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Jeremiah 9:6

"'You live in the midst of deception; in thier deceit they refuse to acknowledge me', Declares the Lord."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Carrying Concealed

October 16, 1991 is a day that will live on in Dr. Suzanne Gratia’s mind for decades to come. Gratia was eating lunch with her elderly parents at Luby’s Café in Copperas Cove, Texas. Suddenly their meal was interrupted by a loud crash from the front of the building. At first it appeared the pickup truck, driven by George Hennard, had crashed through the front window of the café by accident. When Hennard jumped out of his truck and began systematically executing customers with his Glock-19 handgun, Gratia realized the crash was no accident. Not long before, she had made the decision to leave her .38 Smith & Wesson handgun in her car, as carrying it into a public place would have been illegal. It is a choice she will forever regret. Her father and mother, as well as twenty one others, would never step foot outside the café again (Gun ownership, 1992). Gratia was a normal American citizen who led a normal life in a normal part of town. However, in an instant she was forced into a life-or-death situation in which she could not rely on any external entity to protect herself or the ones she loved. It is in light of circumstances like these that people realize the importance of being able to defend themselves and others with lethal force. For Suzanne Gratia, this would have meant carrying a concealed handgun.

According to North Dakota Century Code (2001) “A firearm or dangerous weapon is concealed if it is carried in such a manner as to not be discernible by the ordinary observation of a passerby.” In recent years, state lawmakers have instituted permit systems which regulate the type of people who are allowed to carry concealed weapons. While only two states (Illinois and Wisconsin) currently prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns completely, not every state is on the same level in their concealed carry permit system. Currently thirty seven states have “Shall Issue” laws, which are defined by legislative analysts Cleary and Shapiro (1999) as “licensing systems — often referred to as presumptive right-to-carry laws [which] require authorities to provide a license to any applicant who meets specified criteria” (p. 1). Among the more restrictive policies are the “May Issue” or “discretionary permit” laws. Employed by eight US states, these laws are defined by the same source as “systems [which] allow legal authorities to grant licenses to carry concealed firearms to grant licenses to carry concealed firearms to citizens who establish a compelling need for doing so” (p. 1). Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont, on the other hand, allow citizens to carry without a permit.

Because of the life-and-death nature of concealed handgun policy, the topic has become very emotionally charged. Proponents of gun control claim that gun ownership negatively affects communities and should therefore be outlawed. The UNICEF (2001) believes that the idea that firearms protect people and are thus necessary tools is a “destructive message.” Others claim that guns are a necessary part of our daily life in a world full of people who would like to kill us. The NRA-ILA (2008) said, “Self-defense is a fundamental right. The constitutions of the U.S. and 44 states, common law, and the laws of all 50 states recognize the right to use arms in self-defense” (para. 1). Ever since Florida passed its famous Shall Issue law in 1987, a landslide of states have adopted similar programs. The number of states with these laws has gone from eight to thirty seven. Despite this progress, and correlating reductions in violent crime, many US citizens still live in states where their right to carry is infringed. While anti-gun rhetoric continues to surface in the American culture, carrying a concealed weapon for use in self defense is a constitutionally sound practice under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution (1791) which states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Therefore, because concealed carry’s protection under the Second Amendment, its ability to reduce violent crime, and its usefulness in self defense, every state government in the United States should institute its own Shall Issue legislation.

While policy makers often focus their attention primarily on the positive or negative effects of concealed handguns to determine their legality, it is important to not lose track of the constitutional principles the United States was built on. The Second Amendment was crafted to guarantee the independence and freedom through gun ownership and gun carrying. However, the purpose of the Second Amendment has been the subject of much debate because of the specific wording it uses; particularly the mentioning of state militias. According to Jacobs (2002) gun control supporters have based their argument on the first clause of the Second Amendment, which they believe supports their claim that state governments need only guarantee the right to keep and bear arms to members of an organized militia. Furthermore, because state militias have been dismantled with the creation of the National Guard, some argue that the second amendment is not relevant to our modern nation. Despite the controversy, much can be learned about intentions behind the Second Amendment by examining similar legal writings of the same time period.

There are several important documents crafted near the time of the Second Amendment which express the political climate of the time in clearer words. One writing is the New Hampshire Ratification Document (1788) which stated, “congress shall never disarm any citizen, unless such as are or have been in actual rebellion.” Also insightful is the Vermont Constitution (1777) claiming “that the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State.” Because both of these writings were crafted within fourteen years of the Second Amendment, they represent quite accurately the political climate which gave birth to the Second Amendment. Halbrook (2010) a celebrated Supreme Court attorney at law with over thirty years of experience, took a new approach to the issue. He examined the legal actions of lawmakers who sought to give African Americans the right to keep and bear arms in the wake of the Civil War. He concluded that the Second Amendment has been historically recognized by the American government as pertaining to an individual right. Despite the questionable wording of the Second Amendment, equivalent writings of the time reflect the idea that keeping and bearing arms is an individual right, not a collective right limited to state militias.

Though the Constitution guarantees the right to gun ownership and carrying to United States citizens, concealing a lethal weapon is a type of “bearing arms” which is not specifically mentioned by the Constitution. It follows that an extensive analysis of concealed carry’s effect on violent crime should decide whether or not it is a reasonable type of gun-bearing and should thus be considered part of the second amendment rights. One way to examine concealed carry’s effect on crime is to compare the crime rates of states and cities that have passed “shall issue” laws and those that have not. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (2010) records that in 2008, 503.8 out of every 100,000 residents of California (a May Issue sate) were victims of violent crime. In the same year, California’s “Shall Issue” neighbor, Arizona, had a violent crime rate of 447.0 out of 100,000. Considering Arizona’s immense problems with numerous drug cartels and gangs in recent years, this is a significant accomplishment. In 1998, Lott, a senior research scientist with a long-time interest in the gun rights debate, published one of the most complete and well known pieces of research regarding this subject. In “More Guns Less Crime,” Lott claimed that increases in concealed carry permits cause reductions in violent crime. In one example, he used Florida’s murder rate between 1978 and 1988 to demonstrate how increases in concealed carry permits after the 1983 adoption of a Shall Issue law decreased crime levels significantly. Of this trend, Lott said, “the available evidence indicates that the murder rate began to drop when the law was adopted, and the size of the drop corresponded with the number of concealed handgun permits outstanding” (p. 107). In numerous cases all over the USA, the adoptions of Shall Issue law and increases in concealed carry have served to decrease crime.

Since Lott’s bold claim, many supporters of gun control have sought to discredit his research. However, even the most skeptical reviews of Lott’s data, such as one study done by Marvell and Kovandzic (2003), are only able to claim that increases in permits did not cause any significant change in violent crime when controlling for other factors. In fact, the National Center for Policy Analysis (2010) said, “despite all the attacks by gun-control advocates, no one has ever been able to refute Lott's simple, startling conclusion that more guns mean less crime” (para. 2). The idea that concealed carry increases violence in our society has been disproven by research. Instead, it seems that concealed carry reduces violent crime and should therefore be considered a reasonable practice.

Not only do concealed weapons serve as crime deterrent, but they are also essential tools for self defense. Stories from all over the United States show this to be true, as evidenced by two stories posted by the NRA-ILA, (2010). Rob Pierce, a resident of Pennsylvania, found himself at gunpoint while walking to a restaurant. His two captors forced him into a dark ally, and were preparing to kill him when Pierce, a licensed firearm owner, drew his concealed .357 revolver, shooting one of the thugs. Both criminals quickly escaped the scene and are now behind bars. Jason Moore, from the state of Washington, arrived home one night to find two men in his house. He drew his legally carried .45 pistol and shot one of the men, who was armed. He then held both criminals captive until police arrived. These two stories, as well as thousands of others on the NRA-ILA website testify to the widespread use of concealed handguns in self defense. In fact, many experts, such as Kleck, (1997) estimate that guns are used more than 2.5 million times a year in self defense. The staggering extent to which guns are used by citizens to protect themselves, their families, and friends from violence has secured guns an irreplaceable role in self defense.

Although handguns have been proven to be useful in self defense, many members of society favor non-lethal forms of self defense, such as stun guns, chemical sprays, and Tasers. Indeed, some may argue that, with these modern alternatives, guns are no longer necessary for safety, and should be eliminated and replaced. However, these devices offer far less stopping power and are completely useless in some situations. Stun guns are non-lethal devices which immobilize an attacker using tremendous voltage at low amperage (Abbot, 2006). However, as pointed out by Abbot, an accomplished self defense expert, “The biggest downside to a stun gun is that you must be close enough to your attacker to touch him. This will mean, consequently, that he will be close enough to reach out and grab you as well” (para. 4). An attacker with a knife or gun would pose a serious problem to someone equipped only with a stun gun. Although they can be used from a greater distance, chemical sprays are only effective in certain situations. Abbot warns that attackers can avoid the irritating spray, and that even when aimed correctly, a breeze can force the spray back into the face of the user. Perhaps the most effective non-lethal defense mechanism is the Taser. These devices work in much the same way as a stun gun, but instead of requiring direct contact with the attacker, they fire electrical probes at the attacker from a distance. However, the leading brand, Taser International (2010) gives its Tasers an effective range of only fifteen feet. Additionally, Tasers can only fire one shot before they must be reloaded. If the defender misses the first shot, or is attacked my multiple people, the Taser offers little hope of survival. Although these three devices have their places in self defense, they cannot be relied upon in extreme situations and therefore cannot replace handguns.

Not everyone embraces the idea of concealed handguns becoming a norm in the United States. It is a common fear among gun control proponents that giving more citizens the right to carry arms will cause common every-day disputes to turn deadly (Kovandzic, Marvell, & Vieraitis, 2005). Liberal journalists often scare the public by painting a grim picture of guns in the American society. According to Nagourney (2003) of the New York Times, “People with guns in their homes are almost twice as likely to be killed by guns as people who do not keep them at home” (para. 1). It is understandable that casual readers could be alarmed by this statistic. However, these fears would be ungrounded, since people who choose to keep guns often do so because they live in a dangerous area. These people are not killed by their decision to own firearms, but by the pre-existing conditions under which they chose to buy them. Nagourney goes on to say, “…people with guns are 16 times as likely to commit suicide using guns” (para. 2). At first, it seems that this statistic should also cast a negative light on guns. The fact is that gun owners and non-gun owners alike commit suicide. The availability of guns does not cause suicide, but is simply the means of choice for people who have already made the decision to take their own lives. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (2010) reported that out of 1,858,018 licenses issued between October 1, 1987 and September 13, 2010, only 168 (less than one hundredth of one percent) have been revoked because of a crime committed by the permit holder involving a firearm. Although some people who obtain concealed weapons permits will use their handguns with ill intent, the vast majority of citizens who carry a concealed handgun just want to live in peace and safety, and for this, they need not be feared.

Yet another objection to shall issue legislation is the idea that more people carrying guns will mean more accidental injuries and deaths related to firearms. The Children’s Defense Fund (2009) found that one hundred and fifty four young people age one through twenty died from gun accidents in 2006. The organization claims that “the daily news is a grim reminder of the devastating impact caused by our deadly romance with guns and violence” (p. 1). Although shall issue laws would in theory put more guns in the hands of citizens, Reynolds and Burnett (2003), both lead researchers at the National Center for Policy Analysis, report that between 1982 and 2002, twenty two states adopted right to carry laws. During this same amount of time, they reported, the number of privately owned guns doubled, and accidental firearms deaths decreased. Though Kovandzic and Marvell (2003) are doubtful that concealed carry has any effect on crime, they recognize that many citizens who live where concealed carry is restricted still carry handguns illegally. One benefit of Shall Issue laws is that they “eliminate arbitrary decisions on gun permit applications and encourage gun safety training” (para. 56). People who fear for their lives are not likely to refrain from carrying an unlicensed concealed weapon simply because it is illegal. Making concealed carry permits an individual right, while requiring safety training for permit holders has in fact helped make America safer.

Concealed carry should be allowed and welcomed by all state governments. It is protected under the constitution, valuable to states by its effect on crime, and essential to individuals seeking to defend themselves. If the state governments of Alabama, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin fail to pass Shall Issue legislation, or if current Shall Issue states allow their laws to be overturned, the consequences could be sever. Violent, armed criminals who frequent these places are given a tremendous advantage over their victims, who have been forced to use inferior weapons in their defense. Their only hope is to trust their lives to an overworked police force which seems to always be minutes away when seconds count. This future must not become a reality. Just ask Suzanne Gratia. One might expect her to blame gun activists for the tragic death of her parents. Instead Gratia (1991) said “I blame [the death of my parents on] those legislators who deny me the right to defend myself” (Gun ownership, 1992, p. 13).

References

Abbot, B. (2006). Be prepared – the pros and cons of non-lethal self-defense weapons. Retrieved

November 3, 2010 from http://thephantomwriters.com/free_content/db/a/be-prepared-for-self-defense.shtml.

Children’s Defense Fund. (2009). Protect children, not guns 2009 (pamphlet). Washington, DC: Children’s

Defense Fund. This pamphlet gives statistical information regarding children shot, wounded, and killed by guns in the United States and calls for tighter gun control to help solve the issue. The CDF is a non-profit child-advocacy program designed to give children the best opportunities to succeed in life. They have been working to promote local, state, and federal pro-child policies for over thirty five years.

Cleary, J. & Shapiro, E. (1999). The effects of “shall issue” concealed-carry licensing laws: A literature

review. Retrieved November 3, 2010 from http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/concarry.pdf. This Information brief reviews studies on the effecs of “shall issue” laws and offers working definitions of both “shall issue” and “may issue” laws. Cleary and Shapiro are legislative analysists at the Minnesota House of Representatives Department of Research with twenty, and thirteen years of experience, respectively.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2010). Crime in the United States: By state, 2008. Retrieved

November 3, 2010 from http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/data/table_05.html. This report gives statistical information on violent crime levels in all fifty states during 2008. Since 1908, The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been the nation’s foremost authority in crime and criminal behavior.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Department of Licensing. (2010).

Concealed weapon/firearm summary report. Retrieved November 3, 2010 from http://licgweb.doacs.state.fl.us/stats/cw_monthly.html. This fact sheet reports on the number of Florida residents who have applied for Concealed Carry permits, those who hold them, and those who’s licenses have been revoked. The FDACS is a government agency responsible for issuing all licenses and permits in Florida. Their facts are official state records.

Halbrook, S. P. (2010). Heller, the second amendment, and reconstruction: Protecting all freemen or

only militiamen? Santa Clara Law Review, 5, 1073-1094. Retrieved November 3, 2010 from http://www.stephenhalbrook.com/law_review_articles/heller_2nd_amendment.pdf. This article clarifies the purpose of the Second Amendment as an amendment guaranteeing the right of all US citizens to bear arms. Halbrook is a renowned attorney at law, a Professor of Philosophy at George Masson University, and an author. He acquired his J.D. in 1978, as well as a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a B.S. in Business. He has prevailed in four supreme court cases, as well as a multitude of federal and state-level cases.

Jacobs, J. B. (2002, December 15). Right to bear arms decision would improve gun control. USA Today.

Retrieved November 3, 2010 from http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2002-12-15-jacobs_x.htm. This article discusses the ongoing debate between gun control and gun rights activists and calls for the supreme court to define the second amendment as pertaining to an individual right. Jacobs is the Warren E. Burger Professor of Law and the director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at New York University Law School. He is also the author of “Can Gun Control Work?”

Kleck, G. (1997). Guns and Self Defense. Retrieved November 22, 2010 from

http://www.pulpless.com/gunclock/kleck2.html. In this article, Kleck discusses the importance of private gun ownership in America, showing that defensive gun use is common, and that gun ownership has an important role in deterring potential crime. Kleck is a Professor at the School of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Florida. He is well known for his expertise in the gun rights debate, and has Authored several books, including Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, and Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control.

Kovandzic, T. V., & Marvell, T. B. (2003). Right to carry concealed handguns and violent crime: Crime

control through gun control? Criminology and Public Policy, 2(3), 363-396. doi: 10.1177/1088767905279972. This article reports on Marvell and Kovandzic’s research on Florida’s 1983 RTC law. It concludes that the law’s effect on crime was not significant when controlling for other factors. Dr. Kovandzic is a faculty member in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (previously, Social Sciences) at UT-Dallas. He teaches courses on research methods, statistics, gun control, extent and measurement of crime, and crime patterns. His primary areas of research interest are gun control, crime policy, and deterrence/incapacitation. Thomas B. Marvell is an attorney-sociologist and is director of Justec Research in Williamsburg, VA.

Kovandzic, T. V., Marvell, T. B., & Vieraitis, L. M. (2005) The impact of "shall-issue" concealed handgun

laws on violent crime rates: Evidence from panel data for large urban cities. Homicide Studies, 9(4), 292-323. doi: 10.1177/1088767905279972. This article addresses concerns by gun control proponents that shall issue laws will cause an increase of violence. It studies violent crime rates in all large US cities over the course of twenty years and concludes that shall issue laws have no effect on violent crime. Vieraitis is a professor at the University of Texas. She holds a Ph.D. in criminology and a BA. in Psychology.

Lott, J. R. (1998). More guns less crime: Understanding gun control laws. Chicago, University of Chicago

Press. This book documents Lott’s research on the effects of concealed carry on crime rates across the nation using mathematical regression models. John Lott is an American senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. He holds a Ph.D. in economics, and has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles in academic journals. He is best known for his role in the gun-rights debate, and has written five books including Freedomnomics, and The Bias Against Guns.

Nagourney, E. (2003, May 27). Vital signs: Cause and effect; linking guns and gun violence. New York

Times. Retrieved November 3, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/27/health/vital-signs-cause-and-effect-linking-guns-and-gun-violence.html

New Hampshire Ratification Document. (1788). Provision XII. Retrieved November 3, 2010 from

http://www.usconstitution.net/rat_nh.html. In this document New Hampshire officially accepts the United States Constitution, thereby enacting it across the nation. It also propose twelve alterations to the constitution, one of which declared that the government should never take arms away from the citizens.

North Dakota Century Code. (2001). Chapter 62.1-04; Concealed Weapons. Retrieved November 3, 2010

from http://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t621c04.pdf. This state code gives legal definitions of concealed weapons, provides information on where they are allowed to be carried, and lists penalties for non-compliance.

NRA-ILA. (2008). Right-to-carry summery. Retrieved November 3, 2010 from

http://www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?id=239. This article summarizes the NRA’s beliefs about concealed carry laws and their effects on crime. With nearly 4 million members, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action is a conservative organization dedicated to preserving the second amendment rights of all Americans. Their lawyers lobby for the rights of US citizens in all fifty state legislatures as well as congress.

NRA-ILA. (2010) The armed citizen. Retrieved November 22, 2010 from

http://www.nraila.org/armedcitizen/Default.aspx. This online collection of real-life stories from thousands of law-abiding citizens who have used guns in self defense testifies to the importance of gun ownership in the American society.

Reynolds, M. & Burnett, S. (2003). No smoking guns: How to answer objections to right-to-carry laws. In

Cothran, H. (Ed.) Gun control: Opposing viewpoints (pp. 116-117). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press. This article addresses five key objections to concealed carry, including the idea that concealed carry will cause more accidental gun deaths. Reynolds was a professor emeritus at Texas A&M and former director of the Criminal Justice Center at the National Center for Policy Analysis headquartered in Dallas, TX. Burnett is the lead analyst of the National Center for Policy Analysis' E-Team with a longtime interest in the gun control debate.

Gun ownership has new champion: Killeen massacre survivor – Suzanne Gratia; Killeen, Texas. (1992,

June). Shooting Industry, 6, 12-13. Retrieved November 3, 2010 from

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3197/is_n6_v37/ai_12634747/?tag=content;col1

Taser International, Inc. (2010). Retrieved November 3, 2010 from

http://www.itaser.com/product_tour.html

UNICEF. (2001). No guns, please; we are children (pamphlet). New York: UNICEF Division of

Communication. This pamphlet explains the negative cultural impact of guns and their influences on children around the world. The UNICEF is an international organization which works in 190 countries to promote children’s rights. They use their tremendous influence to pressure policymakers and leaders to protect children and give them a better future.

United States Constitution, (1791). Amendment II. This amendment to the United States constitution

guarantees the right of Americans to legally possess firearms.

Vermont Constitution, (1777). Part 1, Article XV. Retrieved November 3, 2010 from

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/vt01.asp. This article from the Constitution of Vermont guarantees the right of its citizens to possess firearms for their own protection, and that of the state.

2 comments:

Shannon said...

Great job on your latest post Elijah! It's fantastic! Carrying concealed weapons is an issue I've never really thought about. I can't wait to see what else you come up with!

Eric said...

You know, if gun restriction laws worked, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington D.C. would be crime free utopias. Just sayin'...

 

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