It's been just six short months since Illinois became the last state in the Union to begin issuing concealed carry permits to its citizens. In that time, over 140,000 people have applied for or received a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The state is currently estimating that a grand total of 300,000 Illinois residents will ultimately be able to carry their own weapons. Whether or not this change has been a help or a hindrance depends on who you ask (and how much faith you put in numbers).
A new piece from the Washington Times has some astonishingly positive things to say about the crime rate in Chicago. Since 2014 began, Chicago - the state's crime epicenter - has seen a 20 percent drop in violent crimes like burglary, robbery and grand theft auto. Even more incredible, the city's murder rate is a 56-year low.
Those familiar with the gun rights argument probably won't be surprised by those figures, since similar drops in crime seem to occur very shortly after cities and states give their citizens the right to carry a concealed weapon. Of course, common sense would dictate that a bad person is less likely to do a bad thing when they think getting shot in the face is a solid possibility. For those of you who reject that supposition, let's talk more numbers.
This July, The Crime Prevention and Research Center published a study that said, in the past few years, the number of reported Americans with concealed carry permits has reached 11.1 million people (ten percent of whom are in Florida, just … head's up). That's 4.8 percent of the country's population who are packing heat. In fact, that number is probably higher, because, according to CPRC, "numbers are not available for all states that issue permits, such as New York. Additionally, four states and the majority of Montana do not require that residents have a concealed handgun permit to carry within the state so the number of residents who carry a concealed weapon is not recorded."
So, with more than 11 million people in the United States carrying a weapon, what's happened to crime? In the same time frame that concealed carry permits saw a 147 percent increase, violent crime dropped more than 22 percent from coast to coast. That seems like a fairly direct connection, right? The more trained citizens who are carrying firearms, the less violent crime.
Yet, Chicago is currently dealing with a paradox of deadly proportions. While the reported amount of violent crime and murder in the city are at dramatic lows, the city is still in the grips of an epidemic of gun violence. In 2013, The Chicago Tribune tallied 2,185 shooting victims in Chicago. Near the end of August, the city was on course to eclipse that number. To date, 1,292 people have been shot in the city, with May and June seeing dramatic increases in violence when compared to last year.
That said, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel puts the blame not on the increased availability of legal weapons, but in the city's thriving market for "illegal guns." That's a tougher issue to solve, though, considering that the mayor and his office have been attempting (unsuccessfully, it would seem) to combat the city's growing gun problem. Recent restrictions on who gun shops can and can't sell to seem to only have taken effect in the last month or so. August has so far seen a dramatic decline in gun violence, though that could be as much of a fluke as it could be productive change. Whether or not those deterrents will have long term impacts is unknown.
What's also troubling is that the same period of time has also seen the rise of high profile shootings of innocents like Trayvon Martin at the hands of a concealed weapons permit holders. Whether or not these instances have increased in number or just in the amount of screen time is devoted to them is unclear since there are no statistics kept that focus on just those murders perpetrated by concealed carry permit holders. According to the CPRC, most of these statistics are kept by the Violence Policy Center.
It should be stated that in the CPRC's study, the Violence Policy Center's numbers were called into question for being overinflated. The Violence Policy Center it seems, "often double or triple counts cases that shouldn’t even be counted as crimes or problems with guns to begin with." The definition of "cases that shouldn't be counted as crimes" goes unsaid. Okay, so with that dubious disclaimer out of the way, how many people does the Violence Policy Center claim were killed by concealed carry weapons holders in the last seven years? Six hundred and fifty-nine.
By the CPRC's own count, in spite of the relative ease with which one can attain a license in some states (in Pennsylvania, $19 will get you a license that lasts for five years), concealed carry permit holders simply aren't the ones committing crimes. For example, in the past 27 years, Florida has revoked just 0.0002% of firearms permits for violations. To put it in other terms, that's 168 revocations out of more than two and a half million issued permits. These numbers are similarly reflected in other states, as well.
In other words, it would appear that while the violence in Chicago is still a very real problem, the national statistics would indicate that concealed carry weapons permits have been and will continue to be a solid decision.