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During this year's debate over whether Tennessee should relax the law to let licensed gunmen wander freely into bars and city parks, the gun lobby has insisted there's been no history of violence by citizens with permits to go armed. A new study disproves this.
Concealed handgun permit holders killed at least seven police officers and 44 private citizens in 31 shootings over roughly the past two years, according to the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group.
And the center says it's under-reporting the number of murders because it was forced to rely on news reports to compile the data. For Tennessee, the report lists only one killing--the motorist outside Memphis who grabbed his pistol and shot another man in a fit of road rage during an argument over how close their SUVs were parked--but Tennessee newspapers have accounted for at least three other killings this year by handgun permitees.
The release of the study comes as the Senate is expected to take up today a measure by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to create a de facto national concealed carry system to override more restrictive state laws.
Six gun-control groups--the Violence Policy Center, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Freedom States Alliance, Legal Community Against Violence, and States United to Prevent Gun Violence--said:
"It is an outrage that in a year thus far defined by gun violence-from massacres, to the murder of police, to hate crimes-the U.S. Senate is preparing to consider an amendment that would dramatically weaken federal and state gun laws. The practical effect of the amendment would be to reduce concealed carry permit regulations to the lowest common denominator. Currently, many states have weak laws and issue residents permits after only a simple computerized background check."
The study also sheds light on the motivation of the gun lobby in promoting concealed handgun laws. Defending Second Amendment rights apparently isn't exactly priority No. 1.
Shall-issue concealed handgun laws were originally promoted by the gun lobby and gun industry to jumpstart sagging handgun sales by creating a new market for smaller, more powerful handguns. As then-National Rifle Association lobbying chief Tanya Metaksa told The Wall Street Journal in a September 1996 article headlined "Tinier, Deadlier Pocket Pistols Are in Vogue":
"The gun industry should send me a basket of fruit--our efforts have created a new market."
Yet in its public arguments the gun lobby neglected to mention its own financial interests, instead promising state legislators and the public that handgun carriers armed by the new law would have a beneficent penumbra effect: aiding police by stopping crimes and protecting the citizenry. And for those who questioned the wisdom of putting guns into these citizens' hands and then sending them off into the general public, the NRA's Metaksa had a ready answer.
At an April 18, 1996, press conference in Dallas, Texas, Metaksa asserted:
"As we get more information about right-to-carry, our point is made again and again....People who get permits in states which have fair right-to-carry laws are law-abiding, upstanding community leaders who merely seek to exercise their right to self-defense."
Since the first "shall issue" law was passed in Florida in 1987, similar measures have spread across the country: today 48 states have some form of concealed carry law.