Saturday, December 3, 2011

Guys, the sky isn't falling. Really

The Philadelphia Inquirer has their knickers in a serious twist over H.R. 822, the "National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011", stating:

"The threat of gun violence to Philadelphia-area residents from the so-called Florida loophole could go national - unless U.S. senators such as Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, and many others, do the right thing."

Florida loophole? What is this Florida loophole to which they are referring and how does it increase the threat of gun violence? As is so often the case when the antis start throwing around the 'loophole' term it does not mean evading the law but rather following it. The problem (for the Inquirer) is that it is a law they don't like, hence their attempt to demonize it. The "Florida loophole" simply refers to the fact that under PA law, FL permit-holders enjoy reciprocity with PA. The shrieking predictions of bloody mayhem come from the fact that someone who has been denied a PA permit, or had theirs revoked, can apply for and receive a non-resident FL permit. All they have to do is pay $123 (or about a hundred bucks more than in PA), provide proof of training (not required in PA), submit their fingerprints (also not required in PA) and undergo an FBI background check. Quelle horreur! We must have bodies stacking up like cord wood as violent criminals with FL permits wreak havoc on the streets of PA.

Except we don't, and we won't. As happens in state after state, whenever the subject of expanding citizens carry rights comes up the antis immediately start issuing releases and holding press conferences explaining how this particular added freedom will lead to "blood in the streets!" and "fender-bender massacres!" and "shootouts over parking spots!". And the tame media will happily regurgitate these "sky is falling" predictions while ignoring what the facts have shown time and time again, that no, the sky really isn't falling, people won't be mowed down in batch lots and things are going to be okay. Really.

I must admit, however, that in this instance the ink-stained wretches at the Inquirer do have a single (and singular) incident on which to hang their anti-gun tinfoil hat: a Philly man pulled over by the police who was discovered carrying 2 handguns, a half-pound of pot, several thousand dollars of cash and a Florida permit to carry (now personally, if I was holding several thousand dollars cash and $3000-plus of pot I would be carrying at least two pistols regardless of whether I had a permit or not). But let's look at this incident for a second. Where's the violence? I mean the Inquirer is claiming that there is the threat of violence if this "loophole" goes national, so where's the violence?

Again for all practical purposes there isn't any and there won't be. As Dr. John Lott points out on

"Since Jan. 1, 2008, only four permit holders have had their permits revoked for a firearms violation ('utilized' is very broad here, including such things as accidentally carrying a gun into a gun-free zone)."

"That comes to an annual revocation rate of about 0.0002 percent. That is two ten-thousandths of 1 percent. How much smaller could that revocation rate be?"

In my own state of Minnesota in 2010, out of the 88-plus thousand active permits to carry, the number revoked for some sort of criminal use of a gun? Zero. The number revoked for some sort of criminal conduct not involving a gun? Zero. The number revoked for any sort of criminal conduct? ZERO!

So now that we have blasted the Inquirer's opening paragraph to smithereens, let's look at the second paragraph:

"Under a bill just rammed through the U.S. House to a tune called by the National Rifle Association, every state that permits residents to carry concealed handguns would have to honor permits held by gun owners from other states."

Again with the pejoratives! First we had 'loophole' and now we have 'rammed'. So what does the Inquirer mean by the bill getting rammed through? Well, it means that the bill was introduced in February of this year, debated in the House Judiciary Committee, voted out of the committee on November 11th, debated on the House floor for over 4 hours on November 16th and passed in a bi-partisan vote (with over 20% of Democrats voting for it). Hmmm, seems like "rammed through" is sort of like "loophole" in the sense that everything was done perfectly legally, but the Inquirer didn't like it.

On to the third paragraph:

"That would scrap the long-established notion that states should have the right to shape their own approach as to who gets to carry a legal weapon. In Pennsylvania, for instance, police have the right to use discretion in denying a gun permit if, as in Philadelphia, they question an applicant's character."

I have already addressed the spurious "States' Rights vs. Civil Rights" argument but will recap briefly; this argument didn't work when the South was trying to retain their Jim Crow laws and it shouldn't be given any credence now. So now we reach the crux of the issue (no pun intended) over issuing permits: Pennsylvania is nominally a "shall-issue" state but they have the fairly standard "[a]n individual whose character and reputation is such that the individual would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety" exemption for issuing a permit. The problem arises in Philadelphia where the Chief of Police has a rather broad understanding of the kind of character flaws which indicate "the individual would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety". As far as he is concerned, if you have some parking tickets, or have ever been behind on your child support, that indicates you are a danger to public safety. Now while I am no fan of "deadbeat" fathers, but even if someone is the quintessential, stereotypical deadbeat dad how does that make him "dangerous to public safety"?

More from the Inquirer:

"The NRA and its acolytes in Congress argue that this measure simply brings a degree of uniformity to concealed-carry permits in much the same way as one state honors another's drivers' licenses."

"But the stakes are much higher, since making the right determination about who should - and should not - carry a gun is a potential matter of life and death to a degree unmatched by rules about who gets to slide behind the wheel of a vehicle."

Okay, according to the Federal DoT in 2006 there were about 203 million licensed drivers in the United States. The CDC's WISQARS site (excellent resource by the way) tells us there were 45,509 motor vehicle deaths that year. This works out to a rate of about 22.4 MV deaths per 100,000 drivers.

Now, according to the grossly inflated numbers from the Violence Policy Center's report Concealed Carry Killers between May 2007 and today we averaged 85.555555 (call it 86) deaths per year supposedly from permit holders. According to MSNBC, in January of 2010 there were about 6 million permit holders in the U.S., so we'll take that as an average over the VPC's time period (yes Virginia, this is a rough calculation), which gives us a rate of 1.43333 "concealed carry deaths" per 100,000.

So let me see if I have this straight: With a MV kill rate fifteen times the (highly inflated) Concealed Carry kill rate the Inquirer wants us to believe that driver licensing is less of "matter of life and death" than who can carry concealed? Seriously?

At this point, the Inquirer really screws up when they tell us:

"As it happens, Philadelphia already is experiencing the problems that the effective nationalization of handgun-carrying permits would unleash. Because Pennsylvania has a reciprocity agreement with Florida on gun permits, Keystone State residents who have been turned down for gun permits locally are free to obtain them from Florida."

"An estimated 900 city residents are now armed in Philadelphia with such mail-order permits from the Sunshine State, and some clearly turned to Florida after being denied permits here. How much worse would the situation be if the Florida loophole were expanded to include every state that applied different standards to gun permitting?"

So here the Inquirer is actually admitting that the city has had experience with "the situation", but they are unable to point to more than one single solitary problem.

So how much worse will "the situation" get if H.R. 822 passes the Senate and is signed into law? None, zero, zip, nada. Guys the sky isn't falling. It's going to be okay. Really.

1 comment:

  1. Pennsylvania law is such that a Pennsylvanian with a Florida permit cannot carry in Pennsylvania. That permit is invalid for PA residents; only a PA permit works for them. Like the Utah permit, however, it does allow one to carry in a raft of other states.

    As a Florida resident, my 790 permit works for me everywhere but MD, NJ, NY, CT and MA when I go to visit my friends in NH.

    While I think HR822 is the wrong way to go about this, I do enjoy seeing NYS in a dither ;-)