Would you feel safer having more loaded and concealed guns being carried in the public places you and your family visit?
On the one hand, the gun lobby wants to force concealed weapons (unconnected to law enforcement) into nearly every place you can imagine, including National Parks, college campuses, airports, even churches.
On the other hand, most Americans probably agree with the statement President Obama made on concealed weapons during his campaign:
I am not in favor of concealed weapons. I think that creates a potential atmosphere where more innocent people could (get shot during) altercations.
Gun advocates - including many who comment on this blog - repeat the mantra that gun owners with concealed carry permits are all "law-abiding citizens," and that the public can trust all permit-holders to be responsible no matter where they insist on carrying their loaded semi-automatic pistols.
In the comments to my post last week, for example, someone pointed to a Tennessee concealed carry permit-holder recently charged with murder. In a response characteristic of many gun advocates, another commenter replied, "After years, you got one. When you get to thousands ... let me know."
Yet examples of criminals and other dangerous people with concealed carry permits are not hard to find. A new report seems to pop up every week, and the incidents that find their way into newspapers very likely under-represent the phenomenon. Indeed, one of the agenda items for the gun pushers is keeping information on who have these permits private, thus making it less likely that the public will know whether permit-holders are contributing to the violence.
The fact is that too many gun owners with concealed carry permits are not law-abiding citizens, while some permit-holders are so incompetent they shouldn't be allowed near a firearm in the first place, whether they've committed a crime or not. Just having a permit isn't reason enough to force loaded, concealed handguns into churches, airports, colleges, National Parks, and other places that Americans want to keep protected from gun violence.
- In Florida, a permit-holder pleaded guilty to second-degree murder; another was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm after a road rage incident; another was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and impersonating a law enforcement officer; another was charged with attempted second-degree murder, multiple counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and battery; a permit-holder and teacher (who is also reportedly a suspect in a battery case with a DUI record) faces felony charges of possessing firearms on school property; another was charged with violating his license after allegedly admitting he was under the influence of alcohol and armed in a bar; another allegedly shot his wife in the chest by accident while showing off his gun; another was charged with the negligent manslaughter of his girlfriend; another was charged with the murder of a Federal Customs agent; another accidentally shot himself in the leg outside a Wal-Mart store; another allegedly killed a man in a road rage incident; another accidentally shot himself in the leg at a "Downtown Disney" parking lot; another was charged with first degree murder. There is also the revelation that a Florida-certified firearms instructor allegedly sold concealed carry permits to people who hadn't passed a training test. Finally, New York Giants football player Plaxico Burress had a Florida permit until last May, just six months before he shot himself in the leg in a New York City bar. These incidents come on the heels of the Florida Sun-Sentinel series of investigative reports in 2007 finding 10 times as many Florida concealed carry permit-holders with dangerous or criminal records than previously admitted by the state. Ever since Florida first passed concealed carry in 1987, it has been one of the four most violent states in America.
- In Ohio, a permit-holder pleaded no contest to negligent assault after accidentally shooting a 10-year-old girl in the stomach; another was charged with aggravated menacing; another was convicted of aggravated menacing in a road rage incident; another was killed in a confrontation in an apparent "case of a person committing suicide by provoking police"; another was arrested with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit and pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while impaired and improper handling of a firearm; another was charged with inducing panic after firing shots over a school baseball field; another is on trial for the aggravated murder of a police officer.
- In Pennsylvania, a permit-holder (who allegedly had cocaine in her system) was charged with the murder of an FBI agent; another was charged with two counts of terroristic threats; another was charged with reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and discharging a gun in public; another was charged with two counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault; another was charged with simple assault, stalking and harassment, and endangering the welfare of a child; another was charged with a triple murder.
- In South Carolina, a 4-year-old girl shot herself in the chest inside a Sam's Club store with the gun of her grandmother, a permit-holder and magistrate judge; another permit-holder was arrested after leaving his loaded pistol on a playground for a 7-year-old girl to find; another was charged with wanton endangerment after admitting that "he brandished a Glock Model 27 at [a] woman because he was angry with her for driving too slowly."
- In Tennessee, a permit-holder was recently charged with murdering someone in an argument over a parking space (mentioned above); another pleaded guilty to assault after allegedly threatening his wife; another was arrested for impersonating a police officer; another permit-holder, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Brandon Jones, pleaded guilty to taking his loaded gun into Nashville International Airport; another 99 Tennessee permit-holders were found to have felony convictions, DUI charges or orders of protection against them; as many as 200 were discovered to have disqualifying domestic violence records.
- In Texas, a college-age permit-holder was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after an altercation at a child's soccer game; permit-holder and country singer Billy Joe Shaver was indicted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawfully carrying a handgun connected with a shooting outside a bar; permit-holder and talk-show host Russ Martin was charged with beating his fiancee and brandishing a handgun; another permit-holder shot himself in the groin. This is eight years after the Los Angeles Times reported that Texas had "licensed hundreds of people with prior criminal convictions - including rape and armed robbery - and histories of violence, psychological disorders and drug or alcohol problems."
- In Utah, a permit-holder was charged with impersonating a police officer; another, a suspected sex offender, committed suicide in a police station; a college-age permit-holder was charged with aggravated assault after pointing his handgun at a carload of teenagers; another shot himself in the foot; another accidentally shot an acquaintance in the back, killing him; another accidentally shot a toilet inside a restaurant while pulling up his pants. Utah's weak permitting system has come under scrutiny in recent months, leading to a rare, but welcome partnership between elements of the gun lobby (though not the NRA) and gun violence prevention advocates to help strengthen it.
- In Virginia, a permit-holder was charged with second-degree murder; another was charged with possessing a weapon on school property while allegedly drinking beer; two other Virginia permit-holders recently were caught at the point of sale by a Brady criminal background check, showing that between receiving a permit and buying a firearm, permit-holders can easily fall into prohibited categories without having their licenses revoked.
- An Arizona permit-holder was charged with 14 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and four counts of endangerment after a shootout with police.
- A Georgia permit-holder was arrested in Florida and charged with driving while intoxicated, racing and possession of a firearm while intoxicated, after allegedly driving drunk at 90-mph with two semi-automatic pistols on his lap. (Georgia and Florida share reciprocity.) As a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation later said, "I don't know of any way to prove [that Georgia permit-holders] are law-abiding or disprove it, because there's no record to say one way or the other."
- An Indiana permit-holder was charged with operating a car under the influence of alcohol, a concealed carry permit violation, possession of a firearm in a motor vehicle while intoxicated, and marijuana possession; two others were charged in connection with separate road rage incidents; another was just arrested for allegedly waving his gun at a Mardi Gras party after reportedly saying, "I'll shoot anybody."
- In North Carolina, a permit-holder was charged in a double murder; a licensed firearms instructor was just arrested for selling firearms safety certificates required to get concealed carry permits, and was charged with solicitation of another to commit a felony. According to the report, "Deputies said they had not yet been able to determine how many of Smith's certificates were authentic and how many were fake."
- In Washington, a permit-holder "with a history of drug addiction and schizophrenia" pleaded guilty to negligent assault in a shooting at the Seattle Folklife Festival.
To be clear, this shouldn't be seen as an indictment of all gun owners, and it has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. Most gun owners (as well as most non-gun owners) are law-abiding and responsible.
However, given incidents like these in just the past few months, and the life and death consequences of firearm misuse, Americans have good reason to want most places in public life to be gun-free - including free from guns in the hands of concealed carry permit-holders.