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Why Citizens Want to Carry Guns in Public (CCW)
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Carrying a gun? Around with you? Isn't that kind of stupid... and dangerous? Why does society even allow people to do that?
These are questions that are always raised by someone when the topic of carrying a concealed handgun by law-abiding citizens (CCW).
And while everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion, it tends to be best when opinions are grounded in facts. Here are some to consider.
Thirty years after Florida passed their CCW law there are now almost four million citizens legally carrying handguns in 40 plus states.
My state of Indiana has allowed CCW for 70 years, and over 350,000 Hoosiers currently have CCW permits. Indiana has many urban areas such as Gary, as well as more rural areas. In some counties about 10 percent of residents own a carry license.
In my town almost 1 out of every 5 adults has a CCW. As a side note, it is exceptionally easy for a woman to obtain her CCW here. My wife has had hers for many years, and since she often works to midnight it is quite a aid to feeling safe at times.
Nationwide, there have been no law enforcement officials shot by any person with a CCW, no school or church shootings by any person with a CCW, no "blood on the streets", no "Dodge City shootouts", no instances of the guns being taken away and used by the badguys, no rise in accident levels, no prisons full of untrained CCW holders who shot otherwise innocent people willy-nilly, and no examples of children shot dead by CCW holders.
The states with concealed carry permits on average have a revocation rate of less than 0.04 percent. That is four out of every ten thousand holders. In the majority of these cases the revocation is due to a minor technical infraction equal to a traffic ticket, rather than the result of a crime.
We go about our business quietly and calmly, while occasionally defending ourselves against social predators.
Back a few years ago two escaped, very hardcore criminals from Mississippi were roaming loose around our county. They had already been in several running gun battles with the police and had vowed to not be taken alive.
Our then 13 year old was on an overnight trip to a church camp when the badguys were spotted fairly close by. A call went out to all the parents to come and pick the kids up just in case.
My wife and I holstered our legally carried handguns and went to pick her up. We stayed inside providing interior security with a few other also armed adults, and several fathers provided exterior security with long guns. We all stayed until all the kids were picked up.
When we got home our daughter hugged the me and the wife and told us that she was comforted (her word) by the knowledge that we both had our guns with us and could protect her if necessary. I cannot tell you how moving that was to my wife and I.
You see, the comfort is never in knowing that one can take a life with a gun, but the sure knowing that one can save a life with a gun. My life, my wife's, or maybe my daughter's. These are the people I am responsible for.
I know in your heart you believe terrible things might happen if citizens carry guns, but I have one question: Why have none of the doom, gloom, and scary stories you believe might happen not come true in any state that has passed a CCW law? Not one.
It is no longer intellectually honest for you as an informed citizen to continue to falsely believe what "tragedies" might happen - instead, it is the duty of all responsible people to understand what actually has happened. I challenge you to do so.
Here are a number of examples of people who have changed their minds on the issue. Perhaps after reading their comments you'll understand why.
P.S. Steve Chapman, a liberal columnist on the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, took up the challenge. The Trib is perhaps the most gun-hating newspaper in the most gun-hating city in the country, but here is what Steve found out when he honestly looked at the issue of CCW several years ago when Michigan was considering passing a CCW law.
"Michigan's Threat From Concealed Weapons"
Chicago Tribune, June 28, 2001
If you plan a trip to Michigan, you may want to check your life insurance policy, update your will and don your body armor. Come Sunday, unless the state supreme court intervenes, it will start letting residents get permits to carry concealed weapons. Gun-control advocates are braced for the worst. "I can guarantee you that I've honked my last horn at an intersection in
Michigan," former prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson told the Tribune's Tim Jones. A disgusted Oakland County official threatened to put up billboards saying "Welcome to Dodge City." Police groups say their members will be in jeopardy from "more guns in more and more locations."
Of course Michigan is already a risky place to honk your horn. Its homicide rate has long been well above the national average. Detroit currently places third in the ongoing competition to be the murder capital of the United States. And things can only get much worse if lots of Michiganders take to packing heat, right?
The assumption is that if we let ordinary folks arm themselves, they'll soon be blasting away over every traffic altercation or Little League umpiring dispute. Take an ordinary confrontation, add gunpowder, and bad things are bound to happen.
But are they? It's not as though this is a radical experiment that has never been tried before. In fact, some 33 states already have laws making it possible for most citizens to carry a concealed firearm. If allowing this practice leads to anarchy, we would probably have noticed it by now. In fact, serious misconduct by concealed-weapon permit holders is comparatively rare.
In Texas, which has 215,582 licensees, only 178 people have lost their permits due to felony convictions since 1996. Only three have gone to jail for murder or attempted murder. Florida, one of the first states to embark on this experiment, issued more than 72,000 licenses in the past year, while revoking only 241.
Indiana, which has about 350,000 permit holders, canceled 921 last year, or about one-fourth of 1 percent of the total. Maj. Karen Butts, commander of the records division of the state police, says, "I can't think of any that were revoked for a firearms homicide." Among Utah's 40,000 licensees, only five have lost their privileges because of a conviction for murder or attempted murder.
As for Michigan cops who think their jobs will be more dangerous, Yale law school scholar John Lott Jr. offers reassuring news: "There has never been a case where a person with a permitted concealed handgun has killed a police officer."
The Violence Policy Center, an anti-gun group, says Texas effectively furnishes permit holders a "license to kill, and kidnap, and rape, and drive drunk"--noting that hundreds of them have been arrested on various charges. But this proves only that the gun owners in question are endowed with the usual human imperfections. In any group of 215,000 people, you can expect some to run afoul of the law once in a while.
But gun permits don't increase the risk. Notes H. Sterling Burnett, a researcher at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank based in Dallas, "Licensees were 5.7 times less likely to be arrested for violent offenses than the general public."
The experience supports the claim of gun-rights advocates that people who get permits tend to be peaceable sorts. It's not hard to guess why. In the first place, background checks are required, and permits are denied to those with felony convictions (or some types of misdemeanor convictions) and those with a history of serious mental illness. In the second, applicants have to undergo extensive training in safe firearms use.
Rules like those tend to screen out the violent, the lawless and the deranged. Anyone with strong criminal inclinations, after all, doesn't need a permit for a concealed weapon. A lot of crooks make a habit of carrying a piece without asking permission.
Those thugs who live in Michigan aren't any more likely to pack heat if the state issues concealed-weapon licenses. The permits will generally go to upstanding citizens, who aren't likely to resort to deadly force when someone cuts in line at the grocery store. People who obey the law before they are allowed to carry a gun usually obey the law after they are allowed to carry a gun. They aren't out to hurt anyone--merely to prevent anyone from hurting them or their loved ones.
So the new law may pose a threat to those engaged in a life of crime. But other residents of Michigan have no reason to worry. If they're looking for Dodge City, they'll have to go to Kansas.
E-mail: Steve Chapman <email@example.com>
BTW... Michigan just celebrated it's sixth anniversary of having CCW and, to no one's great surprise, their stats fell right in line with all the other states. The number of people who fell afoul of the law in any way was statistically insignificant
If you've enjoyed this essay I invite you to look around at some of my other hubs about firearms such as Is the damage to society from the misuse of guns worth the freedom to have guns? and Reduce firearm accidents -- The Fundamentals of Gun Safety