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John Lott, Jr. Supports Missouri Concealed Carry


St. Louis Post-Dispatch March 21, 1999, Sunday, FIVE STAR LIFTEDITION

By John R. Lott Jr., a fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. He is author of "More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws" (University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Can we trust citizens who obtain concealed handgun permits? Will they behave responsibly? Recent articles in the Post-Dispatch examined the experiences in Oklahoma and Indiana - two of the 43 states with concealed handgun laws. In Oklahoma, during the three years since that state passed the law, 25,262 permits have been issued and only 20 revoked (that is less than .08 percent). Last year, Indiana had 295,000 permits; only 483 were revoked or suspended (about .16 percent).

Yet even these numbers exaggerate the risks posed by permit holders. For example, Oklahoma's 20 revocations include at least a few permit holders whose licenses were "revoked" simply because they died. The Oklahoma Supreme Court also recently ruled that the state had improperly revoked some permits for reasons unrelated to one's fitness to carry a concealed handgun.

So what about experiences in other states? Not all states collect this information (primarily because they don't perceive any problem), but some do collect more detailed information than is available for Oklahoma and Indiana. The data clearly show that permit holders are extremely law-abiding. Some states have had these laws for as long as 60 years, and no permit holder has ever been convicted of manslaughter or murder. Consider the following facts, culled from reports throughout the country:

  • Between 1987, when Florida's concealed-carry law took effect, and Jan. 31, 1999, 551,000 licenses were issued. Of those licenses, only 109 had been revoked because of firearms-related violations committed by license holders (less than two one-hundredths of 1 percent). While a precise breakdown is not available, a large majority of cases apparently resulted from people accidentally carrying a gun into a restricted area (like an airport). No one claims that these unintentional violations posed any harm.
  • During 1996 and 1997, the first two years that Texas' concealed handgun law was in effect, 163,096 people were licensed. Five were arrested for "deadly conduct/discharge of a firearm" and another two for "deadly conduct/display of a firearm." But by July 1998, all seven individuals had been cleared and deemed to have acted in self-defense
  • Arizona between August 1994 (when its law went into effect) and Dec. 31, 1998, issued more than 63,000 permits. Only 50 permits were revoked for any type of legal violation - few involving a firearm violation.
  • In Virginia as of the beginning of this year, "not a single concealed-carry permit holder has committed a violent crime."
  • After Nevada's first year, "Law enforcement officials throughout the state could not document one case of a fatality that resulted from irresponsible gun use by someone who obtained a permit under the new law."
  • A spokesman for the Kentucky Chiefs of Police Association concluded, after the law had been in effect for about a year: "We haven't seen any cases where a permit holder has committed an offense with a firearm."
  • In North Carolina, "Permit-holding gun owners have not had a single permit revoked as a result of use of a gun in a crime."

Concerns that permit holders would lose their tempers in the heat of the moment, like traffic accidents, have been unfounded. Only one time has a permit holder used a concealed handgun after a traffic accident, and that use was ruled as justifiable self-defense. Concerns about risks to police officers have also proven unfounded. No permit holder has ever killed a police officer, though there are police who have said that they would not be alive today if it hadn't been for a citizen with a permitted concealed handgun.

National surveys of police show they support concealed handgun laws by a 3-to-1 margin. The exemplary behavior of permit holders has even caused former opponents in law enforcement to change their positions. Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association, provides a typical response: "I lobbied against the law in 1993 and 1995 because I thought it would lead to wholesale armed conflict. That hasn't happened. All the horror stories I thought would come to pass didn't happen. No bogeyman. I think it's worked out well, and that says good things about the citizens who have permits. I'm a convert."

If passed, Missouri's permitting rules would be among the strictest in the nation. Only one other state requires a longer training period, and the fee to obtain the permit will be in the top third.

The citizens in other states have heard all the potential horror stories that Missourians will hear before the April 6 vote. Yet since states started adopting these permit laws 60 years ago, no state has ever rescinded its law, and no state has made its law more restrictive. It is the criminals - not law-abiding citizens - who have the most to fear from citizens being able to defend themselves.

To Purchase: More Guns, Less Crime By: John Lott, Jr.

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