First of all, let me begin by saying that Elilta Habtu submitted a well-written and well-researched article in Thursday’s paper. I was impressed at her determination to go through the process of obtaining a concealed carry weapon permit for the sake of the column. I do, however, wish to dispute some of her findings.
As a CCW permit holder, I am legally able to carry a concealed handgun for my personal protection in all but a few places. I am a current student at this great university, and have been a lifelong hunter as well as an avid participant in the shooting sports. My love of hunting and target shooting has led me, through experience and a hunter’s safety course, to be very comfortable and safety-conscience when handling firearms.
Whereas I have learned safe firearms training through my own determination, Habtu readily admitted that she had no experience or any desire to carry a handgun when she applied for her permit. The majority of people who are going to apply for permits are those who are already comfortable with firearms and wish to be able to legally protect themselves. As a member of the Virginia Tech Clay Target Team, I have many friends who either currently carry or plan on carrying in the future. We are all competent with firearms, and we have all taken classes to receive our permit.
If Habtu were actually planning on carrying and wished to actually know what she was doing, she would take the initiative to attend a classroom version of the CCW permit class. I will agree with her that the online class requirement seems easy to pass. This is a new amendment to the requirements. People who wish to do harm usually do not go through the process to become CCW permit holders. Habtu failed to mention the real deterrent to a criminal in receiving a permit, something that makes it much more difficult to obtain one than she admits to. The permit requires you to submit fingerprints and have a background check, something that a typical criminal would not submit to. In my opinion, the online class makes it easier for legal, eligible, upstanding citizens to mark off one step of the process. Those who wish to do harm to others wouldn’t bother to go through the process of obtaining a permit or taking classes. Denying responsible permit holders from carrying does nothing to stop the gun violence of criminals.
Habtu’s article also brings up the statistic that four CCW permit holders have committed firearms-related murder this year, four in almost an entire year. How many crimes are committed each year by people illegally carrying firearms or with illegal firearms themselves? The U.S. Department of Justice states on its Web site that of the 16,137 murders in 2004, 66 percent or 10,650 were committed with firearms. The four occurrences she has listed seem to be outweighed by this statistic. The Texas Department of Public Safety released a study in May of 1999 that showed that permit holders in Texas accounted for 0.246 percent of all aggravated assault crimes that involved a deadly weapon, four out of 1,629 convictions. It also shows that there were 3,303 convictions for people unlawfully carrying a weapon: One percent of these were permit holders. In the year 1999 the rate of murder convictions for permit holders in Texas was zero percent. There were none. I think that you will find that the ratio of crimes committed by permit holders to total permit holders is a tiny percentage compared to crimes committed by those without permits.
Permit holders have had to prove to a court that they are upstanding citizens with clean records. They are statistically the safest and most well informed people to be carrying guns, so the law allows them to. How many lives have been saved this year by those carrying concealed handguns? The article “Richmond Store owner grateful for man who shot owner” (Richmond Times Dispatch, July 15), tells the story about a shooting in a convenience store that is not far from my home near Richmond. On July 13, 2009, a man entered the Golden Food Market on Jefferson Davis Highway in south Richmond. The man entered the store, shot and wounded the clerk, and fired at several of the store patrons before being wounded and subdued by a gunshot from a CCW permit holder who was in the store.
Police determined that the shooter had run out of bullets and was attempting to reload at which point he was shot by the permit holder. In this case, the permit holder saved the lives of the eight people in the store. News reports also stated that the other citizens in the store urged the permit holder to shoot the man again and kill him. The permit holder refused and calmly awaited the arrival of police. There are a significant number of these cases in the U.S. each year. According to a study by criminologist Gary Kleck of Florida State University, there are approximately 2.5 million cases of people using firearms for self-defense in America each year. Also, according to the Department of Justice’s 2007 Uniformed Crime Report, states with right-to-carry laws have a 30 percent lower homicide rate, as well as a 46 percent lower robbery rate. Four shootings by permit holders continues to be a tiny minority in gun crimes statistics.
I will finish by saying that I fully support concealed carry on campuses, and I hope that in a life or death situation someone with a CCW is around. Statistics prove that the smartest and most responsible citizens carrying guns are permit holders. Do you think a deranged person is going to worry about whether or not he has a permit to carry? No; it’s the responsible people who care about those around them that choose to concealed carry. God forbid that Tech, or any other institution, experience a tragedy such as that of April 16, 2007. However, if a tragedy such as that were to occur, I could only hope to have the safety of Tech’s concealed carry permit holders.