Matilda Crabtree, 14, was shot and killed by her father when she jumped from the closet and yelled BOO’ to scare her parents; her last words were, I love you, daddy.”(Rottenberg 87) Laws that regulate carrying concealed weapons (CCW) have been wildly debated in the California and the US. There have mainly been two different types of laws. One is a type of legislation known as “may need” laws, which issues licenses to people who are in absolute need of carrying a concealed weapon. The other is known as “shall use” laws, which is a lot more lenient for people and makes it easier for the general public to get a gun. This law gives state authorities to issue concealed weapon licenses to any adult who does not have a felony conviction or history of mental illness.
The use of firearms is justifiable only when a person is threatened with serious bodily injury. It does not mean that if a person is stealing your system from your car, you can shoot them. Legalizing concealed weapons to the general public is a direct attack on society’s safety in public places. Too many people will resort to force instead of a chance to runaway; everyone would rather be a hero. At the moment there are 31 states in the United States that permit people to possess a concealed weapon; California is not one of them. Carrying a concealed weapon is a threat to society because there have been too many accidents, concealed weapon laws might cause criminals to act more violently, and finally carrying concealed weapons might stimulate violent confrontation. “Shall use” CCW laws do not cut down the amount of gun violence. Even though these laws are pretty recent, studies show that more carefree concealed weapon laws will not decrease the amount of gun related violence. Based on data collected from three states, University of Maryland researchers David McDowall, Colin Loftin, and Brian Wiersema found that the homicide rates did not significantly drop in these states following the adoption of Concealed Carry Laws. Instead, in three of the five cities studied these researchers found a statistically significant increase in the rate of gun related homicides – 74% in Jacksonville, 43% in Jackson, and 22% in Tampa (Ford 65). Carrying a concealed weapon creates a false sense of security and diverts attention away from efforts to address the underlying problems of gun violence. Carrying a concealed handgun does not guarantee safety. According to the FBI, there were 49 handgun murders for every one civilian justifiable homicide in 1994 (Fisherman). In fact, carrying concealed weapons makes you more vulnerable.
Researcher Arthur Kellerman, Director of the Center for Injury Control at Emory University, warns, “If the bad guys know more people are carrying guns, they just might shoot first and reach for the wallet later.” (Sojourners)Legalizing concealed weapons would make sense if the public supported more lenient CCW laws. An April 1995 study, Illinois Statewide Survey on Public Attitudes Toward Concealed Handguns, found that more than 73% of Illinois residents do not think that citizens should be able to carry concealed weapons, which also happens to be one of the Mafia capitals of the world. A Michigan survey of 600 state residents found that 71% opposed laws that make it easier for people to carry concealed weapons. (Kirchner)There are many arguments that gun clubs and the NRA try to reassure society about concealed weapons. Many say, society is safer if criminals do not know who is armed; but if that is what society thinks, then why conceal weapons in the first place? It could be argued that concealed weapon laws might make criminals more violent; criminals might anticipate a potential victim to be armed and shoot first. Another argument gun lovers say is, an armed society is a polite society. Surveys taken in urban sections of Los Angeles and New York overwhelmingly show that an armed society is a violent one (Reese). The more guns that are out on the streets and in more homes; the more violent society will become.
Research also demonstrates that a gun that is bought for defense from an intruder is 43 times more likely to be used against a friend, family member, or yourself than an intruder himself (Voll 81). Over the past decade, a majority of states have allowed the carrying of concealed weapons. There is no evidence that the armed citizens are able to prevent such tragedies, like the Columbine Massacre, from occurring. Police report that there have been people armed while in a massacre who chose not to respond for many different reasons. Deciding when it is appropriate to respond with deadly force and responding effectively is difficult even for trained police officers.
One survivor, a Vietnam Vet, of the Long Island Railroad shooting (in which Colin Ferguson killed six commuters and wounded nineteen in December 1993), expressed that even with all of his combat experience and weapons training, if he had been armed, there was nothing he could have done. Furthermore, one never knows when one’s response with a weapon escalates a situation into a massacre. Too often, innocent people get caught in the crossfire or an undercover cop gets mistaken for a criminal, even when well-trained police officers are involved. The idea that poorly trained, self-appointed vigilantes are running through our streets looking to become heroes, should not make any of us feel safer. Arming a society does not create civility nor does it produce solutions to gun violence. We cannot solve our society’s disease of violence by arming ourselves with the epidemic.
- Fisherman, Steve (1993, October). “What You Know About Guns Can Kill You,” Vogue, 32-38.
- Ford, Liam T.A. (1994, August/September). “Gunning for Change,” Reason, 64-66Kirchner, Paul (1994, February). “Defending Gun Ownership,” Chronicles, available from 934 N. Main St., Rockford, IL. 61103-7061
- Reese, Charley (1996, January). “You Can’t Beat an (Armed) Woman,” Conservative Chronicle, available from Box 29, Hampton, IA. 50441.
- Rottenberg, Annette T. (1997). Cease fire advertisement. The Structure of Argument. Boston: Bedford Books a division of St. Martin’s Press Inc. Sojourners (1994, March). “Annie Get Your Gun,” available from 2401 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009.
- Voll, Daniel (1995, March). “The Right to Bear Sorrow,” Esquire, 79-83