What Should We Do About The National Concealed-Carry Bill?

Now that H.R. 38, the national concealed-carry (CCW) bill, has come out of a House committee and appears headed for a positive vote on the floor, let’s put all the yelling and shouting aside and discuss what this law will and won’t do.  The NRA has been pushing national CCW reciprocity since Senator Larry Craig introduced the first measure in 1997 before he was found groping beneath the public toilet stall, and for the first time the bill may get the necessary votes in both chambers to be sent up to the Oval Office for a signing ceremony organized by Herr Goebbels – oops! – I mean Trump.

CCW1The bill basically says that anyone with a CCW license from their state of residence, or a legal gun owner in a state which does not require specific CCW licensing, can carry a gun with them as they move anywhere within the United States. Incidentally, if this bill is signed into law, it will immediately put to rest a whole scam industry known as ‘non-resident’ concealed-carry licensing which creates revenue for gun trainers and public treasuries in states that offer CCW to residents of other states. On the other hand, this bill doesn’t quite open the floodgates to a horde of legal concealed-carrying killers moving from state to state. And here are the reasons why.

First, the bill does not open gun-free zones in any state to non-residents carrying guns. In other words, if you own or manage a property and have decided that guns aren’t allowed, this decision cannot be challenged by anyone just because they happen to be walking around armed. More important, the law does not challenge a 4th Circuit decision handed down this past January, which affirmed the conviction of a West Virginia resident who was searched after the cops got a tip that he was carrying a gun and decided that he was therefore ‘armed and dangerous’ even though state law did not prohibit him from carrying a gun.

The conviction was upheld because the Court ruled that the police had ‘probable cause’ to conduct a search which then resulted in an arrest.  And what was the probable cause? It was, according to the Court, the fact that even if the armed individual was carrying a legal gun, there was still the possibility that being armed made this person dangerous as well.  The national CCW bill does contain language that imposes sanctions on any local or state government which arrests someone whose carrying of a gun doesn’t conform with concealed-carry laws in the non-resident state, but it also clearly suspends the right of non-resident CCW in cases of ‘probable cause.’

Right now it’s estimated that 14 million Americans possess a license which allows them to walk around their state of residence with a gun. There are also 12 states which have some form of ‘constitutional carry,’ which means no special permit is required in order to walk around armed.  These states probably have about 10 million adults, and if we assume a per-capita gun ownership in these states at or above 50%, this means that altogether maybe 20 million legal gun owners will be able to move with a concealed weapon from state to state. Perhaps one out of five gun owners actually walks around with a concealed gun; my own experience is that the ratio is closer to one out of 10.  Either way, opening up every state to CCW-carriers from other states won’t result in a tidal wave of armed travelers crossing state lines.

The problem with H.R. 38 is not that it will unleash a horde of CCW-killers going from state to state. Rather, the bill reinforces the mistaken notion that guns are an effective and necessary device to protect society from crime. This is a view now held by a majority of Americans, gun owners or not. The GVP movement needs to confront this issue head on, not by simply trying to keep people from walking around with a gun.


10 thoughts on “What Should We Do About The National Concealed-Carry Bill?

  1. Mike’s last paragraph is the key as I see it. We have come to embrace what David Yamane calls “Gun Culture 2.0”, i.e., the idea that we need to go out in public armed for self defense in order to keep law and order in society and save our own skin from domestic violence. I don’t think there is a single piece of legitimate research that suggests this is a very effective way to preserve public safety. There are good academic counter-examples, although I recognize that many gun owners see the rhetoric coming out of even good academics and doubt their objectivity. One has to read their papers and decide.

    New Mexico, where I live, accepts CHLs from 24 other states. I would think that if OOS permit holders were problems, someone would have discovered it in our case. So far, a total lack of validation. The one likely hypothesis is that if more people are carrying on trips, there will be more guns to steal out of cars and hotel rooms. Recall the little banger used to shoot and kill Kate Steinle in San Francisco was stolen out of a car where a Federal law enforcement agent, for some reason, left it unattended.

    Once again, thanks, Mike, for remaining calm in what some are making quite the storm.

  2. What troubles me the most in the “gun debate” is, in my opinion, the lack of providing clear-cut cases of methodologically sound research in support of either side using those who have been involved in violence with a gun and all parties had a firearm at the time. In Mikes post he gives a link to the “Bearing Arms” site reporting on “Gallup: Victims of Crime Are More Likely to Own Guns” posted on December 13, 2016. The article reports that “For crime victims, the threat of victimization is no longer a possibility but a reality.” I found this sentence very interesting and, for me, true.
    I have carried a gun most every day since I was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam war. Over the years of my life I have seen and have been in gunfights. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more scary than an encounter with an antagonist who has a gun and is shooting at you. And then again there’s nothing more comforting than when you have a gun to defend yourself.
    I would like to see articles where “criminologist” have studied and published in a respected professional journal shootings where both sides had and used firearms. I would like to know their feelings on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” I like to read and have respect for studies that have been published in respected professional journals of those who have been in “the real world” of the issue being studied.

    • One of the arguments against concealed carry by citizens is that without a lot of training in real-life situtations (as recently stated, almost verbatim by Daniel Webster of Hopkins), carry is not any more effective as any other action to defend one’s self (as more or less said by Hemenway of Harvard).

      I’d like to see a study of off duty police who have been involved in DGU vs. ordinary citizens in the similar situations. Who wins? Who loses? How much collateral damage or friendly fire incidents? Clearly, an off duty cop has a lot of training under his or her belt. So for those, yours truly included, who advocate for training requirements, it would be nice to see how effective large amounts of training might be. Wonder if anyone has done that.

      A lot of these studies are general population studies that try, by various statistical hocus-pocus, to factor out complications and come up with answers that depend only on the question being asked. I wonder about a lot of those studies.

      • I too would like to read a study on this. I would hope the study would be done by a criminologist.
        I also would like to see reports on the number of shots fired by police officers, on or off duty, involved in shootings and the number of shots being fired by “civilians.”
        It would also be interesting to see the number of bystanders shot by police as opposed “civilians.”

  3. Alan, the NYC and other police track firearm discharges each year and about 20% of police firearm discharges are thought to hit the target in combat situations. Not sure who tracks friendly fire incidents. In my view, the question is not whether we are better off being armed when someone suddenly begins to unload their weapon at us. How often does this happen–1 in a 100,000 cases, who knows. Sure you would likely stand a better chance if you were also armed. The question is, for every one of these rare cases, the gun that is being carried by your average poorly trained civilian is more likely to be used in the above scenario or will it be more likely used to harm the innocent, commit suicide, be involved in an accident, used to threaten a spouse, be stolen, etc. The research says it is not even close. Even most police officers do not get caught in a shootout during their entire careers. The more guns you have out there, the greater the threat to the public. Also, much of the harm is not committed by people with long rap sheets.

    • Tom, what about the 80% where police firearm discharges didn’t hit the target in combat situations?

      We could debate this all day and where would it get us? Once again, what I would like to see are articles written by criminologists who have studied and published in a respected professional journal shootings where both sides had used firearms.

      I am not one who sits at home reading books, watching TV/movies, sit behind a computer and imagine what it would be like, or think I know the feelings of those who have been involved in shootings. But, as some would say, been there, done that. I’ve been in shootings, I’ve used a firearm in anger and I’ve had firearms used against me in anger. I’ve seen how evil this world can be first hand. However, I will always side on the side of freedom. Freedom of the individual to choose for themselves.

      What about you Tom? Forget existing laws, forget proposed laws, forget what laws you would like to pass. You are now Mustapha Monbd of Brave New World, would you eliminate all guns from the civilian population and maybe even from the police? It is YOUR world, do with it as you may. What would it be?

      • Alan, I respect your choices. As far as freedom, the majority who are not gun owners also have the right to go out in public, the theater, church, the mall, etc. without facing the threat of gun violence. That is another concept of freedom; the freedom from fear because guns are so prevalent in this country. As far as research, I’m not sure if you are aware of the Dickey Amendment, which has as its legacy the defunding of research by our federal government due to pressure by the NRA. So people like me are doing research with no funding and many young researchers decided to not to study gun violence. To answer your last question, I personally would like to see a world where citizens do not feel that they must carry a gun at all times to protect themselves from fellow citizens. That level of fear and distrust does not make for a healthy and cohesive society. This notion of the necessity of packing heat is pretty well unique to this country among advanced nations.

  4. Tom
    So, it’s not just AR 15s that you think should be removed from civilian ownership.
    The question regarding how much GV comes from people with zero priors who could get a CHL in a state like mine is important. I would say that it goes to the heart of the reasonableness ‘ of gun laws in general.
    So, more about this later.

  5. Tom, thank you for respecting my choice. I respect the choice of every American to choose. Choose what restaurant to go to, choose what car to buy, choose what movie to watch, etc etc.

    I also respect those who choose to be peace officers. You stated NYC and other police track firearm discharges each year and about 20% of police firearm discharges are thought to hit the target in combat situations. No disrespect to those who are peace officers, but what about the 80% of the shots that missed the target? How many innocent people were hit? I agree people have a right to go out in public, the theater, church, the mall, without facing the threat of “gun violence.” Do you feel comfortable when a peace officer comes in the theater, church, mall, etc. and he/she has scored 20% hits at the firearms qualification course? Las Vegas would never take those odds.

    For all that has been told about guns, the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, all the dramatic press reports and regardless of how good the arguments are on either side of this issue, most will have absolutely no effect on the individual person. This is because they do not answer the single most important question, and that is: What About Me?

    What about my personal safety, my children, my family? If the argument doesn’t address those questions, I believe, it will all fall on deaf ears. You talk about the majority who are not gun owners…they do have the right to been safe, but so do I.

    I assume you are an American, and that gives you a constitutional right NOT to carry a firearm. I have fought for your rights and I would fight again, if need be, for your right not to carry and for you to depend on others for your and your families safety.

    As some say…when seconds count the police are just minutes away.

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