When the Violence Policy Center began tracking shooting homicides committed by persons with concealed-carry permits, they were attacking the most cherished totem of the pro-gun community, namely, the idea that armed citizens play a positive role in protecting themselves and others from crime. The fact that there is no credible research to back up this bromide is beside the point; it’s the stock-in-trade of every statement made to justify the concealed-carry of guns. You can hear it from the NRA’s chief Florida lobbyist, Marion Hammer, arguing for concealed guns to be permitted on college campuses, you can hear it from national legislators on Capitol Hill as they debate a national, concealed-carry reciprocity law.
To the Violence Policy Center’s credit, they have not only maintained their stance regarding CCW-holders who use guns to shoot themselves and others, they have now augmented their effort with an updated website which lets viewers examine specific information about CCW shootings on a state-by-state basis. One thing I should say right from the gitgo; the data is not meant in any way to be comprehensive, nor could it reflect the true degree of violence caused by individuals who are licensed to walk around with guns. Nobody collects such data, which forces the VPC to fall back on media reports that are, by definition, very incomplete, vague and therefore capture only the tip of the iceberg at best. But anyone who attempts to discredit this effort by getting into a spat over whether the numbers show this or the numbers show that is missing the point.
What the new presentation allows you to do is look at the details of these CCW shootings, compare what you read from one state to another, and draw some conclusions not about the connection between concealed-carry and gun violence, but the much greater issue of access to guns and gun violence per se. After all, pro-gun proponents will tell you that virtually all gun violence is caused by guns getting into the ‘wrong’ hands, which means that if we take guns away from criminals and the mentally unstable, there won’t be any gun violence at all. But the content on the VPC website belies such nonsense, and what it says deserves to read in full.
Here’s a couple of quick examples drawn from the first entry of various states picked at random for purposes of review. Mississippi: Three drunks get into a bar argument and two end up shot dead. Arizona: Husband shoots wife to death. Oregon: Shooter kills father, kills another guy and then kills himself. Ohio: Two guys are drinking at a party, one disses the other, bang. Maine: They leave a bar, they are both boozed up, an argument starts, and that’s that.
Notice a pattern? Five shootings, eight people dead, seven knew each other well before the fatal incident occurred. Not one of the shooters was a ‘criminal.’ Not one of these shootings involved the commission of any crime. In fact, the shooters in every single case were law-abiding citizens or otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to carry a gun. Despite what the NRA and the other pro-gun propagandists say, these reports picked at random from the VPC website are exactly what true gun violence is all about.
According to the FBI, less than one out of five fatal shootings in the United States takes place during the commission of a serious crime. Homicide is impulsive, it usually grows out of disputes between relatives or friends, and if a gun is present the argument gets very violent, very fast. And this is particularly true when the homicide victim is a woman; virtually every woman killed with a gun or any other weapon lost her life during a domestic dispute.
The pro-gun community can talk from today to next year about how we much safer we are because more people are walking around with guns. I don’t think this argument should turn on numbers; I think it should turn on the lethality of guns. The VPC website hits that one right between the eyes.