The Local paper in DE Does a pretty fair article on CCW reform.


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Master Blaster
January 17, 2006, 09:50 AM
A push for looser gun laws
Delaware considers plan to make concealed weapons easier to carry
By J.L. MILLER
The News Journal

01/15/2006
For Wilmington lawyer John J. Thompson, the question of whether Delaware should make it easier for law-abiding residents to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun is a simple one.

“You ought to be able to defend your life and the life of your loved ones. I think that’s a basic human right,” said Thompson, who holds a concealed-carry permit and is president of the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association.

For the Rev. Derrick Johnson, who works to bring peace to some of Wilmington’s meanest streets, the issue is equally basic.

Notice How they picked a 2x convicted felon, who murdered somone with a gun to speak out against legal CCW
“I know too well, being from the ghetto, being a person who was dumb enough to steal and carry a gun and foolish enough to use it, I know full well that good citizens in the heat of passion can use a gun,” Johnson said.

Both points of view seem certain to get a full airing soon in Legislative Hall because the sportsmen’s association is mounting a legislative push to change Delaware’s law to make it easier to get a concealed handgun permit.

Right now, the law requires a person to demonstrate a compelling need for such a permit and convince a Superior Court judge to issue it.

Under a proposed bill, which has not yet been introduced, the judge “shall issue” the permit if the applicant meets a defined set of requirements and no grounds are presented for denying it. The legislation would bring Delaware in line with the 34 other states that have “shall-issue” permit systems.

The proposal, which is also backed by the National Rifle Association, is expected to rekindle a debate that flared in Delaware a decade ago. At that time, stiff opposition from then-Gov. Tom Carper and the Delaware Police Chiefs Council was enough to bury the bill.

This time, the outcome may be different.

Last week, nearly 1,000 people packed the largest meeting room in Dover’s Modern Maturity Center to call for a shall-issue system in Delaware – and Gov. Ruth Ann Minner stopped by to pay her respects.

Minner did not speak at the event, which featured NRA President Sandra Froman and the organization’s chief Capitol Hill lobbyist, Christopher Cox.

But the governor was praised for her work as a legislator in helping amend the Delaware Constitution to guarantee citizens “the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State,” and for her stance on other firearms-related bills as governor.

“She is a very, very good friend of gun owners,” Thompson told the crowd.

In an interview, Thompson said Minner has “indicated to us that she’s supportive of our efforts. She hasn’t promised to sign it; we haven’t asked her to promise to sign it.”

Through a spokeswoman, Minner said she agrees the law should be changed but would not comment further without seeing the actual legislation.

The proposal again could face opposition from the police chiefs council, according to its president, Newport Police Chief Michael Capriglione.

“You’re talking about putting more guns on the street, whether you like it or not,” Capriglione said. “We would definitely be cautious on anything that’s basically going to make it like the wild, wild West.”

Influential proponents

Opposition by police leaders might not be enough to stop the bill this year.

House Majority Leader Rep. Wayne A. Smith, R-Clair Manor, and Senate President Pro Tem Thurman Adams Jr., D-Bridgeville, said such a bill would stand a good chance of passage in their chambers.

The sportsmen’s association and the National Rifle Association have significant influence in Dover, particularly since Minner replaced Carper in the governor’s mansion. Carper and his predecessor as governor, Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., supported gun-control laws.

In recent years, the NRA was able to win passage of bills under which Delaware recognized carry permits issued by other states, clarified what needed to be taught in classes required for carry permits and, most recently, established a handgun hunting season.

The NRA also made more than $8,000 in contributions to legislative candidates during the 2004 election cycle.

The sportsmen’s association also successfully pressed for legislation in the past two years protecting firing ranges from being forced out of business when residential developments encroach and new residents complain about noise or danger.

Rep. Nancy Wagner, R-Dover North, attended the meeting at the Modern Maturity Center and is a likely co-sponsor of the bill. Wagner said her constituents “feel very strongly about this issue, and I have to support my constituents.”

The shall-issue movement got its start in Florida, which enacted its statute in 1987 amid dire predictions that simple disputes would escalate into shootouts if more people were carrying guns.

Those predictions fell far short of the mark. Since 1987, more than 1.1 million concealed-carry licenses have been issued in Florida, according to that state’s Division of Licensing.

From 1987 through the end of 2005, only 157 licenses – .01 percent – were revoked due to criminal misuse of a firearm.

In addition, in the five years that followed enactment of the shall-issue statute, Florida’s homicide rate fell 23 percent while the rate for the United States overall rose 9 percent.

Some scholars, most notably John Lott in his book “More Guns, Less Crime,” have suggested a cause-and-effect in shall-issue states: Having more armed citizens means criminals become reluctant to prey on others for fear of being shot, so the crime rate drops.

Others have disputed Lott’s findings, including the National Academy of Sciences and the Stanford Law Review, which attributed the drop in violent crime in large cities to the end of the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic, not liberalized gun laws.

In the years since Florida adopted its statute, the shall-issue movement snowballed. The NRA made it one of its top priorities, and 34 states now have similar statutes.

In this region, Pennsylvania and Virginia have shall-issue statutes, while in Maryland and New Jersey it is difficult or almost impossible for average citizens to obtain concealed-carry permits.

Legal process

Backers of shall-issue legislation stress that legal safeguards would remain if Delaware changes its system.

And anyone who wants to buy a handgun still would need to work his or her way through the state and federal firearm sales approval process. That requires a federal and a state criminal-background check, and a signed statement that the potential buyer has never been hospitalized for a mental illness.

In Delaware, permit applicants still would have to pass a criminal-background check, place a legal ad to notify the public of their intentions and complete a training course. In addition, the judge still would be able to deny the permit if the state or a member of the public presented convincing evidence that the permit should not be granted.

Opponents of shall-issue laws include the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which calls them a “one-size-fits-all approach” and contends that judges, sheriffs or other law-enforcement officials should have “broad discretion to deny permits when they believe it is in the interest of public safety.”

Adam Golden is among those who say the current system is too cumbersome.

The 29-year-old New Castle County resident decided last year to get a concealed-carry permit. Golden is a process server. He serves subpoenas, protection-from-abuse orders and other legal papers to people who don’t necessarily want to receive them.

His job often takes him into high-crime areas.

So Golden filled out the application, swearing that he had never been convicted of a felony or a crime of violence, had never been committed to a mental institution, had never been convicted of a drug offense and had not been declared a juvenile delinquent for committing a felony.

Question 12 on the application asks the applicant to list “Reason for Application (Be VERY Specific).”

“I actually listed some of the areas that I had to go into. I listed everything I possibly could that would make my chances better of getting the license,” Golden said.

For Question 12, Golden wrote: “I enjoy coming home to my wife and little daughter every night.”

He passed the required training course and placed the required legal ad to notify the public that he was applying for a permit. He paid his $34.50 filing fee, handed over two passport-style photos, filed the application with the prothonotary’s office and waited.

His criminal-background check went smoothly.

“I got one letter from the [Attorney General’s] Office, saying that they found no reason for me to not get it, but that it was in the hands of Superior Court,” Golden said. “Then I received a letter from Superior Court that I was declined. They don’t even give you a reason.”

Applicants who receive a rejection letter have 10 days to appeal the ruling, and a hearing is held in open court.

Golden filed an appeal and showed up at the New Castle County Courthouse, where a deputy attorney general asked him a few questions before the hearing got under way.

“After that, she said, ‘I have no reason that you should be declined,’ ” Golden said, and when the hearing began, the prosecutor told the judge the same thing. Golden’s permit was issued, and he now carries a .45-caliber Kimber semiautomatic.

The weapon makes him feel safer. “Extremely. Even if I’m not working, I have it with me 24/7.”

Golden called the current process “absolutely brutal,” and he strongly favors a shall-issue system.

“The more stringent the gun laws, the more you’re hurting only the people who legally own guns. Criminals aren’t paying attention to the laws, anyway,” Golden said.

Shot a man

Johnson, pastor of Wilmington’s Joshua Harvest Church, has been on the wrong side of the gun issue. He couldn’t get a concealed-carry permit if he wanted one – nor can he even legally possess a firearm.

In 1978 he stole a handgun, shot a man and served time for manslaughter, and in 2002 he was sentenced to six months of home confinement for illegally possessing a firearm. He knowingly allowed a gun to remain in the guest bedroom of his home after his father left it behind, and that was enough to put him afoul of federal law.

Johnson said he not only opposes the proposed legislation, but favors “any standard that makes it more difficult for even law-abiding citizens” to obtain handguns.

“If we are to be a nation that prides itself on a high sense of morality and its faith in God, then we can’t be a nation that prides itself on [our] ability to strike back,” he said.

David Lawson said he understands the views of both sides.

A retired Delaware State Police lieutenant, he is a co-owner of Shooter’s Choice, a gun shop and indoor firing range on U.S. 13 just north of Dover.

He is a certified firearms instructor and teaches the course that applicants for a concealed-carry permit now must pass.

Lawson is a taskmaster, and his course goes well beyond the minimum required by state law. Lawson won’t issue a passing grade unless the student can hit at least 80 percent of the targets presented, and if he believes an applicant is not ready for a permit, he won’t recommend approval.

Lawson won’t even enroll someone who has just purchased a handgun and has no idea how to use it. His shop offers courses for people like that.

The concealed-carry students “come from every walk of life and concern. I’d say probably 50 percent, or let’s say 35 percent, never even apply for the concealed-carry because they feel the [responsibility] is awfully heavy,” Lawson said.

“They make a knowledgeable decision that carrying a gun isn’t as cool as they thought it would be. My biggest hope for folks in this concealed-carry course is to go away as thinkers,” he said.

As a retired police officer, Lawson said, he can understand the opposition voiced by Newport chief Capriglione about changing the law.

But Lawson favors a shall-issue system, and he bases his stance on personal experience, the experience of other states and personal philosophy.

“In 27 years of law enforcement, I never felt threatened by a legally owned gun,” Lawson said.

Contact J.L. Miller at 678-4271 or jlmiller@delawareonline.com.


The News Journal/GARY EMEIGH
A .357 Magnum revolver recoils as it is fired by Lakisha King-Velez at Shooter's Choice, a firing range and gun shop near Dover co-owned by a retired police officer.



The News Journal/CARLA VARISCO
The Rev. Derrick Johnson, pastor of Wilmington's Joshua Harvest Church, opposes any loosening of restrictions on handguns.



The News Journal/CARLA VARISCO
John J. Thompson, president of the Delaware State Sportsmen's Association, says that Gov. Ruth Ann Minner is "a very, very good friend of gun owners."


Rep. Nancy Wagner said her constituents want a concealed-carry law.


THE DEBATE


A person must convince a Superior Court judge a concealed weapon permit is needed.

Under a proposal, the judge “shall issue” the permit if the applicant meets a set of rules and there is no reason to deny.

MAKING THE GRADE


To get a permit to carry a concealed handgun in Delaware, an applicant now must:

• Be at least 21 and of “good moral character.”

• Provide statements from five “respectable citizens” from the county in which they live, attesting to their good character.

• Complete a certified training course that includes instruction on safe handling of firearms, storage and child safety, and safe handling of ammunition; a minimum of 100 rounds of live-fire shooting exercises; understanding the laws governing use of deadly force; and how to use conflict resolution techniques to manage a confrontation.

• Place a legal notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the applicant’s home county, advertising the applicant’s intent to seek a license.

• Pass a criminal background check.

• Cite specific reasons for the need to carry a concealed handgun.

Proposed requirements:

• All of the above. However, the applicant would no longer have to demonstrate to a judge the need to carry a concealed handgun, only that he or she meets the other requirements.

WHO’S PACKIN’?


Active concealed-carry permits, by county

New Castle: 1,758

Kent: 565

Sussex: There are 995 permits in Sussex, but about 195 have not been renewed or are otherwise inactive.

Who has them?

Unknown. The identities of people with concealed-carry permits are exempted from disclosure by Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act. However, permit holders typically are retired police officers, businesspeople who carry large sums of money or people who have reason to fear for their safety.

More information

Information on shall-issue statutes is available from the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action at www.nraila.org. The NRA is a strong proponent of such laws.

Information also is available from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence at www.bradycampaign.org. The Brady Campaign strongly opposes shall-issue statutes.

Statistics on Florida’s shall-issue statute, which has been in effect since 1987, are available at http://licgweb.doacs.state.fl.us.

Q&A


Q: Why do “shall-issue” supporters want to change Delaware’s law?

A: They say that law-abiding citizens should not have to convince a judge that they need a permit, and that the right to self-defense should include the right to carry a concealed handgun after the proper screening and training.

Q: Why do “shall-issue” opponents want to retain the current law?

A: They say that giving a judge wide latitude in deciding who gets a permit protects the public from people who might otherwise get a permit but are unable to handle the responsibility that comes with it. Some contend that more guns equal more danger, regardless of who is carrying them.

Q: Have other attempts been made to change Delaware’s law?

A: Yes. In 1996, similar legislation passed the House but was buried in the Senate because Gov. Tom Carper opposed it.

Q: What do other states do?

A: Thirty-four states, including Pennsylvania, have “shall-issue” permit systems. Vermont allows citizens to carry concealed handguns without a permit, as does Alaska, which also has a shall-issue system for those who seek a permit so they can carry their handgun in other states. Alabama, Iowa and Connecticut have discretionary systems that are less stringent than Delaware’s, while Wisconsin, Illinois, New Jersey, Nebraska and Kansas either do not issue permits or severely restrict their issuance.

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beerslurpy
January 17, 2006, 11:06 AM
Statements from 5 respectable citizens? I didnt need that many for law school.

Kharn
January 17, 2006, 12:31 PM
This same article is already under discussion here (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=176956).

Kharn

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