Ohio''

Dr. John R. Lott Jr., a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns, continues to contribute to efforts to restore Ohioans' right to self-defense.

His latest offering is an op-ed about Ohio's concealed carry reform debate, which has been published in the Columbus Dispatch (perhaps the Dispatch was feeling guilty after they attacked reform efforts via two separate columns in Wednesday's issue?).

Click here to read Lott's op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch (subscription site - paid access only), or click on the "Read More..." link below for an archived copy.

Debating the proper restrictions on guns
Concealed carry would benefit Ohio
Thursday, April 24, 2003
John R. Lott

Having passed the Ohio House overwhelmingly, a concealed-handgun measure now is being debated in the state Senate, and the rhetoric is heating up.

The debate isn't over whether the legislation will pass the Senate. The debate is over whether it will receive more than the 60 percent vote required to overcome a veto by Gov. Bob Taft.

The bill proposes to allow trained, law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns for their protection. But opponents raise fears that the measure would instead generate more violence. The Ohio State Highway Patrol, the only Ohio law enforcement association opposed to the bill, predicts there would be shootouts on the road.

Based on experiences in the 33 states with similar laws, a year after such a law is enacted in Ohio, newspapers across the state will report that these fears never materialized. It is particularly hard to see why these worries are taken seriously in Ohio, as all of its neighbors have right-to-carry laws. The laws in two of these states, Pennsylvania and Indiana, are among the least restrictive in the country.

Michigan, the most recent neighbor to adopt a right-to-carry law, adopted it in 2001. Last year, The Detroit News reported: "Such self-defense has not yet resulted in any kind of wave of new gun violence among those with fresh CCW permits, several law enforcement officials throughout Metro Detroit agreed.''

And consider the two largest states with right-to-carry laws, Florida and Texas. During the 15 years after Florida's concealed-carry law took effect in October 1987, about 800,000 licenses were issued. Only 143 of these (two-hundredths of 1 percent) were revoked due to firearms-related violations.

But even this statistic overstates the risks, as almost all of these cases apparently resulted from people accidentally carrying a gun into a restricted area, such as an airport. No one claims that these unintentional violations posed any harm. In general, permit-holders were model law-abiders. Even off-duty police officers in Florida were convicted of violent crimes at a higher rate than permit-holders.

The experience in Texas was similar. From 1996 through 1999, the first four years that Texas' concealed handgun law was in effect, 215,000 people were licensed. Permit holders turned out to be law-abiding, with licensees convicted of a crime only 6 percent as often as other adult Texans.

Data for other states are also available, and paint a similar picture. Thus, it is not surprising that no state with a right-to-carry law has repealed it.

While Ohio's police organizations are divided, national surveys show police support concealed-handgun laws by a 3 to 1 ratio. Many former strong opponents of right-to-carry laws changed their positions after the laws were in effect for a few years. The response of Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association, is typical: "I lobbied against the law in 1993 and 1995 because I thought it would lead to wholesale armed conflict. That hasn't happened. . . . I think it's worked out well, and that says good things about the citizens who have permits. I'm a convert.''

Some law-enforcement officers fear that right-to-carry laws would make their jobs more dangerous by increasing their likelihood of being shot. But research has shown that the laws make police safer. Prof. David Mustard of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business found that right-to-carry laws reduced the rate that officers were killed by about 2 percent per year for each additional year the laws were in effect.

Other research, by David Olson at Loyola University and Michael Maltz at the University of Illinois, found that when law-abiding citizens carried concealed handguns, criminals were much less likely to carry guns. In fact, they found gun murders fell by 20 percent. With fewer criminals carrying guns, police work is less dangerous. By contrast, while law-abiding permit-holders have come to the aid of police, they have never killed a police officer.

A year after the right-to-carry law is enacted, Ohioans will wonder what all the fuss was about. Claims that Ohioans' safety is endangered will lose credibility once people see that criminals, not law-abiding citizens, have the most to fear from Ohioans' increased ability to defend themselves.

John R. Lott, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns.

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