Following the mass killing of 20 first grade children and six adult staff in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012, former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded herself by a gunshot to the head in a mass shooting in January, 2011, issued the following statement:
In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimized tens of thousands of Americans, and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary — nothing at all.
On December 6, 2017, in passing the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 (CCR Act), the U.S. House of Representatives once again proved that Congresswoman Giffords’ assessment was too kind. Instead of taking action to stop gun violence, the House of Representatives voted by a margin of 231-198 to facilitate it.
The CCR Act provides that someone who can legally carry a concealed handgun in one state – even if no permit at all is required in that state – can legally carry the concealed gun in every other state in the Union, regardless of the gun laws in the other states.
A committee of the National Academy of Science conducted an extensive review of the effect of concealed carry laws and concluded that the available evidence does not support claims by the gun lobby that allowing private citizens to legally carry concealed weapons reduces crime. On the contrary, the Violence Policy Center has documented over a thousand firearm related killings committed by persons with concealed weapons (CCW) permits since May of 2007, including numerous mass shootings, murder suicides, and murders of police officers. Another study by the VPC showed that over a five year period, Texas CCW permit holders were arrested for 5,314 crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, child molestation, and kidnapping. Moreover, CCW permit holders were arrested for weapons related crimes at a rate that was 81% higher than the general population. Another study of CCW permit holders in Florida showed that over 1,400 individuals who had pleaded guilty or no contest to felonious crimes had subsequently been granted CCW permits.
There is no credible evidence to support the romantic notion that someone with a concealed handgun is likely to be able to stop a mass shooting in progress. In a study of 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013, the FBI found only one case in which an armed bystander other than an off duty police officer or a paid security guard stopped the shooter. In 21 cases, unarmed bystanders successfully disabled the shooter. In the aftermath of the mass shooting in which Congresswoman Giffords and 12 others were wounded and six people, including a nine year old girl and a district court judge were killed, a bystander with a concealed handgun nearly shot Ken Veeder, the unarmed man who took down the shooter, Jared Loughner. One of the authors of the FBI report on active shooter incidents, J. Pete Blair, has warned, “The last thing you want to do in an active shooter event is to pull your gun and go looking for the shooter.” Drawing a gun, he warns, increases the chances of being shot and killed by the shooter, by someone else with a concealed handgun, or by police who respond to the incident.
There is also no credible evidence to support the argument that carrying a concealed weapon protects the individual gun owner. In fact, a study of assault victims in Philadelphia showed that someone who was carrying a gun at the time of the assault was more than four times more likely to be killed than someone who was not carrying a gun.
Despite the extensive evidence that carrying concealed handguns confers much greater risk than benefit both to the person carrying the gun and to the general public, the NRA has been remarkably successful in getting states to adopt liberal concealed carry laws. Currently, 11 states don’t require any permit at all for people to carry concealed handguns. Of the other 39 states that do require permits for concealed weapons, 30 have “shall issue” policies that allow authorities little nor no discretion in refusing to issue a permit if the person requesting the permit is not prohibited by state or federal criteria from owning a gun. The other nine states have “may issue” policies under which authorities may refuse a request for concealed weapon permit from a legal gun owner if the authority believes the person requesting the permit doesn’t have a good reason for carrying a concealed handgun or is otherwise at risk for misusing a firearm.
Gun violence has been appropriately called America’s “shameful epidemic.” There is no mystery as to why the United States is the only high income democratic country in the world in which mass shootings occur on a regular basis or why the rate of gun related deaths in our country is 10 times higher than the average in other civilized nations. It’s because of our lax gun control laws. And there’s no mystery regarding what we need to do to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our country. We need to adopt stringent gun control laws comparable to the laws that have long been in place in every other high income democratic country of the world. The 231 members of the House of Representatives who voted to make requirements for carrying a concealed handgun in every state as lax as the requirements in the weakest state should be ashamed.