Freedomnomics

Article published Wednesday, July 7, 2010, at Big Journalism.

New York Times Swallows Brady Campaign’s Anti-Gun Rhetoric Whole

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Despite all our experience with permitted concealed handguns, the debate continues. There are always fears about what might happen. A New York Times article on Monday repeated some of those concerns in an article on Utah’s permit system:

Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, asserted that Utah’s policy was dangerous because many states were lax in submitting felony and mental health records to the federal database used for background checks.

“I think it’s absolutely shameful and ludicrously irresponsible to say that anybody anywhere who wants one of our concealed-carry permits, and thus will be able to carry legally in dozens of states, can just log on to our Web site and pay 60 bucks and that’s all she wrote,” Mr. Hamm said. . . .

It is interesting that the reporter, Dan Frosch, used the term “asserted” when describing the Brady Campaign’s claims. Indeed, the article makes it clear that much more is required to get a permit than simply logging on to a website and paying $60. Criminal background checks and a four hour training course are also necessary. But there was a way of directly evaluating the Brady Campaign’s other claim that permit holders pose a danger to others. In fact, it is easy to show that permit holders are extremely law-abiding by looking at the Utah Department of Public Safety’s quarterly “Firearm Statistical Review.”

With over 226,000 active concealed-handgun permits as of March 31, 2010 , there were only 14 revocations for any type of firearms-related offense over the preceding twelve months. These offenses are also usually trivial, such as accidentally carrying a permitted concealed handgun into a gun free zone.

Thirty-two other states accept permits issued in Utah precisely because of Utah’s strict requirements. Even stricter training requirements would do more harm than good, as it would reduce the number of permits issued. As my academic research shows in the new third edition of More Guns, Less Crime, people refrain from getting a gun for self-defense if it is too much of a hassle and, with fewer permitted concealed handguns, there is less crime fighting deterrence.

The law-abiding nature of Utah’s permit holders is very typical of other states. Take Florida, another state that issues a large percentage of its permits to out-of-state residents. Between Oct. 1, 1987, and June 30 this year, permits had been issued to 1.8 million people. On average, the permits had been held for quite a long time, well over ten years. For all those individuals, throughout the more than 22 years of legal carry, there were only 167 cases where the permit was revoked for a firearms related violation, or about 0.01 percent of permit holders. During the last 30 months, three additional permit holders had their permits revoked for firearms related violations, a 0.00016 percent rate.

Reporters obviously have only limited time to check claims by those they interview. And it is all to easy for interest groups, such as the Brady Campaign, to play on people’s fears. But this is the Brady Campaign and other gun control groups that have been getting a free-ride for too long in grossly exaggerating the risks of concealed handgun permit holders.

John R. Lott Jr. is a FOXNews.com contributor. He is an economist and the author of "More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010), the third edition of which was published in May.".

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