Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Why disarm the good guys?

A recent editorial in the Omaha World-Herald was critical of the concealed carry law adopted by the Unicameral and signed into law this past Spring. LB 454 allows qualified residents of Nebraska to carry a concealed handgun. The right to carry requires a permit, which is subject to several important limitations, including a minimum age of 21; a criminal background check indicating freedom from crimes involving violence, weapons, or controlled substances; and completion of safety training.

Omaha is currently considering a local rule that would curtail the right to carry within the city limits. The World-Herald editorial backs these limits, and citizens on both sides have been speaking out. Opponents of concealed carry don’t like the idea of guns, and many seem to have in mind an ideal world in which there are fewer guns, which they link to fewer incidents of violence.

I can understand why some folks have a personal visceral reaction about weapons so that they do not want to own them or carry them. (Guns are potentially dangerous, after all, especially in the hands of the wrong people. If you are one of those people, good for you for not carrying one.) But I cannot understand why these folks believe that banning the right to carry by qualified citizens would somehow make the world less dangerous.

You can bet that gangsters who want to carry guns, and who are responsible for most of the gun violence in our communities, are not the ones who will be applying for these permits. Their weapons will still be on the street regardless of this bill, which has no effect on the number of weapons in their hands.

Instead, responsible citizens, who would ordinarily not carry weapons if it were illegal to do so, are the ones empowered by the right to carry legislation. Their power -- and right to defend themselves -- is also eviscerated by its repeal.

So why support a law that disarms the good guys? Those who wish to repeal the right to carry should bear the burden of proof in showing that the dangers they suspect will indeed come to pass, and that those dangers are greater than the deterrent effects of responsible, armed citizens. It strikes me as implausible to predict that the hypothetical possibility that one of the good guys who can get the permit to carry will do violence with the weapon (something which, by the way, I have never read about) will outweigh the very real deterrent effect that an armed citizenry may have in protecting themselves from crime, or in preventing it in the first place (which I have read about frequently). (Of course, my own reading habits are not solid social science data. But that data is out there. Consider for example John Lott, More Guns, Less Crime, University of Chicago Press 1998. Thanks to my smart pal Ralph for lending this to me.)

Florida Governor Jeb Bush, commenting on the decreasing crime rates in Florida (now at their lowest since 1971), attributed these beneficial results in part to concealed carry laws there allowing Floridians to be armed. That story can be found here.

A regulatory approach that doesn’t trust citizens to do good, but instead trusts the bad guys to simply go away and take their illegal guns with them, is foolish. I’m not a Nebraskan, and thus I am not eligible for the right to carry under LB 454. But I’m rooting for eligible Nebraskans on this one.


1 comment:

mike said...

Using the theory increased gun carrying lowers crime, should we arm people as they board planes? Jeb Bush makes the common error of connecting cause and affect where none exists.