By Dale Bowling
A few days ago a Federal Appeals Court declared Illinois' ban on Carrying a Concealed Weapon (CCW) unconstitutional. Illinois is the last state in the Union to not have a CCW law on the books. The Court gave Illinois 180 days to pass their own version of a Concealed Carry Law. Opponents have vowed to fight the decision.
Proponents of CCW say that the 2nd Amendment gives them the right to bear arms. They say that self-defense is a right of Americans and as the Court specifically stated that right does not end when a person leaves the home. Lastly, they say that violent crime on average is down since similar laws were passed in other states.
Opponents say that more guns is inevitably going to lead to more gun violence. They also question whether oversight on CCW is effective given the numerous cases where violent offenders and the mentally ill were found to possess CCW permits.
There is a problem with the conversation though. There are two separate questions that tend to get jammed together. The rights question and the efficacy question.
In other words, 1) Do you have the right to a firearm? and 2) Is it a good idea to have a firearm?
Gun Control advocates tend to say no to both questions and Gun Rights Advocates say yes to both questions.
Leaving aside the first question, let's just ask the second. Does owning a gun make you safer?
There haven't been really good studies on the effects of concealed carry on violent crime. Period.
The pro-CCW studies that do exist state that violent crime has gone down on average since these laws have been on the books. The problem here is that violent crime was already going down before CCW was on the books and despite public perception that crime is getting worse and worse, violent crime has been going down steadily on average since the 60s. So it's not clear that CCW had anything to do with that.
Lacking good studies on CCW, it makes sense to look at studies of the classic case of "someone broke into my house and he/she had a gun" to see if being armed makes you safer when confronted by an armed assailant.
The most relevant study, cited in the American Journal of Public Health showed that when a homeowner had a gun and the home invader also had a gun, the homeowner was between 4.46x and 5.45x more likely to be shot than if the homeowner was unarmed. The study concluded that the combination of an intruder who felt his safety was in jeopardy (and was therefore more jittery) and a homeowner who felt more confident (and was therefore more likely to seek confrontation), accounted for the increased incidences of injury among homeowners with guns.
Does this tell us anything about CCW? Well, probably. As the Federal Appeals Judge said, the issues involving self-defense don't change just because you're not in your house. CCW will lead to more people feeling confident in confronting assailants and more criminals who feel they are losing control of the situation.
Bad things are likely to happen as a result, but only time will tell.