The number of people applying for and receiving permits to carry concealed weapons has risen dramatically throughout the United States during the last two years, and it continues to rise, yet the number of felony killings of police officers has declined just as precipitously over the same period.
Inexplicable? “This is just the type of thing that was predicted,” economist John R. Lott told HUMAN EVENTS. Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime (Chicago University Press), pointed to research done eight years ago by David P. Mustard and published in Chicago University’s Journal of Law and Economics.
“States that enact concealed-carry laws are less likely to have a felonious police death and more likely to have lower rates of felonious police deaths after the law is passed,” Mustard concluded in his 2001 journal article.
A sampling of concealed-carry permit (CCP) activity in various states illustrates the increase in demand for concealed weapons:
- Ohio: Sheriffs issued 33,864 regular CCPs in 2008, 53% more than in 2007 (73 temporary emergency licenses were also issued), according to the Buckeye Firearms Association.
- Oklahoma: As of June, the state had 78,000 CCP holders, with more than 21,000 CCPs issued in 2008 — twice the number issued in 2007, according to The Oklahoman newspaper.
- Utah: The Bureau of Criminal Identification processed 2,548 CCP applications in February 2008 and 8,142 in February 2009. For March the numbers were 4,412 in 2008 and 10,878 in 2009.
- Forsyth County, N.C.: In the first six months of 2007 there were 1,362 applications for permits to buy pistols, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. In the same time period in 2008 and 2009, there were 1,974 and 2,935 applications, respectively.
Despite the increase in the number of legally carried concealed weapons, 41 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in 2008, a decline of 17 killings from the previous year’s total, according to the 2008 U.S. Department of Justice report, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted. Firearms were used in 35 of those killings, 25 of which were by handguns. Many other police officers died in the line of duty, but the majority of those deaths resulted from auto accidents during police chases.
The 41 killings is the lowest in recent decades, matched only in 1999 when there were 42 felonious killings of police officers, 25 of which were also by handguns.
“Letting law-abiding citizens carry guns reduces the rate at which criminals are carrying guns,” Lott said. Armed citizens increase the risk to armed criminals, who typically prefer to avoid life-threatening risk and so are less likely to use guns in the commission of a crime, he said.
Lott explained that where there is an increase in CCPs, there is also a drop in violent crime relative to property crime — fewer armed robberies and more larcenies. Also, criminals tend to move from areas in which more citizens are armed, resulting in an increase in crime in counties and states that restrict gun ownership and CCPs.
“License holders, like gun owners in general, are not the extremists the anti-gun crowd tries to paint,” Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, told the Chillicothe, Ohio Gazette in June. “They are honorable citizens who want protection from real dangers. Responsible people carry a gun to protect them from a criminal attack.”
“To date [Oct. 2001] we have no examples of law-abiding citizens with concealed-weapons permits assaulting police officers,” Mustard wrote. “In contrast, there is at least one example of such a citizen coming to the aid of an officer,”
“Criminals tend to avoid activities that are risky to them,” said Lott. Chicago University Press this spring will issue a third edition of More Guns, Less Crime, which Lott has updated to include an additional decade of information. The first two editions sold more than 100,000 copies, according to the publisher.