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In anti-gun fever, media misses some crucial facts

February 18, 2018, at The Hill

By John R. Lott, Jr.


Gun control advocates often bank on scaring people into supporting their agenda. That’s how they’re fighting a “reciprocity” bill that requires concealed handgun permits to be honored in all 50 states — just like driver’s licenses. The scaremongering was on full display last Sunday, in CBS News’ “60 Minutes” lead segment by Steve Kroft on the dangers of concealed carry.

It comes at a strange time considering Wednesday’s Florida high school attack, where 17 people died in a “gun-free” zone. For that matter, all mass public shootings in Florida have been in places where general citizens weren’t allowed to defend themselves, and since 1950, over 98 percent of mass public shootings in the U.S. have occurred in these gun-free zones.

In November, the House of Representatives passed the reciprocity bill by a 231 to 199 vote. Senate Democrats are pledging to filibuster it, and Fox News reported that Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), would give “his blessing only for a handful of vulnerable lawmakers to support it.”

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill Tweeted out a summary of what he told Americans on CBS: “Some states require no background check, no license, & those who've committed violent/domestic or gun-related crimes, the mentally ill, & drug & alcohol abusers can legally buy/carry guns. CCRA effectively makes that the national standard.”

Is CBS News unable to afford fact-checkers? Even if people don’t understand the concealed carry laws, they ought to know that people can’t carry unless they can legally own a gun. And you can’t own a gun if you have committed any violent crime, let alone a crime with a gun. People can't own a gun if they have been adjudicated as mentally ill; if they have ever been involuntarily committed for treatment; or if they use illegal drugs. People can check the federal prohibitions here.

There’s been fear-mongering every time a state has passed laws letting law-abiding citizens carry concealed handguns. The debate is always rife with speculation about blood in the streets and permit holders irresponsibly trying to take the law into their own hands. But those fears have never materialized, and now every state in the country has a law allowing people to carry concealed handguns. Today, there are over 16.4 million Americans with permits.

Forty-two states have relatively liberal right-to-carry laws that let people carry once they have met certain objective criteria. Often, all you have to do is be 21 years old and pass a criminal background check. Over half of the states have training requirements.

Eight other “may issue” states require that applicants demonstrate sufficient “need” for a permit. This gives local public officials discretion to refuse you a permit.

No state has ever even held a single hearing on repealing right-to-carry, much less actually repealed such a law.

60 Minutes kept expressing fear about out-of-state permit holders traveling through other states. But for most of the country, reciprocity is already a fact of life. The average state allows permit holders from 32 other states to travel freely. But the eight “May Issue” states pull down that average, with only Delaware recognizing permits from other states. Despite 16.4 million people having concealed handgun permits, gun control advocates can’t point to any examples of existing state reciprocity laws causing trouble.

Permit holders are extremely law-abiding, being convicted of firearm violations at thousandths of one percentage point, and usually for fairly minor offenses. Permit holders are even unusually law-abiding drivers, being 12 times less likely to drive recklessly or under the influence.

Despite the claims made during that episode of 60 Minutes, the vast majority of police have consistently been ardent supporters of civilian concealed carry. Listing off a dozen police chiefs gave viewers a misimpression of what police think.

No one says that support is unanimous, but a 2016 survey of more than 3,000 members of the National Association of Chiefs of Police found 86 percent supported nationwide reciprocity. In 2013, PoliceOne, an organization of about 380,000 active and 70,000 retired officers, surveyed its members and found over 91 percent support for concealed carry.

If you still have doubts, ask a police officer whether they feel threatened when they pull over a concealed handgun permit holder, and they may admit to being relieved because they know how law-abiding concealed handgun permit holders are.

CBS picked people on the opposing side to interview who don’t know very much about the subject. In response to Congressman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) claiming that he didn’t think concealed handgun laws increased violence, Steve Kroft asserted: “that conclusion has been refuted by numerous studies.” But Kroft got it backwards. Two-thirds of the peer-reviewed published studies using U.S. data show that concealed handgun permits reduce violent crime. The other third claim that the laws have no effect. No published peer-reviewed study has shown that right-to-carry laws increase murder, rape or robbery.

The show tried to sow fear about the lack of training standards in many states. Yet, 97 Democrats in the House and 24 in the Senate live in the 28 states that Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown views as having insufficient training requirements. You don't find these Democrats criticizing their own states’ concealed handgun laws. The rate at which permits are revoked in these supposedly dangerous is incredibly low — as low as in the other states with more stringent requirements.

New York City Police Commissioner O’Neill called it “insanity” to let people who can legally carry concealed handguns in their home state carry when they travel. But gun control advocates have been wrong time after time when each of the 42 right-to-carry states has adopted their laws. They are destined to be wrong a 43rd time.

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