In addition to some regular hate mail, I’ve received an email in response to a recent article (January 31st, “Why defend the right to own or carry a gun?”). In that article, I made the claim that concealed weapons permit holders are responsible in part for reduced crime rates in their respective US states today, and thus allowing citizens to carry handguns makes America safer. I gave statistics which showed that 34 percent of incarcerated felons surveyed were driven away or wounded by armed citizens as they attempted to commit some violent crime or another. And I refuted the idea that allowing people to carry handguns after receiving a permit was a statistically dangerous policy.

The critique I received cited the efforts of the Brady Campaign, the anti-gun lobby group responsible for the Brady Law (which FBI criminal background check required to purchase a firearm) to disagree on that point. The Brady Campaign cites some examples in which concealed weapons permit holders had acted contrary to the law while carrying their firearms.

So I’ve taken a look at their examples. I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t entirely convincing. Of the millions of concealed weapons permit holders in the United States, they cited fewer than 50 examples. Worse, it was thirdhand information from local newspaper accounts. Worse still, it wasn’t even a list composed entirely of instances where violent crime involving firearms had occurred.

Of the list of fewer than 50 examples, only 22 involved the deliberate shooting of another person (which may be granted statistically, even without concealed weapons programs). 8 involved firearms simply being carried in the wrong place (such as one permit holder who forgot that he was carrying his concealed firearm and carried it through airport security, which it could be reasonably inferred might happen as often as any other prohibited item). Another 2 examples involved people who fired off their weapons in an unlawful place (like a man who fired into the ground in anger). A further 6 were accidental discharges, where a shot had been fired inadvertently, where the gun had not even been in the hand of the permit holder. One involved a permit holder who did not inform a police officer that they were armed (probably at a routine traffic stop).

And 22 of the examples did involve deliberate shootings by concealed weapons permit holders, which raises a question: does the existence of a tiny fraction of a percentage of permit holders who have used their weapons criminally lead us to the conclusion that we should not issue any concealed weapons permits? As you think about that, let’s take a look at some of these deliberate shootings. Of these 22 incidents, 5 involved permit holders who had a history of mental illness or impairment, and should clearly not have been issued permits in the first place. That figure doesn’t include those incidents involving elderly permit holders (of which there were a few), or those involving intoxication (of which there were more than a few). An additional few may well have been justified shootings, but not enough evidence apparently exists either way to make that judgement.

One that falls into that category involves a permit holder, Roberto Ortega, 30, who was a licensed car repossessor. A unpopular job. It seems likely that this line of work was one reason he applied for a concealed weapons permit in the first place. On a particular day, Ortega came to tow a van belonging to teenager Kendria Vann. Evidently Vann didn’t respond too well to this. The Brady Campaign summary states: “While it is unclear who fired first… [let me guess] …police said that both men fired multiple shots, hitting each other once…” Tragically, both died from their gunshot wounds, so we will never know exactly what happened.

But let’s take our best guess.

On one hand, we have Ortega: a 30 year old man in a difficult job who takes the time and effort to get a concealed weapons permit to ensure that he is within the law to protect himself in this kind of event. On the other hand, we have Vann: a teenage guy with a gun, no permit, who hasn’t made the payments on his van, and obviously reacts in such a way to its repossession that a fight ensued. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who, if anyone, was in the right here. And yet the Brady Campaign lists Ortega as an example of the system gone wrong. Maybe that’s why the Brady Campaign isn’t in charge.

And the remaining incidents on the list – along with, no doubt, countless other incidents that have not been compiled like this – may very well constitute the unjustified shooting of third parties by concealed weapons permit holders. It seems that most of those tend to involve some kind of heated altercations that got out of hand.

But, if there are 2 million concealed weapons permit holders in the United States (a conservative estimate) and we grant the Brady Bunch 1000 unjustified shootings every single year by permit holders (an inestimably higher figure than has ever been shown to be the case), that still works out at only 0.05% percent. Hardly an indication that the system isn’t working. What percentage of automobile owners abuse their driver’s licenses? Hardly cause to throw the entire thing out as the Brady Campaign advocates, particularly when you consider the overwhelming number of incidents in which guns have been successfully used in self-defence, and the lack of evidence that the kinds of controls supported by the Brady Campaign have ever, or will ever, work to reduce crime.

For example, we have the 328-page report issued by The National Academy of Sciences based on 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, a survey of 80 different gun-control laws and some of its own independent study. Surely some of the laws against gun ownership, or against carrying concealed weapons, have had an effect?

On the relationship between restrictions on guns and lower rates of crime? No link found. On the connection between restrictions on guns and firearms violence? No link found. On a correlation between restrictions on guns and even accidents with guns? No link found. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support the idea that making it illegal to own or to carry a firearm will result in reduced rates of crime, and every reason to believe that the opposite is true: that we should allow people to defend themselves from people to whom the law is meaningless in the first place.

In short, there are two conclusions we can make. Firstly, there appears to be a statistically unremarkable number of concealed weapons permit holders posing a threat to society. To the contrary, the immense majority are responsibly taking charge of their own safety and protection, and, in the process, directly reducing crime. And secondly, the efforts of lobbyists like the Brady Campaign would slow, and, if their policies were widely put into practice, reverse, the currently decreasing direction of the crime curve. The effect of the positions they advocate ever being adopted as law has been shown to be the polar opposite of their intended result.

I’ll reiterate: allowing millions of citizens to carry concealed weapons, even with a few bad apples in the mix, achieves a net result many, many times greater than would be the case in their absence. Saying that we shouldn’t allow citizens to carry concealed weapons because a few permit holders have killed people in a moment of rage or insanity is like saying that we shouldn’t issue driving licenses because a few drivers will kill people by driving drunk. And there are immeasurably more people killed by irresponsible people in traffic accidents than there will ever be unjustified shootings by concealed weapons permit holders.