“An Armed Society is a Polite Society”

The National Rifle Association slogan, “An Armed Society is a Polite Society”, expresses a trend that has been quietly sweeping the nation in recent years. All across America, states have been enacting laws that allow for the concealed carrying of handguns. The laws in many states allow the granting of permits to individuals that pass a background check and complete a gun handling course. Some states further require that the applicant provide proof that they have a need to carry a concealed weapon. Ohio is one of many states that has been considering a concealed-carry law.

Many state law-enforcement organizations have also supported concealed-carry laws. In Colorado, 53 of the state's 63 sheriffs voluntarily issue concealed-carry permits to citizens who pass a background check. As these peace officers recognize, the government cannot guarantee the safety of citizens in their daily lives. Therefore, I feel the government should not prevent a responsible, trained individual from seeking to protect themselves.

Since federal, state, and local, governments have no legal duty to protect citizens from crime, and police departments do not even claim that they can stop a majority of violent crimes in progress, even when those crimes are committed in public places, who is responsible for public protection? It is not the responsibility of government to provide for the individual safety of every citizen. If we are expected to provide for our own safety, then we should be allowed every available means. In considering a concealed-carry law, citizen safety and reduced crime rate data provide major supporting arguments.

Since several stories of rape and murder have received tremendous press in recent years, the Central Park murder for example, concealed-carry laws could help reduce these and allow citizens to feel safer. If a gun permit helps a woman feel safe enough to go jogging , her increased sense of security is an important social benefit -- even if she never has to draw a gun. Marion Hammet, the new president of the National Rifle Association and an activist in the Florida concealed-carry debate once used her handgun to ward off a gang of would-be robbers. In addition, when Alaska governor Walter Hickel signed the concealed-carry legislation in 1993, he explained that the constituents he found most compelling were “the women who called and said they worked late and had to cross dark parking lots, and why couldn't they carry a concealed gun?”

Would it not be prudent to use a method, however controversial, proven to lower the rising crime rate? A Tennessee Law Review study showed that before the concealed-carry law Floridians were 36 percent more likely to be murdered than other Americans. After a few years, the Florida murder rate was equal to or slightly lower than the national average. A University of Chicago study of crime data from 3,054 counties found that a substantial reduction in homicide and other violent crimes followed the passing of concealed-carry law. The University of Chicago study also estimated that if all the states that did not have concealed-carry laws in 1992 adopted such laws, there would be approximately 1,800 fewer murders and 3,000 fewer rapes annually. Therefore, for the sake of lower crime rates and higher public safety, the enactment of concealed-carry law would be beneficial for Ohio.

Many people oppose the concealed-carry laws out of fear that our city streets will turn into blood baths. However, the concealed-carry laws do not return states to the Old West; only 1% to 4% of the population ends up getting handgun permits, and about a quarter of permit-holders are women. When Florida's law went into effect, in September 1987, Miami's police chief ordered his officers to compile detailed reports of all police encounters with permit holders. The number of permits increased from 1,200 to 21,092 between September 1987 to August 1992, when the police department decided that the behavior of permit holders did not merit further study. Of the 315,000 permit holders, in Florida, there have been only five convictions in instances of criminal misuse of a firearm. In addition, one permit holder unthinkingly attempted to enter the secure area at Miami's airport with a firearm in her purse, and another accidentally shot himself in the leg. Permit holders are not angels, but they are an unusually law-abiding collection of citizens. In Florida, for example, permit holders are about eight hundred times less likely to perpetrate a gun crime than Floridians without permits. This should not be at all surprising: a person could carry a concealed handgun without a permit and, unless he gives himself away by committing some other offense, he would never be caught. Hence permit applicants tend to be those citizens willing to pay a fee (usually not more than $100) to comply with a law they could probably break with impunity. What we can say with some confidence is that allowing more people to carry a gun does not cause an increase in crime.

Of course, everyone is a potential beneficiary of concealed-carry reform. Since criminals do not know which of their potential victims are armed, even people without concealed-carry permits would enjoy increased safety from any deterrent effect. Moreover, a Psychology Today study, of “good Samaritans” who came to the aid of violent-crime victims, found that 81 percent were gun owners, and many of them carried guns in their cars or on their persons. Concealed-carry laws are no panacea for the high rates of crime in this nation, but it will be an important component of an anticrime strategy based on the right and duty of good citizens to take responsibility for public safety.

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