Op-Ed: The Unconcealed Truth About Carrying Guns

by Steve Chapman

"Experience is a dear teacher," said Benjamin Franklin, "but fools will learn at no other." Give some credit to fools: At least they eventually learn from experience. What would Franklin say about people who don't?

By that, I refer to gun control advocates alarmed that the Illinois legislature may vote to let licensed individuals carry concealed handguns. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence calls the measure "dangerous." Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center says that it would lead to Tucson-style mass shootings as well as the killing of police.

But concealed-carry, as it is known, is not a radical notion in most of the country. Thirty-seven "shall-issue" states grant permits to carry to anyone meeting certain requirements, and 48 allow citizens to carry guns under some circumstances. The two holdouts? Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker has endorsed the idea, and Illinois, where Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has not.

But Quinn has vexed many downstate Democrats by abolishing capital punishment and allowing same-sex civil unions. So speculation is that he may have to make it up to them by going along on concealed weapons.

The opponents rely on a litany of horribles. The Violence Policy Center in Washington claims that since May 2007, individuals licensed to carry guns killed 286 private citizens and 11 law enforcement officers and committed 18 mass shootings. This gory record, it asserts, destroys the myth that permit holders are generally law-abiding folks who behave responsibly.

In fact, VPC's own data, when inspected closely, doesn't dent the case for gun rights. Over the past four years, there have been more than 60,000 homicides in the United States. The slayings carried out by permit holders amount to fewer than one of every 200 murders. For every licensee who killed someone, there are more than 20,000 who didn't.

...What is extremely rare is a homicide committed by a permit holder in a public place in a fit of anger. Reviewing an earlier two-year database compiled by VPC, Kleck found only five cases "where possession of a carry permit may have contributed to the occurrence of the killing." Such episodes are not quite flying pigs, but almost.

What the gun control groups don't tabulate is how many homicides have been averted by a licensed, concealed handgun. Kleck, who has done extensive research on the topic, says it is "quite reasonable to expect that thousands of lives are saved by defensive gun use by persons who carried guns in public places." Even if he's wrong, it would take only a handful of such incidents to offset the homicides "caused" by concealed-carry laws.

Click here to read the entire op-ed at TownHall.com.

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