This summer, while grassroots organizers and big-time fundraisers were orchestrating a recall bonanza, a noteworthy piece of legislation found its way to Scott Walker’s desk, was signed and became law.
On July 8, Wisconsin Act 35 made it legal for residents to carry concealed firearms so long as they also carry a permit from the state Department of Justice, which costs $50 and includes a background check. Licensed gun owners may carry their gun in public as well as in public and private buildings unless a sign says otherwise. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has announced that concealed guns will be allowed on campus, but not inside buildings. This new piece of legislature will go into effect on Nov. 1.
Opponents argue that in order to reduce violent crime rates in our nation’s cities and small towns, it is necessary to restrict the amount of guns available to would-be murderers and robbers. They also argue that in order to keep guns off of the streets, we must either limit the amount of gun permits or ban handguns altogether.
Many opponents of concealed carry consider it a “fight-fire with fire” approach – an attempt to solve the problem of violent crime with an armed citizenry. Supporters argue that armed Wisconsinites will deter potential criminals from taking advantage of unprotected victims and allow Wisconsin citizens to defend themselves against an attacker in an emergency.
Although there have been many studies of the relationship between gun control laws and violent crime rates, their results are ambiguous. Some research has shown particularly high murder rates in states with more aggressive anti-gun laws, while other investigations have shown that gun control is an effective means of preventing shootings.
Essentially, it depends on who is manipulating the statistics and their political leanings. The emerging picture is that violent crime is an extremely complex societal issue caused and limited by many, many factors such as demographics, the economy, drug use and trafficking and geography. Conceal and carry laws are just one piece of the puzzle.
In 2004, the National Research Council published data concerning gun violence and crime rates, saying “There is no credible evidence that ‘right-to-carry’ laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime.” The Council also cited the need for a comprehensive research program. The Wisconsin conceal and carry law that takes effect in November has nothing to do with crime and will neither cause violence nor prevent it.
Armed robbers and drug dealers will find ways of getting and carrying handguns regardless of the laws of the state. It is unlikely these criminals will fill out background checks or register for permits, and they will continue to bear arms without a license. The new conceal and carry law will have very little effect on the number of armed criminals in Wisconsin.
Those who register for conceal and carry permits at the Department of Justice in November are people who were trained in safe and effective use of their weapon and passed the necessary criminal background check. The influx of armed Wisconsinites will be made up of law abiding citizens, not the motley crew of amoral criminals warned against by those against conceal and carry.
There is an old saying, “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.” If the government bans guns entirely, violent criminals will continue to possess, buy and sell them on the black market while good people with respect for the law are prohibited from carrying a weapon to defend themselves. Law abiding citizens would then be vulnerable and dependent on the government for protection. I’m not advocating a new system of vigilante justice, but if citizens feel safer and more comfortable carrying a handgun, they have a right to do so. If people have a problem with their neighbors carrying firearms, they can take it up with the Constitution.
Contrary to popular belief, the new conceal and carry law will not make Wisconsin a more dangerous place than it already is – but it also won’t address the problems of security and safety. For now, the law has been passed. In the future, the state of Wisconsin will have to investigate other social and economic causes of violent crime and find effective ways to combat violence. In the meantime, I can now bring my Dragoon with me on my afternoon jogs to Picnic Point.
Charles Godfrey ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in math and physics.