Permits Soar to Allow More Concealed Guns

Proponents Say Practice Cuts Crime; Police Raise Concern

A growing number of Americans are getting permission to carry firearms in public—and under their clothes—a development that has sparked concern among some law-enforcement authorities.

Applications for “concealed-carry” permits are soaring in many states, some of which recently eased permit requirements. The numbers are driven in part by concern that renewed gun-control efforts soon could constrain access to weapons, along with heightened interest in self-defense in the wake of mass killings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.

Since July 1 of last year, Florida has granted more than 173,000 new concealed-carry permits, up 17% from the year before and twice as many as five years ago, for a total of about 1.09 million permits in the state.

Ohio, meanwhile, is on pace to nearly double last year’s total of 65,000 new permits, which would be nearly three times as many as in 2007. And Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wyoming and Nebraska all have nearly matched or surpassed last year’s totals with half of 2013 still to go.

A dozen states surveyed for this article, including Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, issued 537,000 permits last year, an 18% increase compared with a year prior and more than double the number issued in 2007. Early figures for 2013 show many states are on pace for their biggest year ever.

About eight million Americans had concealed-carry permits as of last year, the Government Accountability Office said in what it called a conservative estimate.

“I suppose it’s the same reason people are reporting gun sales are up and ammunition sales are up,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, referring to concern among gun owners about the recent push for gun control. “It’s nothing unique in Ohio.…It seems to be a consistent trend across the board.”

States across the U.S. have loosened restrictions amid a spate of mass shootings in public spaces, making it easier to get concealed-carry permits and allowing concealed weapons in more places, including schools, churches and bars.

Some leaders in law enforcement call the increasing requests for concealed-carry permits unwelcome, citing safety concerns. Thomas Dart, sheriff of Illinois’s Cook County, which encompasses Chicago, said that although the effect on crime is disputed, more people carrying guns “makes our job more difficult.”

“Without the gun, it’s a fistfight. With the gun, it’s a shooting,” he said.

Craig Steckler, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said he could remember only “one instance in which someone effectively defended himself” with a firearm during his 21 years as police chief in Fremont, Calif. Otherwise, “it’s a whole lot of cases of guns being used not in ways they’re designed: kids shooting themselves, gun-cleaning accidents, crimes of passion, that sort of thing.”

Research is split on whether more armed citizens deter or exacerbate gun violence. Economist John Lott, a conservative commentator and author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” said data show concealed-carry laws reduce violent crime.

But the National Research Council, part of the congressionally chartered National Academies, has disputed links between concealed-carry laws and drops in crime. And the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun control, said that since 2007, concealed-carry permit holders have fatally shot about 500 people, that 128 of them have been convicted of manslaughter or homicide, and 36 have committed murder-suicides.

In 2008 and 2010 rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment to the Constitution grants broad license to keep and bear arms in the home. But the court left unclear whether and to what degree the right to carry a weapon extends outside the home, leaving states largely free to set up their own rules.

In 2002, seven states banned concealed-carry, according to the GAO. By later this year, every state will allow it.

Ten states require applicants to show “good cause” to get a permit. But 39 states—10 more than in 2002—grant permits to anyone who meets a few basic requirements, such as a clean criminal record and proof of residency.

Residents of Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming and Vermont don’t need permits to carry a concealed weapon. In 2002, that was the case only in Vermont.

The surge in applications in recent months is linked at least in part to the Newtown tragedy, which rekindled a national gun-control debate at state and federal levels. Many permit holders say they feel safer carrying a gun, or knowing they could bring one into a potentially dangerous situation.

“Everyone has the right to be responsible for his or her own personal safety,” said Bob McGinty, a small-business owner in Golden Valley, Minn., who obtained a concealed-carry permit earlier this year, after Minnesota made them cheaper and easier to get.

While Connecticut, Colorado, California, New York, Delaware and Maryland have tightened gun restrictions this year, at least 20 states have loosened laws on concealed-carry, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which tracks and advocates for gun-control laws. States have streamlined the permit process, made concealed-carry records confidential or lifted bans on carrying concealed firearms in many public places.

Texas stopped requiring concealed-carry permit holders to undergo training to renew their licenses, West Virginia stopped requiring background checks for permit renewals, and Louisiana introduced lifetime permits.

Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said: “Crime can happen anywhere, and it’s reasonable for people to have an effective means of defending themselves and their loved ones.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323689204578573763575086702.html?mod=djemITP_h

 

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Posted on July 5, 2013, in Government, Guns/NRA, New York, Politics, Washington DC and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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