Figures released in January show that during the six years since Michigan joined the American mainstream by offering citizens a shall-issue Right-to-Carry law, the number of firearm-related fatalities dropped–even though opponents predicted rampant mayhem.
More telling is the fact that criminal activity dwindled while the number of Michiganders legally licensed to carry a concealed handgun increased some six-fold.
Overall, the violent crime rate in Michigan during the years since passage of Right-to-Carry was significantly less than the rate during the six years prior to passage. At the same time, the number of firearm fatalities, including those stemming from suicide and accidents, also declined.
According to Michigan law enforcement officials, approximately one in 65 state citizens are now authorized to legally carry loaded firearms during their daily routine. This adds up to some 155,000 Michiganders, a number far exceeding the 25,000 or so authorized to carry guns before the concealed-carry system was broadened in 2001.
“I think the general consensus out there from law enforcement is that things are not as bad as we expected it could be,” said Woodhaven Police Chief Michael Martin, co-chair of the legislative committee for the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. “What we anticipated didn’t happen, and I think we should breathe a sigh of relief.”
Opponents of Right-to-Carry predicted an outbreak of firearm violence, even though concealed-carry options are now the norm rather than the exception across much of America. Similar predictions of Wild West-style shootouts in a number of other Right-to-Carry states also never materialized, dating back to the uproar in Florida some 17 years before.
If you’re in a bad situation and have to resort to calling 9-1-1,
then it’s probably too late.
John Lott, visiting professor at the University of Maryland, has spent years researching violence in America. He said the crime-reduction trend following passage of the Michigan Right-to-Carry law should come as no surprise to anyone.
Lott said at least two-thirds of the studies he’s seen indicate that Right-to-Carry laws reduce crime. The rest show very little effect on the status quo.
At the same time, no peer-reviewed study has ever indicated that crime actually increased following passage of a Right-to-Carry law enacted by state lawmakers, like the one signed by Michigan Gov. John Engler in 2000.
Under Michigan’s law, those seeking a concealed-carry permit must complete a strict training process and pay a fee. Generally, these tend to be the kind of people who don’t break laws, Lott pointed out.
Lott added that nationally, the number of revoked permits continues to be very low. In Michigan, some 2,000 have been revoked or suspended since 2001, or just a little more than 1 percent of the number granted. In almost every case, revocations were the result of some sort of nonviolent legal issue.
Yet even though statistics point towards a safer Michigan rather than the catastrophically violent one anti-gun groups promised if Right-to-Carry passed, detractors still refuse to accept positive findings.
One official with the Michigan chapter of the Million Mom March actually said that despite the figures, she still believes that gun violence has grown, owing to what she feels is inadequate reporting. And, she adds, even if the statistics prove to be correct, there are still more guns in Michigan homes and on the street, in her opinion offering the potential for increased violence some day in the future.
However, advocates for the Michigan Right-to-Carry law believe the crime reports are both scientific and accurate, and also point out the number of lives saved by concealed firearms when permit holders faced violent criminal attacks. And, while a large percentage of Right-to-Carry licenses have been granted to citizens concerned for their personal safety, some, like 40-year-old Michelle Reurink, applied simply because she feels the U.S. Constitution provides her with that right.
Reurink remains a strict constitutionalist on Right-to-Carry issues. And, since she applied for a carry permit and passed the necessary requirements, Reurink has found that she feels safer due to the training, especially the sessions covering self-defense. She and others believe that the training process provides a certain amount of psychological insurance as they go about their daily routines, building confidence and providing a deterrent that has eased a number of concerns.
“With due respect to the police, they simply can’t be there to protect each of us,” one Michigan permit holder pointed out. “If you’re in a bad situation and have to resort to calling 9-1-1, then it’s probably too late.”
At present there are 40 Right-to-Carry states, with 36 now having “shall-issue” laws, or statutes requiring that carry permits be issued to those meeting uniform standards established by the state legislature. Others, including Alabama, Connecticut and Iowa, offer what the NRA terms a fairly administered “discretionary issue” system. Independent-minded Vermont allows concealed carry without a permit process. Alaska offers a permit for those wishing reciprocity with other states; otherwise, citizens there enjoy freedom to carry a concealed firearm under a no-permit-required law adopted in 2003.
Among the 10 states that still deny the right to carry, eight sometimes offer permits on a discretionary basis. The others–Illinois and Wisconsin–ban carry altogether, despite the fact that in recent years violent crime rates have been lower than at any time since 1976. National statistics reflect a 31-year low in criminal violence, while 23 states have passed Right-to-Carry laws since 1991 and the number of privately owned firearms has risen by some 70 percent.
Researchers believe that if holdout states had adopted concealed carry, it’s possible that they could have avoided annually as many as 1,570 murders, more than 4,000 rapes and some 60,000 aggravated assaults.Researchers believe that if holdout states had adopted concealed-carry, it’s possible that they could have avoided annually as many as 1,570 murders, more than 4,000 rapes and some 60,000 aggravated assaults. The statisticians point out that when Right-to-Carry laws have been put in place, individual counties have experienced an 8.5 per-cent drop in murder rates, a 5 percent reduction in rapes as well as a 7 percent decline in aggravated assaults.
David Kopel, Second Amendment scholar and frequent America’s 1st Freedom contributor, points out, “Whenever a state legislature first considers a concealed-carry bill, opponents typically warn of horrible consequences. But then, within a year of passage, the issue usually drops off the news media’s radar screen, while gun control advocates in the legislature conclude that the law wasn’t so bad after all.”
A case in point would be Florida, which, led by the efforts of former NRA President Marion Hammer, adopted Right-to-Carry in 1987, passing a law that became a model for the majority of states following suit. At the time the uproar over the proposed legislation reverberated coast to coast. A contingent of anti-gun organizations, prominent media personalities and lawmakers portended that the state would descend into a “Wild West” environment besieged by vigilante-style justice and shootouts on every street corner, reducing the Sunshine State to a modern-day version of old Dodge City.
In reality, Florida’s murder rate actually decreased by 23 percent through 1992, while the number of murders was climbing nationally. Following 1992, the downward trend continued both in Florida and on a national basis.
The Florida Licensing Division director during the transition to Right-to-Carry was quick to point out, “Florida’s concealed-carry law has been very successful. All major law enforcement groups supported the legislation. Now some of the opponents of the law admit that the program hasn’t created the problems many of them predicted.”
By looking at the statistics it’s easy to see that the right to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense has been, for a number of years now in the majority of our states, a law that’s good for the good guys and not so good for the bad. At the same time, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the right to self-defense is a fundamental right, one the U.S. Constitution, the constitutions of 44 states, common law and laws in all 50 states recognize.
Essentially, Right-to-Carry laws are a commonsense extension of a free society’s most basic tenet–a reflection upon, and respect for, the basic right to live free of fear and to have a fighting chance.
Posted: 4/16/2008 12:00:00 AM