by Ari Armstrong
Sept. 15, 1999. More on the carrying of handguns for lawful protection.
On Friday evening, September 3, Chad Anderson drove to a Grand Junction City Market grocery store and asked for his estranged wife Sarah, whom he had assaulted a month earlier. After leaving briefly and returning, Anderson dragged Sarah from the store by her hair while cursing her. Hobert Franklin, Jr. attempted to stop Anderson inside the store. Anderson pulled a .22 Ruger revolver from his pocket and shot Franklin in the chest, killing him. Once in the parking lot, Anderson shot Sarah twice, once in the body and once in the head, killing her.
Meanwhile, David Gilcrease had herd about the emergency while inside the store and had exited to the parking lot to confront Anderson. Anderson shot and killed Gilcrease and then killed himself. Five shots, three innocent deaths and a suicide. A horrible tragedy. Would a "shall-issue" concealed carry law in Colorado have stopped it?
While it's impossible to predict what the effects of a law might have been in a particular case, what's clear is that the rate of murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery declines in states that permit citizens to carry concealed handguns. Colorado is one of a minority of states that either prohibits concealed carry by law-abiding citizens or limits the practice. In Colorado, county sheriffs may issue concealed carry permits at their discretion.
Professor John Lott, Jr. of Yale Law School conducted a comprehensive statistical study of crime and compiled the results in his book, More Guns, Less Crime. Lott writes that if counties now without "shall-issue" concealed carry requirements "had been subject to state concealed-handgun laws and had thus been forced to issue handgun permits, murders in the United States would have declined by about 1,400... the number of rapes in states without nondiscretionary laws would have declined by 4,200, aggravated assaults by 60,000, and robberies by 12,000."
Notably Lott found that mass public shootings drastically decline because of concealed carry laws. "For those states from which data are available before and after the passage of such [nondiscretionary concealed handgun] laws, the mean per-capita death rate from mass shootings in those states plummets by 69 percent."
So, while it's impossible to predict whether a nondiscretionary concealed handgun law in Colorado would have prevented Anderson from murdering three innocent people on September 3, it's clear that such a law would have saved lives over-all by preventing many of those types of murders state-wide.
Of course, the anti-gun lobby uses every tragedy involving guns to push their political agenda to eventually ban guns altogether. "If Anderson hadn't been able to steal that .22, he couldn't have used it to murder three innocent people." But this line of argument ignores some important facts. Even if guns had been banned altogether, Anderson still could have purchased one on the black market or resorted to some other weapon like a knife or a crow-bar.
And if guns had been banned, thousands of lives would have been lost because victims would have been defenseless in their homes against violent rapists and thugs.
The deterrent effect of concealed carry laws does not even depend on citizens using their guns for defense. Instead, many would-be criminals avoid getting into situations where they might be confronted by citizens bearing arms. Thus, potential crimes are avoided altogether. It's possible that if Chad Anderson had known he would have faced several concealed handgun carriers at City Market, he would never have gone there in the first place. If that had been the case, those who took the responsibility to carry handguns and train to use them safely and effectively would have prevented the terrible tragedy, and they would never even have known it.
That's why the sentiments of some are biased against guns. Murders make for dramatic television. But the crimes prevented by handgun ownership can only be studied through academic statistical research. The lives saved by gun ownership, however, are no less important simply because they go largely unnoticed by the media.
Ari Armstrong is a Senior Fellow with the Independence Institute, a think-tank in Golden, http://i2i.org