Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Myth of the Armed Citizen

By Donald Sensing

Aurora, Colorado, July 20, Cinemark Theater: Twelve dead and almost 60 wounded. Scores terrorized. I posted about the fallacious reasoning of many pro-gun-rights advocates who insist that if only the theater had not been a gun-free zone, carry permit holders would have stopped the mass murdering shooter literally dead in his tracks. See "Public killings and armed citizenry."

I pointed out that the number of permit holders who actually carry a pistol is a minority. Most permit holders carry never or very rarely. Far greater is the number who would carry frequently or always, if they could. But in fact, the hassle factor is so high in legally carrying a pistol that even ardent advocates carry a small percentage of the time.

A discussion was held about this topic on a gun-rights forum, The High Road. The specific topic was, "Assuming you are a permit holder how often do you carry?"

Here are some excerpts:

But in my experience (including as an instructor talking with quite a few people wanting to get a permit or who have one), most people with a permit don't actually carry.

I'd say it's a small fraction, <10%, of people with a permit who actually use it regularly. A small fraction of that fraction actually get anything close to decent training and also make an effort to keep up their skills as well as they should. 
Life Member NRA, Member GOA, JFPFO, Unified Sportsmen of Florida. NRA-certified instructor.

I don't carry to work (work on federal property), but I do carry everywhere else. My parents got a CCW permit not so they could carry, but so they could get the other benefits, such as: no waiting period to purchase a handgun, less restrictions on how you can transport in a vehicle, etc. 
I'm in the 99th percentile. I've mowed the lawn armed. I've changed diapers armed. I was armed at the birth of each of my kids. You get the picture. But of all the people that I know, who have obtained a carry permit, I think only one, maybe two or three actually carry at all. 
A very few carry on a rare occasion; sort of like wearing pearl cufflinks. One guy told me, and he was completely honest when he said it, that he only got the permit so that he'd have another document stating that he can own a gun. 
For some reason, most of the people around me who start blabbing about having acquired a carry permit will say that they got the permit "just in case", referring to some sort of future gun control. 
Since I don't carry at work due to company policy, I'm armed less than 25% of the time I am out of the house. I carry less than 25% of the time overall. That's because I'm a student and I can't carry at school.
As I have said, the majority of permit holders hardly ever carry and the great majority of the remainder carry well less than half the time. Shooting Illustrated also has a good article, "Concealed Carry Myths."

And yet the fantasy persists among the pro-gun-rights set that there is a latent citizen army ready to draw iron and shoot bad guys intent on mass mayhem. In fact, most places where people gather in numbers are off limits to legally-carried weapons:
Examples include the prohibition of concealed carry in some states at:

Public or private elementary and secondary schools either inside or within 1,000 feet of these areas (the Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 contains an exception for individuals carrying under a state-issued permit, but some states that issue permits forbid carry in school buildings and/or on school property. The law authorizes federal penalties of up to $5,000 and five years in prison upon conviction.) 
Establishments that sell alcohol. The interpretation of this restriction varies widely from state to state. Some ban carry from all such establishments such as retail liquor stores and supermarkets, others only from businesses that sell alcohol "by the drink" for on-premises consumption such as restaurants (with some of these states, such as Kentucky, further distinguishing by banning carry in bar areas but not in dining areas), still others only from businesses falling under the state's definition of a "bar" or "nightclub" (in Texas for example, such an establishment is defined as a business making 51% or greater of its revenues from the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption). 
Government buildings (state capitols, courthouses, police stations, federal buildings, post offices). 
Public accommodations (theaters, concert halls, indoor shopping malls) 
Public events (polling places, state fairs, stadiums and other sporting venues).
Restrictions vary state to state, of course. In some carry-issuing states, it is a violation for a permit holder to carry a firearm into a business that posts "no guns," while in others it is not.

My argument in this context is not that legally-armed citizens hardly ever stop potentially or actually lethal criminal activity. Clearly, they do. My issue is best described by the pro-gun site, The Truth About Guns:

However, there have been enough mass-shootings in shall-issue states that it’s time to admit that the notion that “it will stop mass killings” is not a valid justification for shall-issue CCW. For all the bloody publicity they garnish, mass shootings are anomalies, freak incidents of human mayhem, the equivalent of bridge collapses or flesh-eating-bacteria outbreaks. Terrible and tragic, but not very common, and not really “preventable” in any practical sense. 
I have to admit that I sometimes think that the extreme pro-gunners are the mirror image of the gun banners. The gun banners see guns as the cause of every problem and the gun-rights extremists see guns as the solution to every problem. The reality: complex problems won’t be resolved with bumper-sticker solutions, no matter how attractive or simple or convenient they might appear. 
I’m not saying there aren’t valid reasons for shall-issue CCW. I think there are many. But the notion that liberalized CCW will prevent “mass shootings” is not one of them.

And yet, the "pro-gunners" keep coming up with stuff like this:

See: "Warsaw Uprising."

Ask: "How did that work out for you?"
15,200 insurgents killed and missing, 5,000 wounded, 15,000 sent to POW camps. Among civilians 200,000 were dead, and approximately 700,000 expelled from the city. Approximately 55,000 civilians were sent to concentration camps, including 13,000 to Auschwitz. Berling's Polish Army losses were 5,660 killed, missing or wounded. Material losses were estimated at 10,455 buildings, 923 historical buildings (94 percent), 25 churches, 14 libraries including the National Library, 81 elementary schools, 64 high schools, Warsaw University and Polytechnic buildings, and most of the monuments. Almost a million inhabitants lost all of their possessions.
I continue to be baffled why gun-rights advocates continually point to mass murders and systematic evil such as the Holocaust, and then say, "If only those people had had a carry permit this could all have been avoided."

However, what the record shows that when legally-armed, private citizens subdue deadly or potentially deadly criminals, the event is neither unusual nor chaotic, both of which Aurora was. Further, the citizen's weapon almost always matches or overmatches the criminal's weapon. See the two links above for examples.

But the fact is that without weapons parity or better, a legally-armed, private citizen will not prevail except by luck. That is why when the Poles of Warsaw finally decided to arm themselves and fight back, the Nazis simply destroyed them.

Aurora is not relevant either to reinforce the case of gun-control advocates or of gun-rights advocates.

End note: The Warsaw Uprising was an action by the Polish Home Army and was not the same as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by the Jews of the city, though the Jews were destroyed, too.

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