Thursday, December 15, 2011

(Reality) Check Yourself

Prior to Wisconsin passing a free-for-all concealed carry law, proponents constantly used the same shtick. Whenever there was a report of a crime anywhere, they would make the inevitable and overly simplistic comment that it never would have happened if we had concealed carry in Wisconsin. I'm wondering what these same people will say when crimes continue to occur now that Wisconsin does allow the legal carrying of hidden handguns. If their past arguments carried an ounce of weight, we should see a dramatic drop in crime because now criminals are suddenly rational and are they are cowering in a corner somewhere. The entire "if we only had concealed carry" argument is built mostly on faulty assumptions and pure fantasy.

The first assumption is that the person carrying the concealed weapon actually knows how to use it. The Wisconsin concealed carry law originally required at least four measly hours of training. However when the gun lobby cried about it, the requirement was quickly tossed. Now there is no real requirement that you even know what you are doing with a gun.

A firearms trainer from Wisconsin recently shot himself in the leg. And he was in a controlled environment on a firing range not trying to quickly engage a criminal. Then there was the recent story about a veteran police officer in a mall that accidentally fired his gun. This is someone with decades of experience and intense training yet the public is supposed to feel safe with a bunch of newly armed know-nothings?

Although there seems to be a lot of fantasies about people carrying concealed weapons and using them to stop crimes, there doesn't seem to be a lot of data to back it up. For example, there were over 1.3 million violent crimes (13,000+ of them were murders) in 2009 but only 215 of them ended with the criminal being killed by a private citizen using a firearm. As much as some people replay the scenario in their own imagination, it just doesn't seem to happen very often in reality. In fact one study suggests that you are 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault if you are armed than if you don't have a gun.

It is important to realize that being in the middle of a violent crime in progress is not going to play out like a scene from a movie. In the tragic shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona, the scene was absolute chaos. In fact one of the legitimate heroes was armed but his handgun very nearly became a horrible liability. He admitted that when he first came on the scene that he was very close to shooting the wrong person. He saw a man with a gun and didn't realize that it was an unarmed bystander that had just wrestled the gun away from the actual shooter. Eventually he decided not to pull his gun because he worried that some other armed person might make the same mistake and shoot him. Thank goodness that none of that happened during the terror and chaos. But the example should certainly teach us a few sober lessons.

Some people also insist that they are safer because they have a full arsenal in their homes but that also doesn't always turn out as imagined. In fact sometimes that can make you even more of a target. Just last month a criminal targeted a man in Hudson, Wisconsin. He kicked open the door and had his gun on the victim before he could even get to his multiple guns, brass knuckles, butterfly knife and an "electric weapon". In fact the armed intruder tied him up and stole both his money and his household weapons.

A vocal minority in Wisconsin continues to celebrate the careless and deeply flawed pieces of gun legislation that passed the state legislature this year. While they are rushing to fully arm themselves I hope that they also take a moment to assess the actual facts. I also hope that they are operating on careful reality rather than on some romanticized idea of what it means to carry a deadly weapon and (God forbid) to actually use it.

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

1 comment:

Bananas said...

On the same topic here is a good one from Wyoming "According to the report, the bullet missed John Basile, 43, by about 12 inches. After nearly missing Basile’s head, the bullet hit the west wall of the store, bounced back to the east and rolled under the coffee counter."
Link to article: