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Liberalized Concealed Carry Laws


First, what are "liberalized" concealed carry laws? They are a set of requirements, when met by an applicant, require the issuance of a concealed carry permit, which allows a permit holder to carry a gun (concealed) in public places. These requirements may consist of a license fee, a safety training program or exam, fingerprinting, a "clean" record, no history of mental illness, etc. In other words it is not left to the discretion of local authorities to decide whether or not to issue a permit. Liberalized concealed carry laws are more often referred to as "shall-issue concealed carry weapons" laws.

In 1987, when Florida enacted such legislation, critics warned that the "Sunshine State" would become the "Gunshine State." Contrary to their predictions, homicide rates dropped faster than the national average. Further, through 1997, only one permit holder out of the over 350,000 permits issued, was convicted of homicide. (Source: Kleck, Gary Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control, p 370. Walter de Gruyter, Inc., New York, 1997.) If the rest of the country behaved as Florida's permit holders did, the U.S. would have the lowest homicide rate in the world.

David Kopel, Research Director at the Independence Institute comments on Florida's concealed carry experience:

"What we can say with some confidence is that allowing more people to carry guns does not cause an increase in crime. In Florida, where 315,000 permits have been issued, there are only five known instances of violent gun crime by a person with a permit. This makes a permit-holding Floridian the cream of the crop of law-abiding citizens, 840 times less likely to commit a violent firearm crime than a randomly selected Floridian without a permit." ("More Permits Mean Less Crime..." Los Angeles Times, Feb. 19, 1996, Monday, p. B-5)

Thirty-five states have enacted "shall-issue" concealed carry laws , and two states, Alaska and Vermont, do not require any permit of its residents (state map of concealed carry laws).

The Lott-Mustard Report

John Lott and David Mustard, in connection with the University of Chicago Law School, examining crime statistics from 1977 to 1992 for all U.S. counties, concluded that the thirty-one states allowing their residents to carry concealed, had significant reductions in violent crime. Lott writes, "Our most conservative estimates show that by adopting shall-issue laws, states reduced murders by 8.5%, rapes by 5%, aggravated assaults by 7% and robbery by 3%. If those states that did not permit concealed handguns in 1992 had permitted them back then, citizens might have been spared approximately 1,570 murders, 4,177 rapes, 60,000 aggravated assaults and 12,000 robberies. To put it even more simply criminals, we found, respond rationally to deterrence threats... While support for strict gun-control laws usually has been strongest in large cities, where crime rates are highest, that's precisely where right-to-carry laws have produced the largest drops in violent crimes."

(Source: "More Guns, Less Violent Crime", Professor John R. Lott, Jr., The Wall Street Journal, August 28, 1996, (The Rule of Law column).

Whether or not one believes a portion of the drop in violent crime is due to "shall-issue" legislation, Lott's study provides strong evidence that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons does not increase gun crime or fatal gun accident rates.

Do states with right-to-carry laws have lower violent crime and homicide rates?

John Lott's paper (PDF format) and datasets.

John Lott refutes claims that Texan concealed carry permit-holders are not as law-abiding as other Texas citizens. [ HTML] Former New York Congressman (now Senator), Charles Schumer makes an insinuation regarding the funding of John Lott's research, William Simon rebuts, in letters to The Wall Street Journal.

A Reason Online interview with John Lott who "discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out."

An interview with John Lott Jr. (with a plug for his book).

A paper by Mark Duggan, "More Guns, More Crime," which as the title suggests comes to a different conclusion than Lott's research, is summarized in this article from the Economist magazine. Lott's response to the article is available here.

A Critical Examination of John Lott's Paper

John Lott's Newest Paper on Concealed Carry (April 1999)

From the conclusion of John Lott's latest paper titled, "Multiple Victim Public Shootings, Bombings,and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handgun Laws: Contrasting Private and Public Law Enforcement:"

The results of this paper support the hypothesis that concealed handgun or shall issue laws reduce the number of multiple victim public shootings. Attackers are deterred and the number of people injured or killed per attack is also reduced, thus for the first time providing evidence that the harm from crimes that still occur can be mitigated. The results are robust with respect to different specifications of the dependent variable, different specifications of the handgun law variable, and the inclusion of additional law variables (e.g., mandatory waiting periods and enhanced penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime). Not only does the passage of a shall issue law have a significant impact on multiple shootings but it is the only law related variable that appears to have a significant impact.
        --- To view the entire paper (Adobe Acrobat Reader required) click here.
(A critique of Lott's study is available in the links cited in the previous section.)

Should Permit Holders be Subject to the Same Training as Police Officers?

No. Of course permit holders should be knowledgeable and proficient in the many aspects of defensive gun use, however as Jeffrey Snyder says in FIGHTING BACK: Crime, Self-Defense, and the Right to Carry a Handgun :

"Permit holders need concern themselves with only one thing: protecting themselves from a sudden, violent assault that threatens life or grievous bodily injury. Rape, robbery, and attempted murder are not typically actions rife with ambiguity or subtlety, requiring special powers of observation, great book-learning, or a stint at the police academy to discern. When a man pulls a knife on a woman and says, 'You're coming with me,' her judgment that a crime is being committed is not likely to be in error."

"Police, by contrast, do not carry arms solely for the purpose of defending themselves, but also for the purpose of enforcing the law. They deliberately inject themselves into potentially dangerous and violent situations, responding to calls for assistance, investigating crimes, intervening in domestic violence, and making arrests."

The police have much wider duties and responsibilities than civilian concealed carry weapon (CCW) permit holders do. As a result, opposing CCW laws because police receive greater weapons training or requiring civilians to receive the same training as police officers is unwarranted. (Snyder's article also points-out that police mistakenly kill roughly 300 innocent victims per year versus around 30 per year by civilians.)

Additional Sources

The NRA's viewpoint on right to carry laws.

Handgun Control Inc.'s Carrying Concealed Weapons - Questions & Answers and Concealed Weapons, Concealed Risk.

One attorney's opinion why carrying a handgun in public may not be for everyone, but it is a right that government ought to respect. A brief, but informative history of concealed-carry laws, the motives behind early handgun licensing and registration laws, and misconceptions regarding concealed carry are discussed.

The Florida Department of State - Division of Licensing, concealed weapons/firearms reports concerning CCW holders.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, arrest information for Texas concealed handgun license holders.

Concealed carry statutes at gunlaws.com.

Additional concealed carry statute information by state from packing.org.

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