The Right to Protect Ourselves (Op-Ed)
The gun debate has heated up recently, spurring passionate responses from both sides. Anti-gun advocates fear that they or their loved ones will become victims of gun violence. Pro-gun advocates fear the loss of fundamental gun rights that allow them the means to defend themselves. The debate affects us here at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) because some of our adult students and faculty are law-abiding citizens with concealed carry permits.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, The Sounds newspaper focused much of its January, 2013 issue on the topics of guns violence and grief. They reported that some students and faculty at SPSCC believe concealed carry on campus puts them at risk. However, statistically, carrying concealed weapons reduces violent crime. And not just for the person with the gun, but for the rest of us as well.
According to research published in the January 1997 issue of the Journal of Legal Studies by criminologist, John R. Lott, Jr., PhD, concealed carry laws “coincide with fewer murders, aggravated assaults, and rapes.” Lott reported 8, 7 and 5 percent reductions in these crimes following the passage of state concealed-carry laws.
In the 2010 edition of Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime, he reports that murders fell by an additional 1.5 percent and rape, robbery and aggravated assaults fell by 3 percent for each additional year that states’ right-to-carry laws were in effect. The decline in violent crime is greater the longer carry laws are in effect.
Defensive gun use, which is often unreported by victims and the media, is even more compelling. Brandishing a gun during an attempted crime is frequently sufficient to deter criminals and may therefore not be reported, especially if the person carrying the gun lives in a state where concealed carry is illegal. The media can be biased and underreport defensive use stories because gun violence – and fatalities in particular – are more newsworthy. Subsequently, the public gets a skewed view of gun reality.
Fifteen national polls, including those used by Gallup and the Los Angeles Times, imply that defensive gun use is extremely common. They reported that guns are used defensively 3.6 million times a year and handguns make up 760,000 of defensive uses.
We make our own safety in many different ways: walking to our cars with a buddy, locking our cars and houses, living in gated communities, keeping an eye on our neighborhoods and reporting crimes to the police. Knowing how to safely carry and use a gun is just another tool to keep us safe. Admittedly, carrying a gun may not be for everyone, but the decision should be left to the individual.
SPSCC’s current policy of honoring state law in allowing concealed carry for qualified adults is sensible and fair. I am glad to hear that SPSCC’s new President, Tim Stokes, will consider all the facts before he makes a decision regarding future policy. If we discard logic and allow fear to make our decisions for us, we may very well find ourselves without the means to protect ourselves when we need it most.
Tabatha Blacksmith has had a concealed carry permit for Washington State for over 10 years. She regularly receives firearms safety instruction from, and practices with, her husband, Eric Blacksmith. Eric is an Army veteran and gun enthusiast that used to work in the firearms industry.