Concealed and carried: Wisconsin fails its citizens by limiting right to arms

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May 26, 2003
Concealed and carried: Wisconsin fails its citizens by limiting right to arms

Last Updated: Sept. 20, 2003
Last October, a woman was walking to a convenience store on Milwaukee's north side when she was dragged into an alley by five thugs.

There, for 45 horrible minutes, she was repeatedly raped and beaten. Her assailants made a bonfire of her clothing. Neighbors heard her screams and called the police, who scoured the area, looking for her. Finally, but too late to stop the attack, one officer saw the flames from her clothing.

This woman became one of the 1,100 women who are raped in Wisconsin every year. She will bear the same emotional scars that more than 6,800 victims of assaults in our state have to suffer each year, the same scars as the 4,500 victims of robbery, the same scars suffered by the more than 12,000 Wisconsinites who are victims of other types of violent crimes every year.

Had she been allowed to defend herself, this woman might not have been attacked at all. But she was unable to defend herself because Wisconsin only allows law enforcement officers to carry weapons for self-defense.

Those who oppose legalizing concealed carry argue that we don't need a concealed carry system because Wisconsin already has a relatively low crime rate. In essence, these opponents are saying that 24,000 rapes, assaults, robberies and other violent crimes every year constitute an acceptable level of criminal violence.

Forty-five states have rejected this notion and recognized the rights of citizens to defend themselves against criminal acts. Just ten days ago, Missouri became the 45th state to pass a concealed carry law, after the legislature overrode their governor's veto of a bill similar to that proposed for Wisconsin. In June, Minnesota passed a concealed carry law nearly identical to the one proposed for Wisconsin, just as Michigan did in 2001.

The idea of legalized concealed carry is hardly new. Florida established its concealed carry system in 1987. Washington state's law was passed in 1935, Indiana's in 1934. Vermont has had no restrictions on either concealed or open carry since the state was founded in 1791.

In every state where legalized concealed carry has been proposed, opponents have predicted apocalyptic consequences and have advanced the same arguments almost verbatim.

Will their predictions of "blood in the streets" come true in Missouri, Minnesota or Wisconsin? Will the general population be put at risk or police officers' lives put at risk? Will law-abiding citizens be transformed into deranged killers simply by obtaining a permit? Will citizens not know how to properly handle their firearms? Will their guns be taken from them by criminals and used against them?


Consider that from October 1987 to October 2002, Florida issued 828,608 concealed carry permits. During that period, only 1,542 permits were revoked for convictions for any offense more serious than a traffic ticket, the majority of which were for offenses unrelated to firearms. That's a revocation rate of eighteen one-hundredths of 1% percent over a period of 15 years, or twelve one-thousandths of 1%annually.

Compare that percentage to the general public, 5% of whom are arrested for the same offenses annually.

Moreover, as of 1996, Florida reported that only five permit revocations were the result of a conviction for a violent crime. Data available from other concealed carry states show similarly minuscule permit revocation rates.

Clearly, those citizens who take the time to undergo training, background checks and who are willing to go through the process of applying for permits are overwhelmingly law-abiding - even more law-abiding than the general public.

Opponents argue that armed citizens have no effect on crime. They argue that a citizen with a gun doesn't have sufficient training to thwart a criminal attack. Incredibly, they claim that a criminal will just take the gun away from the citizen, a suggestion that is countered by data from the FBI.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that approximately 500,000 citizens successfully defend themselves with firearms against criminal attack every year. This indicates that for every criminal who used a weapon illegally, somewhere a law abiding citizen defended himself or herself.

An ongoing study by the criminology department at Florida State University indicates that the number of defensive uses of firearms could be as high as 2.5 million annually, or a 5-to-1 ratio of defensive vs. illegal uses of firearms. The study reports that 86% of the time, no shots are fired; merely threatening a criminal with a firearm is a sufficient deterrent.

The FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that, for the most recently analyzed year, 215 criminals were killed by armed citizens, including concealed carry permit holders. The above data shows that, not only are citizens capable of successfully defending themselves with firearms, but that they do so with remarkable restraint. Permit holders are not the shoot-'em-up cowboy types that opponents portray.

Opponents of concealed carry also argue that police officers oppose such legislation, claiming that armed citizens will put officers' lives at risk. In other words, the opponents are saying that law-abiding permit holders are would-be criminals.

Street-level officers are trained to approach every encounter with a citizen with the assumption that the citizen may be armed. A concealed carry permit system gives the officer the advantage of knowing if the driver has a permit to carry when he calls in the license plate number on the vehicle. The officer can then, at his own discretion, ask the permit holder to turn over his gun for the duration of the stop, or simply leave it holstered.

Permit holders have never been, nor will they be, a threat to the lives or safety of police officers. To the contrary, permit holders have come to the aid of numerous officers in trouble, saving officers' lives.

Wisconsin can be proud of our law enforcement officers. Their level of professionalism and dedication is unquestionable.

But it is the rare citizen who has an officer arrive in time to stop a violent crime in progress. There's no doubt that the officer who came upon the burning clothing of the rape victim was trying his absolute best to save her. But with just one officer for every 1,200 citizens, police help simply cannot be guaranteed.

Under current Wisconsin law, the only weapon available to citizens for self defense is pepper spray, which is nothing more than an aerosol form of a Cajun condiment. It is effective against an attacking dog, but not against an assailant high on methamphetamine or cocaine.

In the event of a criminal attack, a cell phone in the hand means help is 10, 20 or even 30 minutes away. A gun in the hand means help is just a trigger-pull away or, far more often than not, that the criminal will turn tail and run away.

In just a few weeks, our elected officials will have to make a decision regarding concealed carry. Some will decide to restore the right of self-defense to trained, licensed, law-abiding citizens who want the ability to defend themselves.

Other elected officials will vote with the anti-gun lobby to maintain the current "acceptable" levels of rapes, robberies, assaults and other crimes of violence.

For the good people of Wisconsin, such a coldly calculated, purely political vote should be completely unacceptable.

Richard Baker is treasurer of the Wisconsin Concealed Carry Association.

From the Sept. 21, 2003 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thanks for posting the final version, WAGCEVP. For entertainment, here's the rebuttal column that ran next to the one above:

Proposed legislation puts police and the public at risk


Last Updated: Sept. 20, 2003

Eight days after getting a concealed handgun permit this summer, Minnesotan Damian Peterson had an argument with his brother. He fired 11 bullets into a car, continuing to fire as the car drove away through a residential neighborhood.

Peterson got his permit under a dangerous new Minnesota state law that forces police to give permits to almost anyone.

Now, the Wisconsin Legislature is debating similar measures, Senate Bill 214 and Assembly Bill 444, which would overturn Wisconsin's restriction on carrying concealed handguns and force police to allow thousands of hidden handguns into public places, endangering both the public and our police officers.

Please join in the effort to urge Wisconsin legislators and Gov. Jim Doyle to reject these dangerous bills.

This is not about defending your home or your business. The Wisconsin proposals would let almost anyone carry hidden handguns on the street and into shopping malls, restaurants, parks, day care centers, hospitals, churches, Little League games, sporting events and other public places.

What about the rights of the rest of us who want to know if someone in the room is carrying a gun?

Sorry. In Minnesota - and in Wisconsin, if this law passes - one should just assume that everyone, including the Damian Petersons of the world, has a hidden handgun.

Here's a look at some of the people who get concealed handgun permits:

* A Georgia woman was arrested after pointing her concealed handgun at another mother during an argument over their 11-year-old daughters' basketball game at school.
* A Washington man was arrested after firing his concealed handgun several times in anger because he couldn't untangle his Christmas lights.
* A Michigan man was arrested for threatening to shoot two other men with his concealed handgun during a dispute over clearing trash off his property.
* A Virginia woman carried a concealed handgun into an elementary school, where it was left in an unattended backpack in the classroom until a teacher noticed it.
* An Alabama man accidentally shot himself and a bystander in a movie theater showing "102 Dalmatians" when the concealed handgun fell out of his pocket.
* A Pennsylvania man was arrested after killing his neighbor with a concealed handgun during an argument over where to dump snow that was being shoveled.

Wisconsin's concealed handgun proposal would force police to let almost anyone carry a hidden handgun in public, as long as they pass a basic background check and have minimal training.

Police would have to let out-of-state visitors carry concealed handguns when they visit Wisconsin, even if they would not qualify for a Wisconsin permit as a resident. Some states issue concealed handgun permits without requiring any training at all, and others issue permits to 18-year-old kids.

All of them will be able to carry hidden handguns whenever they come to Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's law enforcement community strongly opposes this dangerous concealed handgun bill because of the threat it poses to police officers and the public, based on the experience of other states that have adopted similar laws.

While 34 states now allow almost anyone to carry concealed handguns, 16 states either prohibit concealed handguns or strictly limit who may carry them in public. Extensive studies have shown that in the 34 states that force police to issue concealed handgun permits, as is being proposed in Wisconsin, there has been an increase in crime and violence.

So how did this all get started? Proponents of concealed handgun laws point to the work of one man, John Lott, author of a book called "More Guns, Less Crime." Lott says that putting more concealed handguns on the street will reduce street crime - as if pouring gasoline would help put out a forest fire.

But Lott's theory has been thoroughly discredited by a broad group of experts who reviewed the data in peer-reviewed research papers. Lott now claims that he has lost the survey on which some of his research was based.

Two professors, John Donohue of Stanford University and Ian Ayres of Yale University, recently published the most thorough review ever done on concealed handgun laws and crime trends, including a complete examination of Lott's theory. They found that state laws that force police to issue concealed handgun permits actually are associated with an increase in crime. Far from having a positive effect, concealed handgun laws make crime problems worse.

Proponents of concealed carry suggest that the proposal's requirements for safety training and background checks will prevent dangerous people from obtaining permits. But the experience in other states shows that once a concealed handgun law is enacted, the gun lobby comes back again and again to remove any and all restrictions.

A few years ago, a mentally ill Alaskan who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon showed up in a store, dripping wet and ranting that he had to soak away chemicals that someone was using to kill him. He also said that a computer chip had been implanted in his head.

Alaskan police were powerless to revoke his permit because the gun lobby had amended the law to prohibit police from considering the mental condition of concealed weapon permit applicants.

This is a cynical bait-and-switch ploy. The gun lobby may talk about "uniform standards" and "safety training" in order to pass these dangerous bills, but their real goal is to force police to allow hidden handguns into schools, cars, bars, sports arenas and everywhere else.

The final objective is an "anywhere, anytime" approach to carrying concealed handguns.

Utah has shown this dangerous game at its worst. After enacting a concealed handgun law that required police to issue permits to almost anyone, the gun lobby tried to force the Secret Service to allow them to carry guns into a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney. They fought to carry concealed handguns into the Salt Lake City Olympics. They passed a new law forcing public schools to let people carry concealed handguns into classrooms.

Utah's universities, which have prohibited concealed weapons for 30 years, were ordered to allow hidden handguns on campus. They even tried to eliminate the minimal safety training requirement for obtaining a concealed handgun permit.

What makes the gun lobby's concealed handgun push even more cynical is that the National Rifle Association absolutely prohibits its own members from carrying concealed handguns into the NRA's national conventions. The NRA does not trust its own members to carry guns at NRA events, but they want to force the rest of us to welcome gun-carrying strangers into our neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, shopping malls, sports stadiums and parks.

Wisconsin residents are reasonable people who support reasonable laws that keep their families and children safe. They ought to reject the dangerous concealed handgun agenda - unless they really want the Damian Petersons among us to leave their cars looking like Swiss cheese.

Luis Tolley is director of state legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence United with the Million Mom March.
...these opponents are saying that 24,000 rapes, assaults, robberies and other violent crimes every year constitute an acceptable level of criminal violence.

Leftists count on criminal votes, and won't do anything to inconvenience them if they don't have to.

What makes the gun lobby's concealed handgun push even more cynical is that the National Rifle Association absolutely prohibits its own members from carrying concealed handguns into the NRA's national conventions.

Shame on the N.R.A.!
Not so fast, Standing Wolf

What makes the gun lobby's concealed handgun push even more cynical is that the National Rifle Association absolutely prohibits its own members from carrying concealed handguns into the NRA's national conventions.
This truthful lie is due to the NRA holding their convention at a hotel/convention center that disallowed firearms in their establishment. The NRA respected those wishes and posted "no firearms" signs at all of the entrances. The membership was a bit put out by this but grudgingly went along. The antis picked up on it and have used it to their advantage. I call it a truthful lie because they are telling the truth about the incident but it is a lie of omission not to tell the full circumstances of the incident and turn it into something it was not.
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