Last Updated: Friday, 12 May, 2000 18:30
Taking On Gun Control
The Concealed Weapons Debate
Concealed Firearms: Are You Undecided?
People are concerned about crime and rightfully so. Crime can affect you even if you're not the victim or the family of a victim. We all pay for crime in higher prices for products, insurance, transportation costs, etc. But most people worry about being the victim of a crime and not the less tangible effects.
Some years ago, in the midst of ever rising crime and violence, a campaign was launched by firearms advocates to modernize the laws regarding civilians carrying concealed weapons. Some of you are no doubt thinking this might be like throwing gasoline on a fire. The "popular" thinking was that more guns on the streets would lead to even more homicides, especially as people lost their tempers over supposedly minor incidents.
I can hear you asking why the laws needed to be changed. First, let's step back almost a century. Many towns started enacting laws forbidding the carrying of firearms openly. This led to people carrying them concealed "just in case" they needed one. Remember, there were almost no telephones and police were mostly foot patrols, if they existed at all! Soon laws forbidding concealed weapons were enacted, but most of these gave the local police discretion to issue a special permit to the law-abiding citizens.
Many states required that the applicant for a permit be of good character or some similar wording and to show a good cause or sufficient need to carry a firearm.
You may think these are "common sense" limitations, however as the years rolled by many police departments tightened their regulations as to what constituted a "good cause" and/or who was "of good character". Enough so that in some places, such as California, it was nearly impossible to obtain a concealed weapons permit for any reason. In the 1960's and 1970's, many local police chiefs and sheriffs found that they could reward large donors to their election campaigns and their close friends with a CCW permit. It was considered a perk for working for the head honcho of a department.
What this led to were some pretty severe abuses by law enforcement chiefs. In some cases, such as in San Jose, California under chief Joe MacNamara, permits were simply not available at all, for any reason. In other cities, the chief law enforcement officer would officially say that permits were available but before you could even access an application form, the police officers would have you explain your purpose and ask a number of questions. Odds were that the police officers would tell you that you lacked "good cause" in their eyes and send you away empty handed. This way, the chief could claim that a majority of applicants had passed his stringent process - mostly because they were friends of the chief or campaign donors. In other cases, if you were a minority, the standards you had to meet were higher than those for white applicants (e.g. a minority with two traffic tickets might be denied, while a white with two or more might be accepted). My friend, Jim March, ran into some of these obstacles and has documented them at his website here.
Imagine that you are driving to the store on a sunny Saturday afternoon when you witness a robbery or assault by members of a local street gang. Your moral compass requires you to do the right thing - report it and be a witness for the police. Once the police arrest a suspect (or perhaps several) you now have a problem. Threatening phone calls at your home or office. A rock through a front window late at night. Your car tires slashed while you're at the supermarket. You notice that there is frequently a carload of young toughs that seems to follow you around town. You're getting the message.
But when you go to your local police, perhaps showing them your "expert" shooting qualifications from the U.S. Army, explaining your concerns for your family's safety, they still refuse to issue you a permit to carry a firearm for self-defense. You know that the police cannot be there to protect you, yet they also refuse to let you legally defend yourself against a credible threat.
Perhaps you're a woman who would avoid that situation. But many women find themselves in a divorce situation or a relationship break-up that turns ugly. Despite threats, despite ruined cars, broken bedroom windows, despite knives left in pillows, the police often refuse to issue even a temporary carry permit. In the words of chief MacNamara, "There's no reason for people to carry guns, they should call the police instead." And this was before cellular phones were marketed. Imagine yourself being followed down the road by an irate ex-spouse who's ramming your car from behind. Imagine trying to explain to the highway patrol where you are on the cell phone. Now imagine what happens when he forces your car to the soft shoulder and comes at you with a baseball bat or tire iron. Your car is stuck in the dirt, the police may know where you are, but will they arrive in time? Chances are they won't.
Study Confirms Concealed Weapons Lower Crime
You still have the right to be skeptical. However, if you have an open mind, read what USA Today had to say about a study done by University of Chicago professor John Lott and David Mustard by clicking here. Or you can read at Laura Ingraham's article from IntellectualCapital.com. Here is the study by Professor Lott for those who like reading the actual documents.
The anti-gun groups attempted to paint Professor Lott as in the employ of the "the gun lobby". This was because the funding for Lott's study came from the John M. Olin foundation and the presumption was that because Olin Corporation owns Winchester corporation there was some connection. In fact, the Olin Foundation has no connection to Olin Corporation. Additionally, you may hear some advocate of more gun control claim that Professor Lott's study has been "discredited" or "dismissed". So far as I know, as of May 2000, there has been no credible invalidation of Lott's study and conclusions. In fact, at least one supporter of gun control said he didn't like the conclusions but could not fault Lott's methodology and conclusions.
Results of Concealed Carry Reform
Despite the hand wringing of groups like Handgun Control, Inc. and others allowing law abiding citizens to carry firearms has not met with their dire predictions of "Dodge City" scenarios or "blood running in the streets". In fact, between Florida and Texas alone there are about 300,000 permit holders and there have not been "duels and shootouts in the streets".
The reason for this is simple. First is that each applicant must complete a background check to show that they are not felons, not prohibited from owning a firearm and not under indictment. Next comes a training class, usually from 8 to 24 hours of education on the legal, moral and ethical use of a firearm (i.e. when you can and can't shoot, not carrying when drinking or taking certain medications, etc.). Third, most states restrict the permit holder from carrying in certain places, such as bars, courtrooms and the like. Lastly, anyone carrying a firearm knows that it is in their own best interest to defuse potential conflicts before they become dangerous. If you accidentally bump someone while entering a store and they take offense, you have to try to defuse the situation, even if that means apologizing to some Neanderthal type. The court will hold you to a higher standard of care to avoid confrontation. Indeed, Robert A. Heinlein was right in Beyond This Horizon when he said that "an armed society is a polite society".
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