How many states allow citizens to carry concealed firearms for self-defense?
A total of 46 states allow concealed carry. There are 38 “shall issue” (Right to Carry) states that have laws virtually identical to the one proposed in the PPA, establishing clear, objective standards a citizen must meet in order to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense. Another eight states have subjective “may issue” systems that allow government officials to arbitrarily deny law-abiding citizens the ability to carry a firearm.
How many of these states that implemented concealed firearms laws have subsequently repealed the law?
None of the 46 states has ever repealed its concealed carry law. Are elected officials in these states totally indifferent to the safety of their constituents, or were the doomsday predictions of concealed carry opponents entirely unfounded? In fact, after realizing permit holders are, indeed, law-abiding and trustworthy, most states with these laws have substantially liberalized their systems since enactment.
Which states preclude citizens from carrying concealed firearms for self-defense?
Wisconsin is one of only four states that prohibit citizens from carrying concealed firearms. The other three states are Nebraska, Kansas and Illinois. The Kansas Legislature overwhelmingly passed a Right to Carry Law in 1997 and 2003 but, like Wisconsin’s Legislature, it could not override the Governor’s veto. Nebraska is poised to pass a law in early 2006.
How many permit holders are there in the United States?
There are approximately six million permit holders in the United States. This represents a population greater than Wisconsin’s. Over 65% of the country’s population and law enforcement community live and work in “shall issue” permit states.
Is there any reason to believe Wisconsinites will be an exception to the rule set by the citizens of the other 46 states?
No. Wisconsinites should be offended by such a notion. It should be unacceptable for elected officials to explain to constituents that they know the other 46 states that allow for concealed carry have experienced virtually no problems but that Wisconsinites will somehow prove to be an exception to this rule set by the citizens of the other states. This is clearly the implication when any legislator claims that “blood will flow in the streets” if the PPA is passed in Wisconsin.
Are PPA opponents right when they argue “more guns will lead to more crime?”
No. They are engaging in a scare tactic that ignores the gun ownership and crime trends over the last 30 years. As the numbers of guns, gun owners, and Right to Carry states have risen, violent crime has declined. The number of privately owned guns rises by roughly 4.5 million each year and is now at an all-time high (over 200 million) according to BATFE. The number of Right to Carry states is also at an all-time high of 38, up from 10 in 1987.
Contrary to the claims of PPA opponents, the FBI reports that the U.S. violent crime rate has decreased every year since 1991 and is now at a 30-year low. The murder rate is now at a 40-year low. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the annual number of firearm-related deaths (crime-related and otherwise) has decreased every year since 1993. If more guns and expanded concealed carry laws caused more crime, as PPA opponents claim, the nation’s violent crime rate would not be at a 30-year low, it would be at a 30-year high.
Do states with “shall issue” concealed carry laws have lower or higher violent crime rates when compared to the states like Wisconsin without these laws?
According to the FBI, the states with “shall issue” laws have much lower violent crime rates than the other states, on average: 21% lower total violent crime, 28% lower murder, 43% lower robbery, and 13% lower aggravated assault. Significantly, 13 of the 15 states with the lowest violent crime rates are “shall issue” permit states. The five states with the lowest violent crime rate have all enacted “shall issue” laws.
Consistent with this FBI data, research by Professor John Lott finds that “shall issue” permit laws are responsible for significant reductions in violent crime. He did extensive research involving the 1,432 counties in states that adopted these laws. His findings of crime reduction stood even when comparing counties in a “shall issue” state that border counties in neighboring states without such laws. Professor Lott submitted his findings and data for extensive peer review. The majority of the reviewers could not find fault with his findings. Two studies used by PPA opponents find that the laws have no effect on violent crime and may even slightly increase it. Their studies have not been submitted for the same extensive peer review as Lott’s. In short, after all of their doomsday predictions, the only claim that opponents have left to cling to is that “shall issue” permit laws have no effect on crime. The “power” of this claim as a reason to oppose the PPA is lost on supporters and other rational observers.
What were some of John Lott’s specific findings from his exhaustive research?
Studying crime trends in every county in the U.S., John Lott and David Mustard found, “allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths. If those states which did not have Right to Carry concealed gun provisions had adopted them in 1992, approximately 1,570 murders; 4,177 rapes; and over 60,000 aggravated assaults would have been avoided yearly...[T]he estimated annual gain from allowing concealed handguns is at least $6.214 billion...[W]hen state concealed handgun laws went into effect in a county, murders fell by 8.5 percent, and rapes and aggravated assaults fell by 5 and 7 percent.” (“Crime, Deterrence, and Right To Carry Concealed Handguns,” 1996.) One of the remarkable components of this study is the incredible number of variables (incarceration rates, economy, crime clearance rates, unemployment etc.) that were taken into account in order to isolate “shall issue” permit laws to determine their impact on crime trends.
Are Wisconsinites who seek to become permit holders “paranoid” of being attacked?
No. They are people who understand that criminals are not restricted to attacking particular people in particular places. As too many citizens have learned, anyone can become a victim of crime. Are people who wear seatbelts paranoid of being in an accident? Of course not, they wear a seat belt just in case they are involved in an accident because they accept the fact that accidents occur. They would not be in their vehicles if they expected to be in an accident. The same is true of citizens who choose to carry firearms. They do not expect to be attacked on their way to the store or they would stay home. The idea is to be prepared in case they are attacked. One could assume most of the 12,000 annual victims of violent crime in Wisconsin (FBI) did not expect to be attacked when they became a violent crime statistic.
What should be the response to people who say “nothing could have been done” to prevent an incident of public violence?
Often this is true when an armed perpetrator is attacking unarmed victims, as has recently occurred in Wisconsin. The equation can change dramatically when a potential victim is able to engage in armed resistance. Currently, in Wisconsin, the state unfortunately provides an advantage to an attacker by making it certain that law-abiding victims are incapable of defending themselves with a firearm. If the PPA is enacted, something can be done – a potential victim may be able to defend him or herself. In the vast majority of violent attacks, because of factors beyond its control, law enforcement is reactive, not proactive. A firearm is not a panacea but it does allow a citizen a chance to survive an attack where no other option may exist. It is wrong for the government to deny citizens this chance of survival.
Don’t PPA opponents claim “handguns are terribly ineffective self-defense tools?”
Yes, they do, but only when serving their political agenda. Why then do police carry them? Any why do PPA opponents contend handguns are so dangerous and effective in the hands of criminals that they must be banned. Most people recognize the inconsistency of their claim. The fact is that hundreds of thousands of Americans successfully use handguns to stop violent attacks every year according to research conducted by the U.S. Justice Department.
Is there a reliable estimate of the number of times firearms are used for self-defense each year in the United States?
Analyzing National Crime Victimization Survey data, criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz found that firearms are used for self-protection in the United States approximately 2.5 million times annually. (Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Fall 1995) Marvin E. Wolfgang, self-described as “as strong a gun-control advocate as can be found among the criminologists in this country” said, “The methodological soundness of the current Kleck and Gertz study is clear. I cannot further debate it… I do not like their conclusion that having a gun can be useful, but I cannot fault their methodology.” (Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Fall 1995)
If this is true, why does Governor Doyle claim that, “The number of crime victims who successfully use firearms to defend themselves is actually quite small according to the FBI?”
Unfortunately, the Governor, parroting information from gun control groups, is willfully disregarding the great restraint shown by the majority of armed citizens who are forced to defend themselves. He is only counting dead criminals (the number reported by the FBI – a number that is artificially low for reasons described in the next answer), not the number of criminals wounded, detained and scared away by armed victims. Since armed victims discharge their firearms in only one or two percent of all self-defense encounters, the latter number is going to be much larger than the number represented by the FBI’s criminal body count. Governor Doyle should recognize that the objective of self-defense is not to kill the attacker. It is to survive a violent attack.
The Governor’s “logic” is likely to be borrowed by those radical activists who believe law enforcement in the United States should be disarmed. Like the Governor’s reference to citizens, they could show that only a few hundred people are killed by law enforcement each year in the United States (far fewer than are killed by armed citizens). Using the Governor’s contention, they could claim that this small number shows in no uncertain terms that firearms are of little use to law enforcement. Of course, a reasonable person understands that the utility of firearms in the hands of law enforcement is not measured by the number of criminals killed. The same is true with regard to citizen-owned firearms.
In light of the Governor’s reference to the FBI statistic, what is the annual number of criminals killed by armed citizens during violent attacks?
The FBI reports that armed citizens kill approximately 300 criminals every year in the United States. However, this number is artificially low because it only takes into account initial police reports where the evidence at the scene unquestionably indicates that the homicide was in self-defense (a masked intruder is dead in a woman’s bedroom after forced entry). In the majority of justifiable homicides, the police report simply states the evidence and is later submitted to a district attorney for investigation. After the investigation, the homicide is often justified by the district attorney, a grand jury, judge or trial jury. Because of this, research by criminologists indicates that the actual number of criminals killed by armed victims is four to seven times the number reported by the FBI (1200 to 2100). Of course, the Governor, having been Attorney General, knows of this process but conveniently fails to report it to Wisconsinites when he tells them that “ordinary” people infrequently defend themselves against violent attack.
What is the reasoning behind the claim that the PPA benefits even those who do not choose to acquire a permit?
This is known as the “free-rider effect.” One of the benefits of concealed firearms carry is that violent criminals do not know who is armed and who is not. Therefore, because some citizens will obtain permits and carry firearms, criminals must fear attacking a victim who is able to respond through armed, and potentially lethal, resistance. There is extensive evidence indicating that criminals will choose not to attack some victims for fear that they are armed, whether they are or not in reality. There is truth to the age-old axiom, “When the wolves can’t tell the sheep from the lions, the whole flock is safe.”
Has the government conducted any studies indicating that criminals are deterred by the possibility that a victim is armed?
Yes. A study for the U.S. Justice Department involved in-depth interviews with 1,874 imprisoned felons. These interviews revealed that 57% of the felons believed that “most criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into police.” Another 34% of felons had been “scared off, shot at, wounded or captured by an armed victim,” and 40% of felons have not committed crimes, fearing potential victims were armed. This illustrates in no uncertain terms the deterrent effect created by potentially armed victims. Under current law, the state has eliminated this concern for criminals by disarming law-abiding citizens (potential victims). This, in effect, has created a safe, worry-free working environment for violent criminals.
Why do some opponents, particularly law enforcement organizations, contend that “ordinary” citizens are incapable of being trained to safely and effectively use firearms for self-defense without graduating from a police academy?
Simply stated, it is elitist to argue that “ordinary” citizens are incapable of being properly trained. Some opponents of the PPA argue that only law enforcement officers should be permitted to carry firearms because they are required to undergo long, rigorous training. The training necessary for citizens and law enforcement is different because their objectives are different. A citizen’s goal is to survive a life-threatening encounter. This most often involves scaring away an attacker without a shot being fired and seeking safety. Law enforcement officers require more extensive training because they must engage in pursuit, apprehension and suspect control. In other words, they must bring the fight to the criminal. This is much more complex and dangerous than simply fending off an attacker.
In addition, much of a law enforcement officer’s firearms training revolves around threat identification and shoot/don’t shoot scenarios. This is necessary because police officers frequently enter unknown circumstances after a call for assistance. Citizens, on the other hand, rarely have difficulty determining who is the threat. For instance, a woman being attacked by a man in a parking garage is certain of who is posing the threat.
Regarding a citizen’s ability to become a competent handgun shooter, it is worth noting that the country’s top competitive tactical, self-defense shooters are “ordinary” citizens, not law enforcement officers (they compete in the same classes as other citizens). Permit holders are conscientious men and women who understand that carrying a firearm is an enormous responsibility. By in large, most will seek additional self-defense training in order to ensure they are able to use a firearm effectively for self-defense.
Is it true that some PPA opponents argue that a law empowering citizens to defend themselves is unnecessary because crime rates are low in Wisconsin?
Yes, opponents are making this argument. However, it is doubtful that any one of the 1100 reported rape victims every year in Wisconsin cares about low crime rates. What victims care about is that they were violently assaulted, law enforcement was not able to prevent their victimization and the state denied them the ability to defend themselves with a firearm in cases where the attack occurred outside of the home (the vast majority of violent crime). The success of the PPA is not contingent upon high or low crime rates. The intent is to allow individual citizens to defend themselves and their loved ones against violent criminals. For those opponents who do fixate on rates, they should know that 19 states had a lower murder rate than Wisconsin’s in 2003; 14 of those were Right to Carry states.
Violent crime is a problem in Wisconsin. In 2002 (most recent report), according to the FBI, there were 1,198 rapes, 4,386 robberies, 6,330 aggravated assaults and 181 murders for a total of 12,095 violent offenses. This number represents 12,095 real people who were violently victimized. PPA opponents seem to lose sight of this fact when they claim self-defense is an out-dated, unnecessary, barbaric undertaking in Wisconsin.
Governor Doyle and other PPA opponents suggest that Wisconsin’s crime rate trends have been better than trends in states that allow concealed carry (46). Is this true?
No, it is demonstrably false using FBI crime data. Since 1991, when violent crime began decreasing throughout the U.S., it has decreased 39% nationally but only 24% in Wisconsin. Nationally, murder has decreased 44%, compared to 42% in Wisconsin. Additionally, since 1991, violent crime has decreased every year nationally, but it increased in three years (1994, 1995, and 1997) in Wisconsin. Murder decreased nationally in all but two years (1993 and 2003), while it increased in Wisconsin in five years (1993, 1994, 1997, 2001 and 2003).
Why would anyone need to carry a concealed firearm particularly in light of Wisconsin’s low crime rate?
The matter of Wisconsin’s crime rate has already been addressed. With the exception of two years, there have been over 12,000 violent crime victims every year in Wisconsin since 1986 (228,000 total) – when Florida began the trend that has led to 38 Right to Carry states. This number represents real people who were violently victimized while the state, in many instances, denied them the means of adequate defense. As everyone knows, despite their best efforts, law enforcement cannot be omnipresent to protect everyone from attack. This is illustrated by the fact that there are victims of violent crime in Wisconsin. These law-abiding citizens deserve the opportunity to defend themselves.
Are PPA opponents correct when they claim firearms are more likely to be used against the person possessing them for self-defense?
No, this is just another unsubstantiated scare tactic used by opponents. Research shows that, at most, 1% of defensive gun uses result in the offender acquiring the gun from the defender, though this includes guns stolen from residences in home invasions as well as those taken directly from the hands of the defender. This is not substantially different than the experience of law enforcement officers. Proper and simple training teaches citizens how to retain their firearms in self-defense scenarios (retention skills will be taught as part of the mandatory safety course all permit applicants must complete).
Is the PPA a woman’s issue?
Yes. Approximately 20% of permit holders in the 38 Right to Carry states are women. While the FBI reports that men are more often the victims of violent crime, women stand to benefit more from the force equalizing effects of a firearm in a self-defense scenario. Generally speaking, men are physically stronger than women. This will usually allow an unarmed male attacker to dominate a similarly unarmed female victim. The ability of a woman to respond to a violent attack through armed resistance does more than level the playing field. The current firearms carry prohibition in Wisconsin ensures that most women will always be at a disadvantage when faced by a male attacker. This is morally reprehensible. The PPA’s concept of force equalization also applies to other groups likely to be at a physical disadvantage such as the elderly and physically disabled.
Why have opponents of the PPA argued that women, in particular, stand to have a firearm they carry for self-defense used against them by an attacker?
It is difficult to answer this question because there is no evidence to support this sexist claim. Many of these people are the same people (correctly) arguing that women are capable of being law enforcement officers. Without knowingly encouraging women to be placed in an unjustifiably dangerous line of duty (criminals taking firearms from female officers), the opponents simply cannot maintain these two contradictory positions. The fact is that women are as capable as men in being trained in the safe, effective use of firearms for self-defense.
What should be the response to those PPA opponents who contend that “we teach our children that conflict should not be resolved through weapons and violence?”
PPA proponents do not believe that a woman stopping a sexual predator from successfully completing his attack is a form of “conflict resolution.” It is a means of exercising what most citizens view as a natural right to self-defense. The experience of the 46 states with concealed carry laws shows that permit holders do not attempt to resolve simple “conflicts” with their concealed firearms. The opponents’ fear-mongering claim that debates over the identity of the NFL’s best quarterback will turn into shootouts is not happening. Law-abiding Wisconsinites who acquire a permit will not prove to be the exception to this rule.
Why shouldn’t citizens rely on law enforcement for their protection?
As most law enforcement officers understand, the nature of their work is reactive, not proactive. They arrive on the scene after a person has been victimized in an effort to apprehend the perpetrator and console the victim if he or she is still alive. Also, the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that the state is not responsible for the protection of individual citizens, only for the protection of society as a whole. In Castle Rock, Colo. v. Gonzales (2005), the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed this principal. This is why the families of murder victims do not sue local law enforcement for failing to protect their loved ones. When states like Wisconsin prohibit citizens from carrying firearms for self-defense, they on one hand contend, “We are not responsible for your protection” while on the other hand they actively deprive citizens of the most effective means of self-defense when they are outside of their homes. These two concepts are simply irreconcilable.
Is it appropriate for those people who refuse to carry a firearm and assume responsibility for their own safety to mandate that other citizens do the same against their will?
Of course, this is inherently wrong, especially when taking into account the fact that most citizens view self-defense as a human right. If some citizens choose not to carry a firearm for self-defense, they are exercising their right. Proponents of the PPA do not intend to mandate that these people carry a concealed firearm. They simply want the ability to make decisions for themselves. This freedom to choose becomes more unassailable when taking into account the experience of the 46 states that realized no problems associated with allowing law-abiding citizens to carry firearms.
Is self-defense a natural right?
It is hard to imagine anything more natural than defending yourself from harm. This is illustrated by the fact that self-defense does not require conscious thought - fight or flight mechanism - and is exercised by all animals. The renowned 18th Century English jurist, Sir William Blackstone, viewed self-preservation as a natural right when he wrote, “No government could take from the people the right to protect themselves because no government could protect an individual in his time of need.” The U.S. Supreme Court has approved the common law rule that a person “may repel force by force” in self-defense and concluded that when attacked a person “was entitled to stand his ground and meet any attack made upon him with a deadly weapon, in such a way and with such force” as needed to prevent “great bodily injury or death.” Further, the laws of all 50 states and the constitutions of 44 states recognize the right to use armed force in self-defense.
Is it true that a “study” indicates that 3,370 Texas permit holders were arrested after the enactment of the state’s “shall-issue” concealed carry law?
Yes. However, opponents of the PPA present this number in isolation and it is therefore extremely misleading. The dramatic effect intended to be conveyed by opponents dissipates like the air from a balloon when taking into account the fact that there were 213,000 permit holders in Texas at the time of the study and the arrests occurred during a span of over four years. Furthermore, the arrests were for any offense for which a citizen could be arrested, including traffic violations. Immediately, 840 annual arrests for any and all offenses are appropriately deemed extraordinarily few. This works out to be only two arrests a day out of a population approaching a quarter of a million people. Only a small fraction of the total arrests involved the use of a concealed firearm. As the supposedly damning study illustrates, the truth is that permit holders in Texas are much less likely to be arrested than members of the general public in the state.
How does the arrest rate of Texas permit holders compare to the arrest rate of the general public in Texas?
According to information from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), permit holders were 5.7 times less likely to be arrested for violent offenses than the general public – 127 per 100,000 versus 730 per 100,000. They were 13.5 times less likely to be arrested for nonviolent offenses than the general public – 386 per 100,000 versus 5,212 per 100,000.
All of this is true despite the fact that permit holders subject themselves to a greater risk of arrest. Many arrests of permit holders involve “technical” offenses associated with carrying their firearms into one of many prohibited areas (something non-permit holders are not subject to). Also, virtually any permit holder who presents a firearm or shoots a criminal in self-defense is arrested until authorities determine whether the action was justified. This is the primary reason why 55% of permit holders arrested for violent crimes are eventually cleared of the charges according to DPS data.
What organization performed the “study” of Texas permit holders?
It was conducted by the Violence Policy Center (VPC), a gun-control advocacy group that openly advocates for a nation-wide ban on the private possession of handguns. Obviously, the group intended to show Texas permit holders in a negative light. Unfortunately for it, a closer look at the arrest data in context of time and the number of permit holders shows just the opposite – the extraordinarily responsible and law-abiding behavior of permit holders in the Lone Star State.
Does the “study” suggest that permit holders are 66% more likely than non-permit holders to be arrested for “weapons-related offenses?”
Yes. This can be easily and innocently explained by the fact that permit holders, by carrying a firearm on a daily basis, are more likely to unintentionally carry a firearm into a prohibited location (a “weapons-related offense” according to the study), as already discussed. This disclosure is as “earth-shattering” as one from a study that exclaims that people with driver licenses are 66% more likely than non-permit holders to be arrested for “traffic offenses.” Of course, this is not shocking. It only stands to reason because driver license holders drive on public roadways where traffic offenses occur. The Violence Policy Center went to great lengths to suggest these “weapons offenses” involved the use of a firearm. The fact is that the vast majority was for “technical” violations involving a holstered firearm.
In 2001, the year VPC conducted its “study,” the Texas Department of Public Safety reported on conviction rates for permit holders. For all “weapons-related offenses,” permit holders were convicted for 48 offenses. Most of these applied only to permit holders (i.e. carrying in a prohibited location). Citizens without permits were convicted for 3017 offenses. Again, when the hard numbers (48 total convictions out of 213,000 permit holders) are disclosed, the dramatic effect intended by VPC dissipates.
Why do PPA opponents refer to “arrests” instead of “convictions” when discussing the “study” of Texas permit holders?
This is a tactic used to inflate the number of permit holders who appear to violate the law. Because many permit holders are cleared of the charges for which they are arrested (over 55%), the “conviction” number would be much smaller and, therefore, less dramatic. As already discussed, the police almost always arrest citizens who protect themselves in public with a firearm in order to provide time for an investigation to ensure the act was justified. This results in the exceptionally high rate at which charges are dropped against permit holders.
What is the actual revocation rate of permits in Texas?
Consistent with other “shall issue” permit states, the Texas permit revocation rate is a fraction of one percent. Specifically, according to the Texas DPS, from 1/1/96 to 5/1/02 only 0.7% (1,724) of the 240,506 valid permits were revoked for any reason. Many of these were revoked for technical “location” violations and offenses unrelated to firearms (i.e. DUI). Of course, this conveniently goes unmentioned in the Violence Policy Center’s “study.” This extremely low permit revocation rate and total number of revocations is more evidence that the 3,370 arrests celebrated by the Violence Policy Center is misleading at best.
How can all of this information associated with the arrests of Texas permit holders be put into proper perspective?
Imagine Texas Permit Holder City, a city with a population slightly greater than Madison’s (208,000 as compared to 213,000 Texas permit holders). Now imagine that only 840 citizens of Texas Permit Holder City are arrested for crimes of any kind, including traffic offenses, during any given year (two per day). It would be the safest large city anywhere in the country and probably anywhere in the world. This paints the picture of the law-abiding nature of Texas permit holders. It’s not the picture that PPA opponents want the citizens and policy makers of Wisconsin to see.
These two arrests a day in Texas Permit Holder City compare to 50 arrests a day in Madison, as reported by the Madison Police Department in 2004. If PPA opponents point to Madison as a model of safety, they should be in awe of the law-abiding conduct of the 213,000 Texans with permits.
Does Florida’s experience with permit holders bolster this claim of exceptionally law-abiding conduct in Texas?
Yes. While PPA opponents will talk endlessly about the biased, misleading “study” of Texas permit holders, they will not discuss Florida’s experience. It was the state that began the trend toward "shall issue" laws in 1987. According to the Florida Secretary of State's website (http://licgweb.doacs.state.fl.us/stats/cw_monthly.html) the state has issued 1,078,647 permits since 1987. Only 155 of those permits have been revoked because of “firearms-related offenses” (0.014%). The vast majority of these were for technical “location” violations. 117 of the revocations did not involve the discharge of the handgun and another 31 included discharge without intent to harm.
Why does the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association (WCPA) oppose the PPA?
Chiefs of Police are experts in dealing with criminals, not law-abiding citizens. As the experience of the other 46 states indicates, they should not fear the law-abiding citizens who obtain permits because they are an exceptionally trustworthy segment of the population. If there is any evidence to support WCPA’s claims of threats to public safety and, specifically, law enforcement officers, why have they failed to present a single law enforcement organization in any of the 46 states that is clamoring to repeal the law in its state? Is it because these organizations are indifferent to public and officer safety or is it because law-abiding citizens really have proven themselves to be trustworthy? The answer should be obvious.
It should be noted that chiefs of police and sheriffs who oppose the PPA currently enjoy the ability to carry concealed firearms to defend themselves and their families while off-duty. Because they choose one, admittedly heroic, line of work for a profession, does not mean other, equally heroic, professionals (firefighter, EMT, military, nurse etc.) should not enjoy the same opportunity to defend themselves and their families. The current system establishes law enforcement as a privileged elite.
Do rank-and-file law enforcement officers support a citizen’s ability to carry concealed firearms?
Polling of rank-and-file law enforcement officers has indicated overwhelming support for “shall issue” permit legislation. Because of the nature of their job, most police officers recognize that, despite their best efforts, they cannot be everywhere all of the time to protect everyone. They understand that the potential victim, him or herself, is often the first line of defense against a violent criminal. The Milwaukee Police Association, Law Enforcement Alliance of America and Wisconsin’s Fraternal Order of Police have all supported the PPA. Most rank-and-file law enforcement officers in Wisconsin appreciate the fact that they will retire one day and want to ensure that they continue to have the ability to carry a concealed firearm to protect themselves and their loved ones from violent attack. The PPA provides them with this ability.
How has law enforcement responded to similar proposals in other states?
As is the case with the PPA, many local and national law enforcement organizations have supported the enactment of concealed carry laws throughout the country. However, there have also been law enforcement groups that have opposed the legislation. Virtually without exception, these groups have withdrawn their opposition after the law was implemented without all of the horrific problems predicted by opponents. Glen White, the President of the Dallas Police Association is an example of a converted opponent. He opposed the Texas “shall issue” legislation in 1993 and 1995 contending that law enforcement officers would be put in jeopardy. Since the enactment of the law in 1996, he has stated, “All the horror stories I thought would come to pass didn’t happen… No boogieman. I think it’s worked out well, and that says good things about the citizens who have permits (240,000). I’m a convert.”
It is troubling that some law enforcement organizations have not learned from the experience of their fellow law enforcement officials in the 46 states with concealed carry laws. They are reminiscent of the flat-earthers who stubbornly clung to their beliefs despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
How will law enforcement know who is armed when they confront a citizen?
Some PPA opponents in the law enforcement community have contended that the passage of the PPA will change the relationship between law enforcement and the citizens. If these law enforcement officials would take the time to speak with their counterparts in the 46 states that allow concealed carry, they would learn that this is not true. Other opponents have contended that law enforcement will have to assume that every citizen they come into contact with is armed. This statement has been echoed by a number of law enforcement officials in local newspaper articles. This is concerning because every police recruit should already be trained to make this assumption. Not assuming this leads to complacency and danger. As everyone knows, criminals are already illegally carrying firearms. Law enforcement must assume the worst so that they are prepared to react properly if threatened by an armed criminal.
Should law enforcement have unrestricted access to the list of permit holders?
Recent comments from Wisconsin police chiefs have made it evident that open access could be dangerously abused. One police chief has reported that he will instruct his officers to approach all permit holders with guns drawn and at the ready. Another suggested that the list should be available so the police know whom to interview as potential suspects in the area around a shooting. These comments are outrageous to the law-abiding citizens who will apply for permits. The permit holders in other states have proven themselves to be extraordinarily law-abiding. If anything, these people who have passed the rigorous application process should be viewed with the least suspicion, not treated as violent criminals. Regarding links to vehicle registration, this would not enhance officer safety because the registered owner is not always the operator or only person in the vehicle.
Have any permit holders ever used their concealed firearm to harm a law enforcement officer?
No. None of the tens of millions of permit holders across the country through the years has ever even attempted to shoot a law enforcement officer in the line of duty with a firearm carried pursuant to a permit. In fact, there are dozens of reported accounts of permit holders assisting law enforcement officers in dangerous situations. In light of this decades-old case study, it is difficult to understand why some law enforcement representatives continue to contend that law-abiding citizens who carry concealed firearms for self-defense pose a threat to law enforcement.
If this is correct, why did the Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association issue a press release in 2004 claiming that there was an incident that occurred in Connecticut?
Questioning the integrity of Senator Dave Zien, the primary Senate sponsor of the 2003 PPA, the Association reported the shooting of two state troopers in Connecticut by a handgun permit holder (a part-time police officer). Senator Zien had correctly reported that there had never even been an attempted shooting of a law enforcement officer committed by a permit holder carrying a handgun pursuant to a permit anywhere in the country. After all, the Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs are unjustifiably concerned that permit holders will act violently at traffic stops and in other public settings. As any reader of the press release would recognize, the Connecticut incident occurred at the shooter’s home, where no permit is needed to carry or possess a handgun. Furthermore, the incident included the use of a rifle (the CT permit only applies to handguns) and there was no indication that the shooter ever carried his handgun concealed in public. In Connecticut, virtually every handgun owner is legally required to obtain a permit in order to simply transport an unloaded handgun to a shooting range.
It was telling that the Association grasped desperately at this one incident not involving actual carry pursuant to a permit. Handgun permit laws have existed for over 80 years. There have been tens of millions of permit holders over these eight decades. The Association’s misrepresentation of this isolated incident further illustrates the incredibly law-abiding and responsible conduct of the nation’s concealed firearms permit holders.
It is important to keep this deceptive press release from the Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association in mind when PPA opponents report other supposed instances of permit holder misconduct. One question must be asked: Did the concealed firearms permit play a role in the incident? Clearly, when incidents occur at the firearm owner’s home, the answer is a resounding “no.” Concealed firearms permits have nothing to do with obtaining or owning firearms but everything to do with carrying them in public. Similarly, when the incident involves firearms not protected by the permit (this Connecticut case involved a rifle in addition to two handguns), PPA opponents cannot legitimately contend that the permit facilitated the act.
Why shouldn’t Wisconsin enact a “may issue” system instead of the “shall issue” system proposed in the PPA?
A system that allows a government official (usually a sheriff or chief of police) to arbitrarily deny a law-abiding citizen the ability to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense is a system prone to abuse and discrimination. The experience in jurisdictions that have enacted “may issue” permit systems indicates that permit applicants are discriminated against based on race, socio-economic status, political affiliations etc. Permits are often issued because of campaign contributions, personal friendships, individual wealth and celebrity status. In other words, it’s not the black single mother of three, working two jobs to make ends meet, who must walk through a crime-ridden neighborhood at midnight who is issued a permit. Instead it is the celebrity with political connections who is statistically less likely to be victimized who receives favorable treatment. In these instances, the process provides the unsavory appearance that one citizen’s life is more valuable than another’s.
PPA opponents contend that they favor a “may issue” system because only “those who need a gun should carry one.” It is arrogant of them to assume they know who needs and does not need a means of self-defense. One could assume that many of the 12,000 annual violent crime victims in Wisconsin did not know that they “needed” a means of self-defense prior to their victimization.
Is it true that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has suggested to the Legislature that it pass the PPA?
Yes. In State v. Munir Hamdan, the Court suggested that the Legislature implement a permit system allowing citizens to carry concealed firearms for self-defense. It made this suggestion because of the current conflict between the statutory prohibition of the concealed carry of firearms and the provision in the State Constitution specifying an individual right to bear arms for personal defense and security. The Court is concerned that this conflict may require that every case involving the carry of firearms outside of the home be considered on a case-by-case basis by the courts in order to assess the interest of the state versus the self-defense interests of the citizen as protected by the State Constitution. If left unresolved, this conflict may threaten to overwhelm an already burdened court system.
In light of the systemic abuses associated with a “may issue” system, why did the Wisconsin Supreme Court suggest the implementation of a system that allows for the issuance of permits to those citizens who demonstrate a “need?”
It must be remembered that the Supreme Court is charged with determining whether laws are constitutional and legal. It is not intended to be a political body that determines the value of one public policy over another. The Court was only interested in having the Legislature put an end to the ambiguous nature of the current statute prohibiting the carrying of firearms. It can be assumed that the Court was unaware of the dramatic differences between a “may issue” and “shall issue” permit system.
Do “permissive” concealed firearms laws lead to more gun deaths, as PPA opponents claim?
No. Opponents use historical differences between states in the South and the Northeast to attempt to mislead policy makers and the public. There has always been more violence of all types in the South than in the Northeast. Concealed firearms laws (most enacted within the last 15 years) have nothing to do with this. The FBI recently reported that the country’s murder rate is at a 40-year low. This comes at a time when the number of states with concealed firearms laws has never been higher (46). If the opponents’ claims were remotely accurate, one would assume the murder rate would be at an all-time high, not a 40-year low.
Similarly, “gun deaths” are not a good measure of effects caused by permit laws because permits have nothing to do with accidents and suicides (majority of all gun-related deaths). Because opponents claim that a laminated permit will convert an otherwise law-abiding citizen into a ‘bloodthirsty killer,” the only pertinent category of death is firearm homicides. Contrary to the emotional claims of opponents, only nine of the 15 states with the highest firearm homicide rates are “shall issue” permit states. Notably, 12 of the 17 states with the lowest firearm homicide rates are “shall issue” permit states.
Professor Carl Moody, an economist at the College of William and Mary, has done a new economic analysis of the effect of Right-to-Carry laws on crime. He has criticized recent studies that claimed Right-to-Carry laws increase crime. Moody’s study found that in the long run, the laws reduce overall crime, with “a significantly negative net effect on murder across all the adopting states.”
Why are suicide prevention advocates opposing the PPA?
It is difficult to determine because there is no evidence to indicate that passing concealed carry laws is correlated in any respect with suicide. Many PPA opponents refer to flawed studies indicating that suicide rates may be higher among firearm owners than non-owners. Gun owners are notably self-reliant and exhibit a willingness to take definitive action when they believe it to be in their interest or the interests of others close to them (ending their life in the midst of a financially straining terminal illness in order not to be a burden on their families). As criminologist Gary Kleck contends, “The study’s main flaw is its failure to control for preexisting psychological differences between gun owners and non-owners.” (New England Journal of Medicine, December 1994)
Does the increased availability of firearms lead to an increase in the number of suicides?
No. Suicides committed with firearms may increase but all evidence indicates that those intent on suicide will find alternative means if firearms are not available. This is evidenced by the fact that a number of countries with extremely limited private ownership of firearms have much higher suicide rates than in the U.S (11.8 per 100,000). Examples are Japan (18.0), Germany (15.8) and Russia (26.6). Similarly, it only stands to reason that a country with high private automobile ownership rates will have higher rates of suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning than a country with low auto ownership rates.
Members of the anti-gun public health community have written numerous articles that seek to blame an increase in suicide among young American males upon increased “gun availability.” They fail to inform their readers that while suicide among American males aged 15 to 24 increased 7.4% from 1980 to 1990, the increase in England was more than 10 times greater (78% during the same time period), with car exhaust poisoning being the leading method of suicide in a nation were gun ownership is severely restricted.
Have there been any indications of increased accidents due to enactment of RTC?
No. In fact, firearm accident deaths have been decreasing for decades. Since 1930, the annual number of firearm accident deaths has decreased 76%, while the U.S. population has more than doubled and the number of privately owned guns has quintupled. Among children under the age of 15, such deaths have decreased 89% since 1975. Firearm accident deaths are at an all-time low among the entire U.S. population and among children. In 2002, there were 762 such deaths (0.7% of all accidental deaths in the U.S.), including 60 among children under the age of 15. In light of the dramatic increase in population and gun ownership, this is a remarkable safety record. Specifically, this safety enhancement has occurred at a time when the number of states with concealed carry laws has never been greater. This clearly refutes the claims of PPA opponents. If the opponents’ dramatic, fact-deficient claims were true, the number of firearm accident deaths would be at an all-time high, not an all-time low. (Accident data from the National Center for Health Statistics)
What about the right of PPA opponents to “feel safe?”
This is a common and unfortunate refrain from PPA opponents. Unlike the right to bear arms for self-defense in the Wisconsin State Constitution, there is no explicit right to “feel safe.” The concept of personal safety is extremely subjective -- one person’s idea of feeling safe may be a self-defense firearm being available while another’s may include never leaving the security of home. If the PPA is passed, citizens will have the right to make themselves safe, as is explicitly referenced in the State Constitution.
How does the $75 permit fee proposed in the PPA compare with the fees charged by other “shall issue” states?
Of the 16 states that issue permits through a statewide office (i.e. Department of Public Safety, Secretary of State’s Office etc.), Wisconsin would rank as the ninth most expensive. The least expensive is $25 in North Dakota and the most expensive is $140 in Texas. Of the 38 “shall issue” states, regardless of the entity responsible for administering the process, the $75 fee proposed in the PPA would be the sixteenth most expensive. It is clear, based upon the experience of the other states over many years, that the proposed fee will be entirely adequate to fund the costs of administering the system.
What have polls indicated regarding the public’s view of the right to carry a concealed firearm?
There have been only two scientific polls conducted regarding the carrying of concealed firearms in Wisconsin, both in October 2003. Opponents conveniently focus on the Badger Poll that supposedly showed that the PPA was favored by 27% of Wisconsinites and opposed by 69%. However, the poll question did not ask about the highly regulated permitting process proposed in the PPA. It only asked whether the respondent favors or opposes a proposal “to allow people who can legally own handguns to carry concealed weapons in most public places.” This question was misleading at best. For instance, the question did not indicate that there are many citizens who can legally own firearms who would not qualify for a permit (i.e. violent misdemeanants, multiple DUI offenders etc.). It also failed to mention any of the requirements that must be met to obtain a permit and restrictions on carry. Some of these include the permitting requirement, criminal background check, minimum age of 21, firearms safety course, places where carry is prohibited and ability of private property owners to prohibit concealed firearms. The Badger Poll involved 511 respondents and had a margin of error of four points.
A poll conducted by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, an opponent of the PPA, was far more telling. It asked two questions related to concealed firearms. The first was very similar to the question in the Badger Poll. Its results were also similar, showing 31% support and 63% opposition. The second question included mention that a permit applicant must acquire a permit from a county sheriff and complete a firearms safety course. With just these two simple provisions being included in the question, the results changed dramatically. Support for the PPA grew to 49% and opposition shrunk to 46%. It can be assumed from this trend that the addition of further details, such as the minimum age of 21 and criminal background check, would have further grown support. The Council on Children and Families Poll involved 600 randomly selected Wisconsinites and had a margin of error of four percentage points. It is interesting to note that without Madison and Milwaukee, the numbers in support would have been well over 50% even with the question providing limited information.
Is it right for the state to deny citizens the means of self-defense when it knowingly releases violent criminals from prisons on a daily basis?
No, this is a wrong and dangerous practice. Of course, the American system of justice includes the release of prisoners back into the general community after their sentence is served. This is a well-established practice. However, the process includes releasing convicted murders, sexual offenders, and robbers, knowing that a significant number will re-offend. It is unconscionable that a state would deny its law-abiding citizens the means to defend themselves against these released offenders when outside of their homes, where most violent crime is committed.
Is there any truth to the opponents’ claim that “shall issue” permit laws have passed throughout the country in order to provide more revenue for gun manufacturers?
Of all the outrageous claims made by PPA opponents, this is the most difficult to dignify with a response. The millions of permit holders throughout the country and the millions of others who adamantly support such laws but whose government denies them the ability to obtain a permit care about one thing – their ability to defend themselves and their loved ones from violent criminal assault. They do not care about the bottom line of the world’s gun manufacturers. It is wrong to question their motivation. Those who make this truly ridiculous claim would also likely argue that mandatory seatbelt laws were the result of aggressive lobbying by the nylon industry, ignoring the true motivation of driver and passenger safety.
Why does the PPA provide for the recognition of permits issued by some other states?
Most of the 38 “shall issue” states recognize permits issued by other states. Ten states, like with driver licenses, allow for “full recognition” of all other states’ permits. These states have not experienced any problems caused by out-of-state permit holders. There is no reason to believe Wisconsin’s experience will be an exception to this rule. The fact that permit holders from other states possesses a valid permit shows that they have been responsible and trustworthy in their home state. Nothing suggests that the permit holder’s law-abiding conduct will change upon entering Wisconsin.
What are the permit revocation rates of all of the states that report such data?
Permit revocation rates are the best available measure of the conduct of permit holders. However, it should be noted that the majority of revocations are for technical violations and offenses unrelated to a concealed firearm (i.e. DUI). The information is taken from the agency responsible for reporting in each state.
Florida: 1,078,647 issued, 155 (0.01%) revoked for firearms-related offenses(10/87-8/05)
Kentucky: 71,770 valid permits, 585 (0.8%) revoked for any reason (10/96-12/01)
Louisiana: 18,758 issued, 131 (0.7%) revoked for any reason (11/96-3/04)
Oklahoma: 35,329 issued, 108 (0.3%) revoked for any reason (2/02)
North Carolina: 261,828 issued, 727 (0.3%) revoked for any reason (12/95-10/04)
South Carolina: 33,492 issued, 164 (0.5%) revoked for any reason (8/96-5/02)
Texas: 240,506 valid permits, 1,724 (0.7%) revoked for any reason (1/96-5/02)
Tennessee: 130,187 issued, 1,126 (0.9%) revoked for any reason (12/96-5/02)
Utah: 44,173 issued, 565 (1.3%) revoked for any reason (1/02)
Virginia: 172,347 issued, 372 (0.2%) revoked for any reason (7/95-4/02)
Wyoming: 7,480 issued, 20 (0.3%) revoked for any reason (10/94-2/02)