The Violence Policy Center has a long record of cooking data to try to build a national case against civilian ownership of firearms.
They’ve failed, of course; more Americans own guns today than ever, while the idea of a link between crime and the demonstrably law-abiding armed citizen is almost too specious for modern physics to measure. Gun control is a third rail like few others in American politics.
Which doesn’t mean they won’t try; the VPC – the very definition of an astroturf group – has masters with deep pockets to obey. And so they keep cranking out the material.
The “study” summary:
As the impact of lax CCW laws grows, the evidence is now overwhelming that these laws have completely failed to reduce crime or increase public or personal safety.
Overewhelmingly lacking, at any rate; John Lott proved the case, and while astroturf hacks like the VPC may jump up and down and cry otherwise, they are bringing jackknives to sword fights.
But that’s really not the issue:
On the contrary, these laws have armed individuals who have murdered law enforcement officers and innocent citizens. Review of the devastating facts surrounding the 30 incidents detailed in this study alone should immediately halt any effort to create a national concealed carry system and, in addition, impel the
repeal of state “shall issue” laws allowing the carrying of concealed handguns.
Well, it’s an interesting conclusion. Although not only is it not borne out by evidence in general, but even the VPC’s own evidence, viewed in detail, convincingly refutes the VPC’s own claim.
- Over the two-year period May 2007 through April 2009, concealed handgun permit holders have slain seven law enforcement officers resulting in criminal charges or the suicide of the shooter. All of the killings were committed with guns. An additional three law enforcement officers were injured in these incidents.
- Over the two-year period May 2007 through April 2009, concealed handgun permit holders have slain at least 43 private citizens resulting in criminal charges or the suicide of the shooter. All but one of the killings were committed with guns. An additional six private citizens were injured in these incidents.
- In six of the 30 incidents (20 percent), the concealed handgun permit holder killed himself, bringing the total fatality count to 56.
So let’s look into the numbers in detail. As noted above, “Carry permit holders” accounted for seven dead and three wounded law enforcement officers; 43 dead and six wounded citizens, and six suicides (all of them after other shootings).
But if you look at the individual cases, some facts emerge that the VPC found inconvenient to stress. I broke them out into several categories:
- Self-Defense Cases Gone Seemingly Awry: One of the problems with self-defense claims is that ones’ decision to respond to an attack that needs to be made in seconds under mind-warping pressure will be picked apart by prosecutors and jurors who have leisurely days and weeks to judge the results. Two of the killings – one not charged as of yet, one resulting in a manslaughter conviction – fit this description.
- Self Defense Against Law Enforcement Officers: One of the trickiest cases in all of self-defense is when a citizen believes – legitimately or not – that a law enforcement officer (whether known to them or not) presents them a lethal threat. Law enforcement enjoys special protections under the law – usually for good reasons. But cops screw up, too; in Minneapolis a few years ago, a SWAT team executed a no-knock raid – on the wrong address. The owner of the house, an Asian man in a crappy neighborhood crowded with scumbags, had no idea who was charging into his house; he was eventually exonerated. In the VPC report, two law-enforcement officers (federal and local) were killed and two wounded. In one case, the killing was the result of a seemingly stupid response on the part of the shooter, and ended in a manslaughter charge (although, significantly, not murder). The other killing, and the two wounded, were the result of no-knock raids seemingly gone awry. Note that these cases all took place in the citizens’ dwellings – and thus have nothing to do with the carry permits. You don’t need a permit, in most places, to have a gun.
- Accidents: One of the killings was an accidental shooting involving a pistol owned by a carry permittee. Tragic, certainly – but it has nothing to do with the permit.
- Shooters Who Shouldn’t Have Gotten Permits: It’s generally agreed that people with criminal records, or records of mental illness or just-plain-violent behavior, should not be granted permits. When this happens, it’s usually a matter of less-than-thorough investigation by the granting authority (usually a county sheriff), or, as is the case in jurisdictions where permits are issued purely by police discretion (this was the case in a shooting in New York state), faulty use of discretion. Shootings involving people who should never have been issued permits included 12 incidents, involving 24 dead and two wounded.
And with all of those out of the way – the ambiguous cases or the people who should never have gotten permits at all – that leaves us with the actual, unambiguous crimes where a carry permit holder did something for which they were clearly, unambiguously at fault; Ten cases, involving 20 deaths. It’s skewed a bit, of course, as it includes one mass murder case, the Michael McClendon case in Alabama which claimed ten people and the shooter.
Of course, concealed carry permits are hardly a direct contributor to mass spree killings; many have happened at the hands of people with no hope of ever getting a permit. But for purposes of dealing with the article, let’s grudgingly count it among the 20 unambiguously wrongful deaths where no blame is shared with other peoples’ negligence.
Now – how many carry permits have been issued nationwide? Nobody has a complete count, but the general rule seems to be about 1% of eligible citizens seem to apply; that ratio holds true in Minnesota (5 million people; over 50,000 permits issued). Other states are higher, some might be lower. Now, about 220,000,000 Americans live in states with shall-issue laws, or with no restrictions at all (Alaska and Vermont, where no permit is required); it seems reasonable to assume that 2.2 million Ameircans have some sort of carry permit.
2.2 million Americans with permits divided by 20 murders committed over the course of two years equals less than .5 murders – half a murder – per 100,000 carry permittees per year. Even using the VPC’s numbers exactly as they are in the “study” means the 2.2million permittees are responsible for 56 wrongful deaths over the course of two years (ambiguous or not, related to carry permitting or not) gives a murder rate of about 1.4 per 100,000 permitted Americans. Of course, the chance of any American being wrongly killed by a permit holder (using the VPC’s statistics, which as we’ve seen above are poppycock) are .014 per 100,000 Americans.
The overall murder rate in America in 2007 was 5.9 per 100,000. In other words, Americans are 1/421th (roughly) as likely to be murdered by a carry permit holder as they are by a typical citizen – and that’s using the VPC’s numbers without qualification, which as we’ve noted in the past, one should never do. If we leave out the ambiguous cases, the accidents and the others that have nothing to do with concealed carry, the average American is almost three orders of magnitude less likely to be killed by a legal carry permit holder than by, say, anybody else.
Let’s be clear, here; we want no unjustified killings by holders of carry permits, which are supposed to be a tool for the law-abiding.
But when you see this VPC study being flogged by the media, pass the word; there’s less there than meets the eye.
About 1/421th as much.