Friday, December 14, 2012

What will Concealed Carry Mean for Illinois?

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.

1 comment:

  1. I think your presentation of gun rights advocates is a little extreme.

    The people I know who argue in favor of the right to keep and bear arms believe that everybody should have the ability to exercise their rights without infringement. In the case of the 1st Amendment, they can choose to go to a church of their choice, or be an agnostic, without the government telling them who, what and how to worship. Likewise, the 2nd allows citizens to own a firearm if they wish. If people do not feel comfortable with guns or do not wish to own or carry one for whatever reason, that is their right. No person in favor of gun rights would insist that someone be forced to carry a gun against their will, but the opponents of guns would see everybody rendered defenseless regardless of their personal wishes.

    While many of the folks who speak out against guns have good cause, a significant percentage explain their hesitation due to their own fears of overreacting if they had one and using it in response to minor provocations... in other words, they see their own weakness in those around them, and as a result wish to see everybody else disarmed.

    This is a psychological phenomena known as projection, and it represents people's fears about their own behavior more than any real or substantiated threat from external sources.

    You claim "there are no good studies on CCW", yet there were multiple studies conducted in several states (Florida and Texas come to mind) after the passage of their CCW bills, as folks wanted to see if a problem would arise.

    IIRC the FL study was scheduled to last 10 years, but was cancelled after 4 when it was shown that the folks who were completing the forms, going through the background checks and training and paying the fees weren't the ones causing problems with guns to start. The Texas study was similarly shortened due to a lack of criminal activity by permit holders.

    You mention one study, but fail to mention that studies proclaimed as showing that people with guns get injured resisting criminals also demonstrate that people who simply gave up were also assaulted, often with higher frequency than those who fought back.

    Additionally, the problem with many of the studies that claim homeowners are at greater risk for owning a gun is that they fail to consider a few important things, like whether or not criminal activity was taking place at the residence, the criminal history of the resident and the intruder and if the resident had a gun before the incident or if the intruder brought it there.

    Those considerations seem important to me, as I would think that a gang member dealing drugs out of his residence might be at a higher risk of a home invasion or shooting incident involving a customer or competitor that a person who is not regularly engaging in criminal behavior or having friends with criminal histories regularly visiting their home.

    Why is the ability for law abiding citizens to be able to confront criminals on a more equal footing a bad thing?

    Why is being a victim preferable to being a free citizen?