Justification of Conceal-Carry Programs

Robert J. Helmer

12/01/99

kostyarh@homemail.com

http://robhelmer.tripod.com/

Abstract

            Gun control is a political hot potato in America. To believe the media, America is under siege by armed mad men; school and workplace shootings have brought the issue to the forefront. In American culture, firearms are being demonized as the causes of violence. In the face of sociological research, more and more people are convinced that guns, inanimate objects, are responsible for violence.

            The political rhetoric allows politician to dodge the real causes of crime. While treating the symptoms rather than the sickness, millions of Americans are needlessly exposed to violent crime each day.

            The below paper outlines the actual effect of conceal-carry programs and focuses on two groups: low income families and women. At the end of the paper, author commentary on the issue, evidence, application, and rhetorical value of the paper’s thesis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

 

            Recent school shootings have received endless coverage by the media. To a television viewer, it would appear that virtually every school in America is under siege. ‘Assault’ rifles are mentioned almost every night. That same viewer might think that police are constantly at war with criminal groups armed with military equipment. Politicians talk of violence as a public health issue. They seem to say to that television viewer that guns are the cause of violence; if they could only be eliminated, society would be so much safer.

            That’s the flaw of ‘conventional wisdom.’ Conclusions based on thirty second sound bites rarely qualify as ‘informed.’ To watch the violence, both real and pretend, in the news, television shows, and movies creates a world view where everyone is ‘armed and dangerous.’

            In reality, guns are inanimate objects that can be used for good or evil. Contrary to the image a television viewer might absorb, guns are overwhelmingly used for good purposes such as self defense. A handgun is a very effective way defend against  burglary, assault, rape, and murder.

            Unfortunately, this ‘conventional wisdom’ has grabbed the attention of the American people, the media, and the politicians. To solve a real social problem requires a real solution not just rash policy decisions that sound good at a press conference.

            To reduce violence and crime, the root causes must be found. Attempting to take away the only tool a  mother or father has to protect his family against a criminal only makes the victim look more helpless and more attractive as a target.

 

Guns as Defensive Tools

 

            Each year, private citizens use guns in self defense between 1.9 and 2.5 million times[1]. In the vast majority of these cases, the citizen merely brandishes the gun without shooting.[2]  In 83% of the instances where the victim has a gun the criminal either surrenders or flees[3]. Criminals fear meeting up with an armed homeowner more than the police[4]. Felons often explain avoiding late night burglaries because, “that’s the way to get shot.”[5]

 

Firearms and Sexual Assault

 

            A handgun may be the most effective way to stop a rape. Women tend to be weaker than men; a handgun serves as an equalizer. In 1966, Orlando started a program to teach women how to use firearms. By the end of 1967, rape in Orlando had dropped 88%. The rate of rape remained stable in the rest of the state.[6] In 1979, the Justice Department determined that, of 32,000 attempted rapes, 32% were successful. When the potential victim was armed with a knife or a gun, the success rate dropped to 3%[7]. In 89.6% of violent crimes directed towards women, the attacker does not have a firearm[8].

            Ultimately, the more likely it is that a woman is armed the less attractive a target she is. Even people who chose not to carry a concealed weapon benefit from being part of a community that appears prepared.[9]

Firearms and Low Income Neighborhoods

 

            Low income neighborhoods, whether in the inner city or a rural district, tend to have higher rates of both personal and property crime. Often entire neighborhoods are controlled by street gangs. Drugs are sold and used openly. Unfortunately, the poor neighborhoods which most need extra police protection are the least likely to have a steady police presence. At the worst end, there are neighborhoods where the police simply will not respond to calls after dark. While these neighborhoods have a definite criminal element, the majority of people who live in these areas do so because they can’t afford to move out.

            The unfortunate irony of this situation is that low income neighborhoods tend to by subject to the strictest regulations concerning firearms. The places that most need a reduction in crime are blocked by politicians. While politicians from outside of the area make policy decisions, the segregation of municipal resources becomes visible.

 

 

Safety Concerns

 

            To the television viewer, it might appear that thousands of children are killed each year in firearm accidents. The statistics do not support that figure. Many estimates on child mortality figures with firearms accidents include instances of child abuse[10]. Also, over the course of the last few years, children’s’ deaths by firearm accident have been decreasing.[11]

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

            While dangerous, guns are a necessary tool in American life. Though demonized as an instrument of repression and violence, Americans overwhelmingly use their firearms for good purposes. Used responsibly, a conceal-carry program can be empowering to group who traditionally have been powerless. Much must rest upon the individual, but personal responsibility is a very important and positive part of self-government.

 

 

Commentary

Conventional Wisdom

            Conventional Wisdom is a key term for any sociology student. Conventional Wisdom is a belief based on non-scientific information. For example, a student at university in Southern California may believe, from his own experience, that colleges are diverse communities. The student can draw no accurate conclusion without seeing the racial make up of colleges in the Midwest or South.

            Sociology is scientific; the goal is to reach accurate conclusions by focusing on statistics and demographic trends. Ideally, this filters out personal opinions.

            Gun control is a great issue in this context. Proffessors who preach the value of statistical data over uninformed impressions often turn 180 degrees when this subject comes up. Suddenly sensationalist media become credible and academic studies become suspect.

 

Politics of Guns

            The recent occurance of high profile school shootings has led to the largest push for gun control in America’s history. Unfortunately, it seems that politicians are concerned more with the appearance of being ‘tough on crime’ than addressing the very real problems in society that cause violence and crime. Guns are tangible objects and thus easy targets. It’s far more difficult to actually pinpoint the causes of violence in society. It’s actually frightening to imagine that something ‘unseen’(media violence, family collapse, radical changes in values) could be causing people to do heinous things. Somehow it is comforting to have a known evil rather than unknown.

            The reality is that firearms are very rarely used in crimes. As the statistics in the above paper show, firearm conceal/carry permits are proven empirically to decrease crime without creating a Wild West society.

            I can’t claim to know what caused the students at Columbine to kill their classmates and teachers. I can say with certainty, however, that the responsibility for their actions in theirs.

            Someday, I will be married and have a family. I want my children to feel safe in school and at home. I don’t want to worry about my wife, son, or daughter being the victim of a crime. I want legislation that will work, not just be another law passed for the image of a politician.

If you have any questions about this paper or need research help on this topic, you can email me at:

 

kostyarh@homemail.com

 

Rob Helmer

 

 

robhelmer.tripod.com

           

       



[1] Kleck and Gertz, (1995)

[2] Kleck and Gertz, (1995)

[3] Bovard (1995)

[4] “The potential defensive nature of guns is indicated by the different rates  of so called hot burglaries, where residents are at home when the criminals strike. Almost half the burglaries in Canada and Britain, which have tough gun control laws, are ‘hot burglaries’. By contrast, the United States, with laxer restrictions,  has a ‘hot burglary’ rate of only 13%. Consistent with this, surveys of convicted felons in America reveal that they are much more worried about armed victims than they are about running into the police.”  Kopel (1992)

[5] Lott and Mustard (1997)

[6] Kleck (1991)

[7] Kleck (1988)

[8] Kates (1990)

[9] “Women who carry concealed handguns provide a greater margin of safety for other women. While murder rates decline when either more men or more women carry concealed handguns, the drop is even greater among women than among men. Rapists are particularly susceptible to the deterrence of a potentially armed woman.” Gallant (1999)

[10] Kleck

[11] “From 1970 to 1991, the number of fatal gun accidents for children aged 0-14 declined from 530 And according to the National Safety Council, the decline has continued as there were only 181 fatal gun accidents for children in that age group in 1995.”National Safety Council, Accident Facts (1998)