Do concealed-carry laws make us safer?

Concealed-carry advocates say laws allowing permit-holders to keep guns close at hand serve as a crime deterrent.

Opponents say just the opposite.

So which side is right? While there are strong opinions on both sides on that question, definitive data is lacking to prove either point.

“The numbers are pretty low in how many of (CCW holders) have actually used their concealed weapon to save themselves from a crime,” said Grant Neeley, associate professor and chairman of the political science department at the University of Dayton.

But, he added, the law hasn’t created the “Wild West effect” that opponents warned about either.

Part of the problem in gathering data is that in many states, including Ohio, the CCW licensee list is not a public record, said Jennifer Thorne, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Ohio doesn’t even keep a tally of how many people have CCW licenses, though there is data on how many licenses are approved or rejected each year.

Anecdotally, CCW holders have been on both sides of the law — acting to thwart a shooter and being the shooter, an examination by this newspaper found.

Jim Irvine, chairman of the pro-gun rights Buckeye Firearms Association, argues that private citizens with guns can and do thwart mass shootings.

He cited a 1998 incident in Edinboro, Pa., where student Andrew Jerome Wurst killed a man and wounded three other people before being stopped by a man with a shotgun.

Another incident, in 2014, involved a doctor at Mercy-Fitzgerald Hospital in Delaware County, Pa., who wounded psychiatric patient Richard Plotts after the patient fatally shot his caseworker and injured the doctor.

“Part of the reason you don’t have these huge big killings where a license holder saves the day is because it doesn’t become a huge killing,” Irvine said. “The bottom line is waiting for law enforcement will always result in a higher body count when you look collectively at the stuff.”

But of the eight shootings Irvine cited as examples of armed private citizens intervening, two of the shooters were stopped by police and one by an off-duty police officer, rather than private citizens.

Another example on the Buckeye Firearms Association website is a 2009 robbery of an Akron pizza parlor, and in that case the owner of the business shot and killed an armed intruder.

The Violence Policy Center, which supports stronger gun regulations, says 921 people — including 17 law enforcement officers — have been killed by concealed-carry permit holders, a number disputed by gun rights groups.

The center also says 31 mass shootings have been committed by CCW holders, including the 2010 shooting at a Connecticut beer distributorship that resulted in the deaths of nine people, including the shooter.

Thorne, whose group opposes increasing access to weapons, says in expanding the CCW law to allow holders to keep guns locked in cars parked at their workplace, Ohio lawmakers ignored data showing that increased access to guns leads to increased gun violence.

“Unfortunately the Ohio Legislature chose to side with the corporate gun lobby over the concerns of countless gun violence prevention advocates, business leaders, law enforcement, and other kinds of public health advocates and community leaders,” Thorne said.

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, who voted for the bill, said it protects the rights of both gun owners and property owners.

“This bill in general was a very pro-Second Amendment bill,” he said. “The vast majority of CCW holders are good citizens and law-abiding.”

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones said having a concealed-carry license doesn’t mean holders don’t get angry or get in fights.

But the law has worked well in the state and preserves the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, he said.

“We’re targets. People come up, try to rob you, try to shoot you,” Jones said. “So why wouldn’t you have the right to defend yourself?”

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