Libertarian State Leadership Alliance

Concealed Carry

Good News -- Improving Second Amendment Rights

Two decades ago, the Cato Institute provided us with the following, a serious analysis of the proven value of allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons. The important point here is to consider the miserable condition of Second Amendment rights, way back then, and how constant pressure for their betterment has been successful.



Only disagreement now is how much those laws reduce crime, analyst says

Ten years to the month after Florida's groundbreaking enactment of a concealed-carry gun law, fully half the states in the union have adopted such statutes, and more are actively considering such a change. Those developments have dramatically changed the landscape of public policy debate in this area, according to a new Cato Institute Policy Analysis.

The study's author, attorney Jeffrey R. Snyder, notes that, "although advocates of gun control predicted that blood would be running through the streets, no such thing happened. Today "the debate over concealed-carry laws centers on the extent to which such laws can actually reduce the crime rate." Crime rate drops of 7 percent and more have been reported following enactment of those laws.

Concealed-carry laws put into place over the past decade are often referred to as "shall-issue" laws, because they require the local issuing authority-- usually a sheriff or police chief-- to issue a permit as soon as a citizen can satisfy specific and objective licensing criteria. Typically, those include age and residency requirements, fingerprints and criminal and mental health background checks.

Prior to 1987, states commonly gave the sheriff or other issuing authority discretion to grant concealed-carry permits to persons who had "good moral character" and satisfied some needs-based requirement such as having "good cause" or demonstrating a "need." Those vague standards were applied very differently from one community to the next.

In Denver, the police department granted only 45 permits in a city of a half million people, and one official was quoted as saying, "Just because you fear for your life is not a compelling reason to have a permit." Snyder notes, "Among those denied a permit was Denver talk-show host Alan Berg, who had received death threats from, and was later killed by, white supremacists."

In New York, Snyder says that permits to carry firearms have been issued on the basis of wealth, celebrity status, political influence and favoritism. Permit holders have included such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Rockefeller, New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers and Howard Stern. But taxi drivers, who face a high risk of robbery, "are denied gun permits because they carry less than $2,000 in cash."

Snyder says that the growing popularity of shall-issue laws is due in part to a recognition that "discretionary licensing systems invite and produce discrimination on grounds of class, race, religion, country of origin, fame, wealth, or political influence in a manner that has no rational correlation with risk of criminal victimization or with trustworthiness or competence with a firearm. Such systems invite, and in fact produce, wholly inconsistent, arbitrary, and irrational results."

As a result of the successful implementation of shall-issue concealed-carry laws over the past decade, Snyder says that critics have been reduced to arguing that the concealed-carry laws have "no measurable or provable effects on crime." That marks a major turning point in the debate over the appropriateness of private firearms possession and places the burden of proof on gun control advocates.

In his conclusion to "Fighting Back: Crime, Self-Defense, and the Right to Carry a Handgun," Snyder says, "We now have at least 10 years of actual evidence from 25 different states with diverse rural and metropolitan populations, including the cities of Miami, Houston, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, New Orleans, Seattle, and Portland, regarding perhaps as many as 1 million permit holders carrying their weapons for hundreds of millions of man-hours." The results, he says, show clearly that "shall-issue licensing systems work. They accomplish the twin goals of providing a mechanism by which law-abiding citizens can carry the means with which to defend themselves from a violent criminal assault that imminently threatens life or grievous bodily harm and provide the public reasonable assurance that those who receive permits are persons who will act responsibly."

Snyder argues that concealed-carry laws reaffirm the bedrock right of American citizens to defend themselves against criminal attack. Gun control advocates, he says, must be reminded that "in a free society, the burden of proof is borne by those who would restrict the liberty of others."

Jeffrey Snyder, who practices law in New York, is currently writing a book entitled Ethical Blindness and Moral Vanity: What the Gun Control Debate Tells Us about the American Ethos.

Policy Analysis no. 284 For full information on these results and the Cato Institute, try here at