Concealed Guns
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Should Adults Have the Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun?
Concealed Handguns
Carrying a concealed handgun in public is permitted for non-law enforcement officials in all 50 states. Washington, DC does not allow concealed carry except by active and retired law enforcement officers.

Proponents of concealed carry say that criminals are less likely to attack someone they believe to be armed. They cite the 2nd Amendment's "right of the people to keep and bear arms," and argue that most adults who legally carry a concealed gun are law-abiding and do not misuse their firearms.

Opponents of concealed carry argue that increased gun ownership leads to more gun crime and unintended gun injuries. They contend that concealed handguns increase the chances of arguments becoming lethal, and that society would be safer with fewer guns on the street, not more. Read more...
Did You Know?
Pro & Con Arguments
Top Pro & Con Quotes
Background
Video Gallery
Comments


Concealed Guns ProCon.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit website that presents facts, studies, and pro and con statements on questions related to whether or not adults should have the right to carry a concealed handgun.
Did You Know?
  1. Carrying a concealed handgun in public is permitted for non-law enforcement officials in all 50 states. [1Washington, DC does not allow concealed carry except by active and retired law enforcement officers. [47]

  2. 42 states have "shall-issue" laws where police do not have discretion in issuing concealed weapon permits as long as individuals meet minimum requirements, such as a minimum age, no prior felony conviction, and no recent commitments to a mental institution (as of Mar. 14, 2014). Eight states have "may issue" laws where concealed weapon permits are approved based on the discretion of local police departments or governments. [45]

  3. The National Rifle Association (NRA) gave presidential candidate Barack Obama an "F" rating based on his voting record on guns. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence also gave President Obama an "F," in part because he signed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 which included an amendment to allow the carrying of firearms in national parks. [18] [19]

  4. Between May 2007 and Mar. 11, 2014, at least 14 law enforcement officers and 622 other people were killed nationally by private individuals legally allowed to carry concealed handguns. [14]

  5. Seven states allow carrying a concealed weapon on public college or university campuses, 21 states ban concealed weapons on campus, and 22 leave the decision up to the individual college or university. [46]
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Pro & Con Arguments: "Should Adults Have the Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun?"
PRO Right to Carry Concealed Handgun
  1. Criminals are less likely to attack someone that they believe might be armed. The deterrent effect of concealed carry benefits the individual carrying a handgun as well as the general public because criminals never know who is armed.

  2. According to a 2000 study by John Lott, PhD, "shall-issue" laws have reduced homicides by 8.5%, aggravated assaults by 7%, rapes by 5%, and robberies by 3%. Lott argued that if states that did not permit concealed handguns in 1992 had permitted them in 1977, 1,570 murders, 4,177 rapes, 60,000 aggravated assaults, and 12,000 robberies would have been prevented between 1977 and 1992. [8]

  3. The right to carry concealed handguns is guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in the Dec. 11, 2012 case Moore v. Madigan, struck down a 1962 Illinois state law that broadly prohibited carrying a gun in public. Judge Richard Posner, speaking for the majority, said that the Second Amendment's right to bear arms "must be interpreted to include a right to have a concealed gun in public, to have it ready for use, and to have it for self-defense."

  4. According to a 1997 study of National Crime Victimization Survey data, "robbery and assault victims who used a gun to resist were less likely to be attacked or to suffer an injury than those who used any other methods of self-protection or those who did not resist at all.” [9]

  5. Even if an adult never needs to draw a concealed handgun for self-defense, a person may feel safer being armed and feel freer to go outside at night or in dangerous areas.

  6. A majority of adults who legally carry concealed handguns are law-abiding citizens who do not misuse their firearms. According to a 2000 report by engineering statistician William Sturdevant published on the Texas Concealed Handgun Association website, the general public is 5.7 times more likely to be arrested for violent offenses, and 13.5 times more likely to be arrested for non-violent offenses, than concealed carry weapon permit holders. [30]

  7. Carrying a concealed handgun could aid in ending public shooting sprees. The Apr. 20, 1999 Columbine High School massacre and Apr. 17, 2007 Virginia Tech shooting could have been ended and lives saved by an armed citizen shooting the assailants. [10]

  8. The government cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens. Protecting oneself and family is a personal duty and the government should not impede the ability of responsible adults to defend themselves.

  9. Criminals carry concealed weapons regardless of their legality. Responsible citizens should have the same advantages when it comes to protecting themselves from armed attackers.

  10. Concealed handguns are an effective non-lethal form of self-defense a majority of the time. An Autumn 1995 peer-reviewed study by Gary Kleck, PhD, published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, found that when someone draws a concealed gun in self-defense, the criminal simply retreats 55.5% of the time. [32]
CON Right to Carry Concealed Handgun
  1. Concealed handguns are not an effective form of self-defense. A Nov. 2009 peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Public Health by Charles Branas, PhD, et al. found that someone carrying a gun for self-defense was 4.5 times more likely to be shot during an assault than an assault victim without a gun. Attackers often surprise victims, making it difficult to use a concealed handgun. [11]

  2. "Shall-issue" laws lead to increases in the rates of rape, robbery, and violent crime. A 1995 peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology by David McDowall, PhD, et al. of five urban cities found that gun homicide rates increased an average of 4.5% following the enactment of "shall-issue" laws. [12] A May 2009 peer-reviewed study by Yale professors Ian Ayres, PhD, and John Donohue, PhD, that appeared in the Econ Journal Watch found that "shall-issue" laws increased aggravated assault between 1977 and 2006. [33] Several researchers have found substantial flaws in the methodology of a landmark 1998 study by John Lott, PhD, and David Mustard, PhD, which claimed that more guns means less crime.

  3. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution allows citizens to bear arms for a well-regulated militia, not for concealed personal carry. The Second Amendment statement "a well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed" does not mention concealed handguns. 

  4. The Supreme Court's 5-4 majority decision in District of Columbia v. Heller reasoned that Second Amendment rights have limits and that bans on concealed carry have been legal. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion: "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited… [C]ommentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose… For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues." [31]

  5. Carrying a concealed handgun increases the chances of a confrontation escalating and turning lethal. The chances of a handgun being used inappropriately increase when normally responsible adults are intoxicated, tired, afraid, or untrained in conflict resolution. [13]

  6. Responsible adults can still be a threat to public safety if they are armed. Between 1996 and 2000, the Violence Policy Center found that concealed handgun permit holders in Texas were arrested for weapon-related offenses at a rate 81% higher than the general Texas population. [34] Between May 2007 and Mar. 24, 2010, at least nine law enforcement officers and 142 private citizens were killed nationally by concealed handgun permit holders (approximately 0.003% of all murders in that time period). [14] [15]

  7. The concealed carrying of handguns increases the likelihood of unintended shootings taking place. According to a July 2001 peer-reviewed study appearing in Accident Analysis and Prevention by Matthew Miller, PhD, Deborah Azrael, PhD, and David Hemenway, PhD, approximately 50 people are unintentionally shot each day in America and a child under 15 years of age dies every other day from unintended gunfire. [16]

  8. Carrying concealed handguns increases the risk of suicide because one-third to four-fifths of all suicide attempts are impulsive and carrying a handgun gives individuals the means to act on their impulses. Suicide attempts involving firearms are more likely to be fatal. In 2005, 53% of all suicides in the US involved a firearm, resulting in an average of 46 suicides from guns each day. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Americans 40 years of age or younger. [35]

  9. Criminals are more likely to arm themselves with firearms if they suspect that victims may also be armed. Felons report that they often carry firearms to deter victims from resisting. [17] A victim drawing a gun during an attack sends a signal to the offender that more force must be used to overpower the victim during an attack.

  10. Adults who carry concealed handguns are often inadequately trained. Some states do not require any hands-on training before receiving a concealed carry permit. Public safety should be left to trained police officers who are less likely to shoot innocent bystanders.

  11. Responsible adults with concealed handguns make it more difficult for police to distinguish criminals from ordinary citizens and to identify perpetrators during a shooting.

  12. Carrying concealed handguns needlessly intimidates other citizens. Police frequently receive calls from customers at stores who feel threatened and less safe when another customer is said to be armed.
Background: "Should Adults Have the Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun?"

(Click to enlarge image)
Source: "Concealed Carry Permit Information by State," usacarry.com, (accessed Feb. 25, 2014)
Carrying a concealed handgun in public is permitted for non-law enforcement officials in all 50 states. [1] Washington, DC does not allow concealed carry except by active and retired law enforcement officers. [47]

Proponents of concealed carry say that criminals are less likely to attack someone they believe to be armed. They cite the 2nd Amendment's "right of the people to keep and bear arms," and argue that most adults who legally carry a concealed gun are law-abiding and do not misuse their firearms.

Opponents of concealed carry argue that increased gun ownership leads to more gun crime and unintended gun injuries. They contend that concealed handguns increase the chances of arguments becoming lethal, and that society would be safer with fewer guns on the street, not more.

Categories of Permits

State regulations on concealed carry fall into four categories. The first is "no-issue," which does not allow citizens to carry a concealed handgun. The second category is "may-issue," which grants concealed carry permits at the discretion of local authorities. The third category is "shall-issue," which requires police to issue concealed carry permits as long as the applicant meets certain minimum requirements such as a minimum age, no prior felony conviction, and no recent commitments to a mental institution. The fourth category is "unrestricted carry," where no permit is required to carry a concealed handgun. [48]

In 1813 Kentucky and Louisiana passed the first laws prohibiting the concealed carrying of deadly weapons. [36] By 1850 most Southern states had prohibited concealed carry in an attempt to reduce high murder rates. [20] In the 1880s, non-Southern states began restricting the concealed carry of weapons. [37] After WWI, the focus of gun control efforts switched from the state to the federal level. Congress imposed an excise tax on weapons in 1919 and prohibited the shipping of handguns through the US postal system in 1927. In 1934 the federal government began regulating possession of weapons with the National Firearms Act. [38] "May-issue" laws were dominant in the post-World War II period.

NRA Influence

Gun owners rally at the Illinois State Capitol in support of proposed legislation to allow concealed carry.
(Click to enlarge image)
Gun owners rally at the Illinois State Capitol in support of proposed legislation to allow concealed carry.
Source: Seth Perlman, "The Debate Over Gun Rights," www.csmonitor.com Mar. 11, 2009

In 1989 the National Rifle Association (NRA) launched a nationwide campaign to increase the number of states with "shall-issue" laws. At the time nine states had such laws, including Vermont (1903), New Hampshire (1923), Washington (1961), Connecticut (1969), Indiana (1980), Maine (1985), North Dakota (1985), South Dakota (1986), and Florida (1987). [39]

Intensive lobbying of state legislators by the NRA increased the number of shall-issue states from nine in 1987 to 30 by the year 2000. [49] Four of these "shall-issue" states (Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, and Wyoming) are considered "constitutional carry," states where they allow for concealed carry without a permit as long as the person is legally able to own a firearm. [45] Those "constitutional carry" states can issue permits for non-residents and for residents traveling out of state. [45] Vermont, also considered a "shall-issue" state, does not issue permits at all. Its laws are sometimes referenced as "Vermont carry." [45] Eight states (CA, CT, DE, HI, MD, MA, NJ, NY) have "may-issue" laws which give law enforcement discretion in issuing permits (as of Mar. 14, 2014). [45]


Impact of "Shall-Issue" Laws on Crime

In 1998 John Lott, PhD, published More Guns, Less Crime which concluded that the "shall-issue" laws correlated with a decrease in violent crime. Lott argued that if states that did not permit concealed handguns in 1992 had permitted them in 1977, 1,570 murders, 4,177 rapes, 60,000 aggravated assaults, and 12,000 robberies would have been prevented between 1977 and 1992. [6]
Sign posted on a Hermann, MO, courthouse forbidding the carrying of concealed guns
(Click to enlarge image)
Sign posted on a Hermann, MO, courthouse forbidding the carrying of concealed guns
Source: "A Sign Of No Concealed Guns Allowed," www.worldofstock.com (accessed Mar. 29, 2010)


Following the release of Lott's book, researchers began issuing studies both supporting and criticizing Lott's results. An Oct. 2001 peer-reviewed study found that concealed carry had a deterrent effect on crime in some states and contributed to increases in crime in other states. [40] In Apr. 2003, Ian Ayres, PhD, and John Donohue, PhD, wrote in a peer-reviewed study published in the Stanford Law Review that "small increases in crime associated with the adoption of shall-issue laws." [21] However, Carlisle Moody, PhD, and Thomas Marvell, PhD, concluded in a Feb. 2008 study that a "shall-issue law is generally beneficial with respect to its overall long run effect on crime." [41] The National Research Council, the working arm of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded in 2004 that "it is impossible to draw strong conclusions from the existing literature on the causal impact of these laws." [7]

Concealed Handguns and the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment features prominently in the concealed handgun debate. The Second Amendment states (in its entirety), "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." In 1897, the US Supreme Court ruled in Robertson v. Baldwin that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons." [50] On June 26, 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment guarantees "the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment." [31] The US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in McDonald v. Chicago on June 28, 2010 that the findings in District of Columbia v. Heller apply to the state and local governments in addition to federal jurisdictions like DC. [42]

President Obama and Guns

Following the election of President Barack Obama in Nov. 2008, Ohio issued 56,691 new concealed weapon permits in 2009, a 67% increase from the 33,864 licenses issued in 2008. [26] According to Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, this increase in concealed weapon permits is a result of "President Obama being anti-gun and the fear that he was going to do something to affect gun ownership." The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave President Obama an "F” rating for his first year in office for his efforts on gun control, in part because Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 on May 22, 2009 which included an amendment to allow the carrying of firearms in national parks. [19] The National Rifle Association also gave presidential candidate Barack Obama an "F" rating on gun rights. [18] Obama was quoted in an Apr. 2, 2008 article saying, "I am not in favor of concealed weapons. I think that creates a potential atmosphere where more innocent people could (get shot during) altercations." [27]

Contemporary Legislation

States and counties frequently restrict where concealed weapons can be carried to exclude schools, government buildings, and establishments where alcohol is served. Some states allow businesses to post signs prohibiting the carrying of concealed firearms within the establishment.

On July, 22, 2009, the US Senate rejected a bill in a 58 to 39 vote (60 votes were needed) by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) that would allow an individual who holds a concealed weapons permit in one state to travel with a loaded concealed weapon to any of the other 47 states that also issued permits at the time. [22]

Children protest at Seattle's Pike Place Market over Starbucks' policy of allowing the open carrying of guns in stores
(Click to enlarge image)
Children protest at Seattle's Pike Place Market over Starbucks' policy of allowing the open carrying of guns in stores
Source: Joshua Trujillo, "Starbucks Sticks to its Guns," www.seattlepi.com, Mar. 3, 2010


On July 8, 2011, Wisconsin became the 49th state to allow concealed carry. [51] Wisconsin citizens who go through training and obtain a permit are able to carry a concealed handgun in most public buildings and private businesses (including bars and churches) unless establishments post a sign forbidding it. On Dec. 11, 2012, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Moore v. Madigan struck down an Illinois state law passed in 1962 that prohibited carrying a gun in public. On July 9, 2013, Illinois legislators overrode the governor's veto and passed a bill allowing concealed handguns. The law permits residents to purchase a concealed-carry license for $150 ($300 for non-residents) if they are 21 or older, pass a background check, complete 16 hours of gun safety training, and are not addicted to narcotics. [43][44]

Seven states allow carrying a concealed weapon on public college or university campuses, 21 states ban concealed weapons on campus, and 22 leave the decision up to the individual college or university. [46] In 2013, 19 states introduced legislation to allow carrying concealed weapons on campus. Two bills passed, one in Kansas that allows concealed carry for everyone and one in Arkansas that allows university faculty only to carry handguns. [46] Five states introduced legislation in 2013 to prohibit carrying concealed weapons on campus, but none of the bills passed. [46]

Video Gallery (click to watch video)

Glenn Beck interviews Arizona State Senator Karen Johnson on CNN Headlines News about her bill to allow concealed guns on Arizona college campuses
Source: "Guns on Campus," www.youtube.com, Mar. 13, 2008
US Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) delivers a speech in the Senate against the Thune Amendment which would have allowed concealed permit holders to carry concealed weapons into other states
Source: "Menendez Speaks in Senate Against Concealed Guns Amendment," www.youtube.com (July 22, 2009)
CBS News discusses the pro-concealed carry Thune amendment added to Defense Authorization Bill
Source: "Carrying Concealed Guns," www.cbsnews.com, July 21, 2009
Full Disclosure interviews law enforcement officials including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and former Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton about concealed carry permits
Source: "Sheriffs & Top Cops Favor Citizens Concealed Carry Guns?," www.youtube.com, May 6, 2008

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