Monday, February 25, 2013

The Gun Is in the Hand of the Beholder

Since Minnesota passed its concealed carry law in 2003, there have been eight instances of justifiable firearm use by a permit holder, the Star Tribune reported today -- five reported to the statewide Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and three in Minneapolis. In the same period, permit-holders were convicted 124 times for using a firearm unlawfully. Let's see, that's a 15.5 : 1 ratio of crimes to justifiable uses. And that doesn't count suicides.

The Strib article goes on to break down some of the cases of the 124 crimes committed by permit-holders: 19 assaults, six drug-related, 10 for carrying while drunk, and one homicide.

Gun rights defenders, though, discount the 15.5 : 1 ratio. As the owner of a gun shop put it, "That doesn't show when a firearm deters an actual crime from taking place. Visibility or knowledge of a firearm is a deterrent, but those don't get reported."

When I hear that kind of argument, I, like most people, envision a situation where a permit-holder with a gun brandishes the weapon and a burglar or attacker runs away. But that's not the kind of scenario presented by a fire-arms instructor in the story:

Wilson Combat .45 pistol
...Mike Briggs, a firearms instructor and permit holder who lives in Ramsey ... said he was pumping gas in February 2012 about 4 a.m. in north Minneapolis when he saw four people drive up in a car with the headlights off. Briggs said he made eye contact with the driver and that the two stared at each other for three minutes until the group slowly drove away. Briggs said he never pulled out his Wilson Combat .45 pistol.

“I think they were going to carjack me,” he said. Briggs said his gun gave him confidence to confront the group if need be. “My self-confidence, my eye contact, my body language. I was ready. And I think they figured that.”
This is what passes for a case of defending yourself with a gun? I'd say it's just as easily described as a situation where a person carrying a gun assumes everyone else is armed or out to get him. Let's guess what color those four people in that car in North Minneapolis were. Hmmm. Not white, I'll bet. They drove away rather than come near the crazy white guy glaring at them from the pumps. They're lucky Briggs didn't shoot at them, as in the case of Jordan Davis, shot to death because his friends were playing loud music in their car.

Gun rights advocates also tried to claim the decline in violent crime of the past 10 years has happened because there are so many more armed civilians on the street. But both law enforcement officials and criminologists say that is "highly unlikely." It was a trend already underway before the law passed, it has happened nationwide, and it may be because of environmental causes.

One good bit of news in the story: You know how the number of permit applications spiked everywhere after Newtown? The Dakota County sheriff was quoted as saying the renewal rate for permits has been dropping steadily since 2009, and now is about 40 percent. So even if the number of new permits goes up, the renewal rate is pretty low, at least in Dakota County.

Although I'm not sure if that means the permit-holders got rid of (or never purchased) their guns, or if they're keeping them but letting the permit lapse.

1 comment:

Gina said...

Usually, the story I've heard about defending oneself with a gun when a criminal threatens is this: when the gun owner pulls out his gun, the criminal pulls out his. Or when the gun owner pulls out his gun, the criminal physically assaults him/her and takes the gun away, turning it on the gun owner. In most cases, gun owners are not as self-confident as the guy in the story and they freeze, start shaking, or do something else to signal weakness. I believe that criminals sometimes run away when they see a gun, but I don't believe it's as common a reaction as gun lobbyists would like us to believe.