Concealed Carry: Risks and Deceptive Practices Adversely Affecting Public Safety

May 12, 2015   //   Politics

 

The following is a reproduction of correspondence sent to leadership of the NC House Appropriations Committee, various sponsors of pending gun legislation, minority leadership in the NC House and Senate, two reporters of the Raleigh News & Observer (N&O) who have reported on gun legislation and gun violence in NC, and the investigative reporter at the Raleigh television station WRAL that recently aired a piece on NC residents obtaining the Virginia CCW permit on line and thus bypassing NC permit requirements.  Although such a project has been on my plate for a while, its completion was prompted following contact by a representative of a national gun violence prevention advocacy group who made introductions regarding some previous gun legislation work of mine in in North Carolina.

Last fall I took exception to an opinion piece in the Raleigh N&O, written by the president of Grass Roots North Carolina (a ‘gun rights’ advocacy group), where there was a clear misrepresentation of concealed carry permit holder qualifications, portraying that they would serve as a public resource at the State Fair.  I issued complaint to the N&O about the matter, even citing whether the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics required some form of action by the press to correct the matter – but without response.   Misrepresentations and distortions, especially if intentional, are rarely confined to a single instance.   Enough examples of omitted information and deceptive practices are presented below to draw into question the integrity and accuracy of information being used to support the expansion of concealed carry in North Carolina (the work is applicable to legislatures in other states as well).  A request is made of NC lawmakers to place a moratorium on the further expansion of concealed carry into public venues until the general assembly can verify that the benefits of concealed carry outweigh the established risks to the general public.

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Summary

There can be no doubt that the concealed carry (CCW) permit holder population itself increases the risk of serious injury and death to the general public.  Nationally, hundreds of fatalities have been attributed to permit holders who engaged in non-self defense shootings as reported by news media reports and subsequent legal proceedings since May 2007.  Included are at least 29 mass shootings (two in NC, one this February in Chapel Hill involving the murder of three Muslim students, autopsy showing that the two unarmed women were shot with the gun held in close proximity to the skull), 46 murder/suicides (two in NC, one this February in Wilmington where the permit holder shot a man in the head, and a pregnant woman in the head and abdomen terminating the fetus, this in the presence of the woman’s young child, before taking his own life with the weapon), and the killing of 17 law enforcement officers.  The reliance on news media reports and legal proceedings is due to the gun lobby’s successful obstruction of access to permit holder databases (including here in NC) and the defunding of research.  As such, the reported fatalities attributed to permit holders are likely a considerable underestimate.  Therefore, although risk to the public has been established, its full extent has not.  The many purported benefits ascribed to expanding the carrying of concealed weapons in public venues remain largely, if not completely, unsubstantiated.  However, there are multiple instances where such benefits have been described that involve intentional omission of information as well as deceptive practices (limiting scope regarding both state and venue) that have been issued by the ‘gun rights’ and special interest organization, Grass Roots North Carolina.  These omissions and practices work to obscure risk to both the public and lawmakers.  There are enough instances of such behavior that the integrity and reliability of information used in support of pending gun legislation in the NC General Assembly should be drawn into question.  As the carrying of concealed weapons in public is not a constitutionally protected right, as risk to the public has been established, and as a primary function of government is the protection of its citizenry, it is requested that both houses refrain from further action on multiple pieces of pending gun legislation and undertake a thorough review of information being used in support of such legislation.

Introduction

My name is Dr. Art Kamm and am a resident of Apex, NC.  I write my elected representation, various committee members, sponsors of some gun legislation, and minority leadership in both houses on issues that should be of considerable concern to both houses of our legislature regarding multiple pieces of pending gun legislation.  By way of background, I have held executive and senior executive/corporate officer level positions in a regulated industry where I authored many dozens of documents involving product benefit/risk assessment, and defended the work in numerous meetings with federal regulators.  I and my teams have shepherded multiple pharmaceutical products, having safety issues, onto the market both domestically and abroad.  The principles of benefit/risk analysis are broadly applicable.  In essence, one wishes to establish that the verifiable benefits of a product outweigh the potential risks to both individuals and the public.  Such has been applied here to the practice of carrying concealed weapons in public venues.  There should be no double standard applied by lawmakers in assessing risk to individuals and the public, regardless of a product’s regulatory status.

Due to length considerations (this communication already being somewhat lengthy – but necessarily so), what follows is not intended to be a complete examination of all issues.  But enough is presented to firmly establish the increased risk of serious injury and death to the general public by the concealed carry (CCW) population itself, and enough instances of omitted information and deceptive practices regarding claims of benefit that work to obscure risk to the public and lawmakers, to draw question as to the basis of further expanding CCW into multiple public venues.

Risk

Since, May 2007, the Violence Policy Center (VPC), has been compiling examples of non-self defense shootings by CCW permit holders from news media reports and subsequent legal proceedings, so far including 37 states and the District of Columbia.  The data base is well-known to ‘gun rights’ activists, some of whom have taken exception to the totaling of some of the numbers.  However, here in NC, the database accurately captured the recent mass shooting of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill this past February by a CCW permit holder – recently published autopsy findings indicating that the two unarmed women were shot by the permit holder with the gun held in close proximity to the skull.  The database accurately captured the recent murder/suicide this past February in Wilmington, NC by a CCW permit holder who, due to his permit, was able to purchase a firearm without a waiting period – within the hour of that purchase he used the gun to murder a man by shooting him in the head, immediately following he shot a pregnant woman in the head and abdomen terminating the fetus (this in the presence of the woman’s young child), before ending his own life with the weapon.  As another example, the data base also captured Bobby Ray Bordeaux, a NC CCW permit holder, who was so intoxicated that he could not remember the specifics of putting a bullet into the back of a man’s head; the permit holder was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.  Individual vignettes of reported NC events is contained in the following link, keeping in mind that this is only what has been captured from news media reports.

Nationally, there are hundreds of such vignettes contained in the data base including 29 mass shootings (two in NC including the recent Chapel Hill shooting), 46 murder-suicides (two in NC including the recent Wilmington shooting), and the killing of 17 law enforcement officers.  As the information in this data base is limited to what has been found in news media reports and subsequent legal proceedings, VPC holds that the actual number of fatal incidents is almost certainly far higher.  And as recently pointed out by the New York Times editorial board in a piece entitled “Concealed Carry’s Body Count”, the information does not include all 50 states.  As NC honors CCW permits from many states across the country, the national picture becomes relevant to risk here in NC.

Unless one wishes to take the stance that hundreds of news media reports across the country have this all wrong, and even if some fraction of what has been reported by the media is incorrect, there is no question that the CCW population itself increases the risk of serious injury and death to the general public, the extent of which we do not fully understand as the gun lobby has been effective in obstructing access to permit holder databases in many states (including NC) as well as defunding research efforts which serve to hide risk.

Benefits: Examples of Recent Claims, Omitted Information and Deceptive Tactics

1) Concealed Carry Permit Holders a Public Resource due to ‘training/extensive training/certifications’.

On October 10th of last year, F. Paul Valone, president of the Grass Roots North Carolin (GRNC), a ‘gun rights advocacy group’ actively involved with pending gun legislation, wrote an opinion piece that was published in the Raleigh News & Observer “Gun-carriers at NC State Fair would be resource, not hazard”.  The piece concludes by making the claim “By virtue of background checks and training (emphasis added) permit-holders represent a resource, not a hazard”.

Mr. Valone’s opinion of resource/not hazard was also published in at least one other publication and again backed by claims of training: “According to Valone, people with concealed weapons are ‘overwhelmingly responsible people with extensive training and certifications (emphasis added).  These people are not a hazard, they are a resource”.

However, at the time he issued the claims of ‘training/extensive training/certifications’, highlighted in red on the GRNC website as one of the organization’s accomplishments, is a “concealed handgun reciprocity law which has captured 37 states”, i.e., these 37 states honor each others CCW permits and there is considerable variation in permit requirements across these states, some, e.g., Virginia, not requiring live fire training (or even the handling of a firearm) in order to obtain the permit.

Additionally, WRAL recently aired investigative reporting about the ability of NC residents to obtain the Virginia permit online and thus bypass the training requirements of the NC permit process.   Mr. Valone posted a response to the WRAL report on the GRNC website.  In that response he not only recognizes and agrees with the ability of NC citizens to obtain CCW permits without live-fire qualification, but also recognizes that some states (where NC shares reciprocity) do not even require a permit to carry.

Mr. Valone should be made to explain his representations to the public and lawmakers that CCW permit holders would represent a public resource due to “extensive training” and “certifications” when in fact he had knowledge that NC would be opening a public venue to permit holders who have obtained permits with no documented training and others where no permit is even required.

2) Concealed Handgun Laws deter violent crime

In the above N&O opinion piece, Mr. Valone states that since passing concealed carry in 1995, violent crime plummeted by 45.9% with corresponding drops in murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery.  Such a claim would not hold under formal review as it violates the well-known principle in science and statistics that correlation does not imply causation – it falls into the same trap as correlating events to the phase of the moon.  Proving such a claim takes study, and two recently completed studies, known to gun rights activists and referenced below, show that in states with statutory Stand-Your-Ground laws (intimately tied to concealed carry) there is an increase in homicides that is not explained by self-defense shootings.

Additionally, in the above N&O opinion piece, Mr. Valone draws reference to a study by Mark Guis of Quinnipiac Universtiy that is suggestive that concealed handgun laws deter violent crime.  The study was published in a companion journal “Applied Economics Letters”, not the parent journal.  In interview Dr. Guis himself has stated that he does not believe his paper alone supports public policy changes in regard to guns and points to factors that could have affected the results.  “I’m saying in my paper we need more research in this area”.

While citing this work, Mr. Valone omitted reference to two recently completed substantial studies out of academic institutions in Georgia and Texas, both using different data sets and both coming to the same conclusion that in states having Stand-Your-Ground (SYG) laws, intimately tied to concealed carry, there is an increase in homicides that can not be explained by self-defense shootings.  These reports are well-known and contained in the recently released American Bar Association Task Force Report on SYG laws, the task force recommending that legislatures should not enact such laws because empirical evidence shows that states with statutory SYG laws have not decreased theft, burglary, or assault crimes.  The report further concluded that SYG laws “are a solution searching for a problem”, and are associated with increased homicide and reinforce racial bias.

Mr. Valone should be made to explain his representations to the public (and thus our lawmakers) based on a minor work suggesting that concealed carry deters violent crime where the author of that article states that the work itself should not be used to support public policy changes, while at the same time omitting reference to two recently completed substantial studies, cited by an American Bar Association Task Force, showing that SYG laws (intimately linked to concealed carry) do not reduce crime and are associated with an increase in homicide.

3) No Evidence that CCW permit holders from other states have caused a problem in NC

In the above referenced response by Mr. Valone to the WRAL report on the Virginia permit, he states, “To our knowledge, neither WRAL nor anyone else has documented a single instance of an out-of-state permit-holder from Virginia or anywhere else causing a problem in NC…”.  The VPC concealed carry data base contains 15 examples where Virginia permit holders have committed non-self defense shootings, including 2 mass shootings and the killing of two law enforcement officers.  Simply put, as Virginia permit holders have committed such crimes, and NC allows Virginia permit holders to carry in this state, whether there are any documented cases by these permit holders in NC becomes irrelevant – the risk is established.

Mr. Valone should be made to explain why Virginia permit holders would not pose a risk for similar crimes here in NC (the same holds for other states where NC recognizes the permit).

4) No problems at other State Fairs (Limiting Scope) and other Assorted Claims

A number of claims have been made by Mr. Valone in the Oct 2014 N&O opinion piece that are problematic.  Some of these include no problems at other state fairs allowing concealed carry, modern firearms do not discharge when dropped, that permit holders serve a protective function against active shooters.

The first issue is that it is inappropriate to assess risk by limiting examination to a specific venue unless warranted.  Unless there are compelling reasons that safety issues occurring in other venues would not be anticipated to occur in another, events occurring in all venues are relevant.  This is basic in benefit/risk analysis where safety data is pooled to capture a more complete assessment of risk.  Secondly, as NC honors CCW permit holders from a majority of states, it is inappropriate to limit examination to just those events captured in NC – the national picture becomes relevant to risk in NC.  Specific references will not be provided for the examples that follow, but can be provided if required.

In Florida, where there is a state fair allowing concealed carry and where NC honors the permit, a permit holder pulled his weapon during an argument at a bar and grill – the exchange of gunfire with an armed security guard left two dead and ten others wounded in the crowded environment.  It should be explained as to why this event should not be taken into consideration when assessing risk at the state fair.

In Florida,  a permit holder had his firearm accidentally discharge in a cafe when it fell out his waistband and struck the floor, the bullet striking a woman in the back and killing her.  On what basis would this event not be taken into consideration in assessing risk at the state fair?

There are multiple examples of modern firearms accidentally discharging in public venues such as during a church service (enhanced training permit holder); in a college classroom (enhanced training permit holder) where the permit holder, a professor, suffered a gunshot wound; in multiple fast food and restaurant establishments; in a grocery market line where the permit holder shot himself; while readjusting a concealed gun where the discharge claimed the life of the permit holder; and others.

Simply put, limiting venue, whether a specific event or a specific state in this case, constitutes a deceptive practice in assessing risk.

Regarding Mr. Valone’s claim of concealed carry permit holders being a resource against active shooters, what was omitted is a September 16, 2013 report by the FBI that catalogued 160 mass shootings involving active shooters between 2000 and 2013 (a 14 year period). [Error: The actual date of the report is September, 2014, not September, 2013].  These events resulted in 1,043 casualties (486 killed, 557 wounded).  This timeframe corresponds with the expansion of concealed carry and SYG laws that were supposed to provide a protective element to the public against such events.  However, in only one of the 160 incidents did a private citizen with a permit holder participate in the resolution of such an event.  On the other hand, from May 2007 to present (an 8 year period), again during the expansion of CCW and SYG laws, news media reports captured 29 mass shootings where a permit holder was the perpetrator of the event.  Although being derived from different studies, this should raise concerns as to whether expansion of CCW may actually be increasing risk for such events rather than serving as a useful deterrent – the opposite of its intended benefit.   Such deserves examination, but studies have been obstructed.

The Second Amendment Does Not Confer a Right to Carry a Concealed Weapon

Despite the talk about ‘right to carry’, and some CCW legislation including ‘Second Amendment’ in the title, the US Supreme Court made clear in Heller that the right to keep and bear arms is not unrestricted.  Quoting from justice Scalia who wrote for the majority: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.  From Blackstone through the 19th-centruy cases, commentators 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.”  Additionally, there are cases like Peterson v Garcia in 2013 where the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit unanimously held that “the Second Amendment does not confer a right to carry concealed weapons”.

So the decision to expand the carrying of concealed weaponry into multiple NC public venues is a decision being made by the legislature – it is not about defending a constitutionally-protected right.

Concluding Remarks

There is much more that could have been covered here such as the lack of evidence supporting shooters intentionally targeting ‘gun free zones’; the purported claim that guns held by the public serve a useful purpose for self-defense when examination of data on file with the FBI show that gun-related criminal homicides outnumber self-defense gun-related homicides some forty-fold in recent years – this with the United States already having the highest per capita gun ownership of any other industrialized Western democracy – and when DOJ analysis has shown that in over 70% of the cases where police officers have lost their lives to gunfire, they were unable to defend themselves (despite being armed, trained, and wearing protective gear) due to the element of surprise.

With the risk of concealed carry to the public having been established, with the many claims of benefits being unsubstantiated (if not supported by deceptive practices), with concealed carry not being a constitutionally-protected right, and with a primary function of government being the protection of its citizenry, it is felt warranted to call for a moratorium on the further expansion of concealed carry into public venues until the general assembly can verify that the benefits of concealed carry outweigh the risks to the public.

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