Handgun Derangement Syndrome Grips Restaurateurs

"Honest adults with licensed guns, go away. Lawbreakers looking for sitting ducks, step right in." Actually, the sign at the entrance to the Phoenix, Arizona restaurant simply read, "No Firearms." I returned to my car and left.

A wave of constipated thinking has afflicted some Arizonans after legislators passed a law allowing licensed concealed handguns to be carried into businesses that serve alcohol as long as the licensees consume none. Proprietors have the option to post the "No Firearms" sign, and many have done so.

Arizona currently honors 147,121 CCW (concealed carry weapon) permits. More than 31,000 permit-holders are women, 157 of whom are aged 80 years or older -- spicy gals all. The state has suspended or revoked 1.9 percent of all permits, a statistic which the gun control crowd may take to imply that nearly 2800 gun nuts blasted away and had their permits yanked. This leap of logic would be dead wrong.

How many permit-holders use guns to commit crimes?

The Violence Policy Center found that in the United States between May 2007 and April 2009, fifty-six deaths resulted from gun crimes committed by CCW permit-holders. Whether this anti-gun organization derived its number objectively or creatively, we accept the claim. Using the VPC data, U.S. Department of Justice statistics on nationwide gun murders, and Arizona's 290 firearms homicides spread over a population of 6.5 million, your chances of being gunned down by a CCW permit-holder in that state are a bit more than one in ten million.

How does dying at gunpoint stack up against other ways to go? According to the U.S. Office of Hazardous Materials Safety [i], from 1999 to 2003, the likelihood of being killed by lightning was one in 6,061,000, or 28 percent greater than the likelihood of being cut down by a licensed hand-gunner. During the same timeframe, people in America had a one-in-18,700 chance of death by poisoning. The restaurant that doesn't nail you by taking your gun from your hand when you need it has a 400-times-better shot at killing you with over-the-hill thousand-island dressing.

The benefits of having decent citizens carry concealed guns outweigh the one-in-ten-million chance that one of those citizens will turn not-so-decent and shoot you. Law-abiding Americans brandish handguns in 2.5 million defensive incidents a year -- once every 12½ seconds. In most cases, a gun's mere appearance settles a brewing conflict. The National Center for Policy Analysis found that major crime plunges when law-abiding citizens carry concealed handguns [ii]. The same NCPA study, covering every American county, found that murders dropped by 8.5 percent, while rapes and serious assaults fell up to 7 percent in states with licensed concealed carry. Furthermore, if states without licensed concealed carry would institute it, then 1570 murders, 4180 rapes, and over 60,000 aggravated assaults would not happen each year.

The National Academy of Sciences reviewed hundreds of studies and found not "a single gun regulation that reduced violent crime or murder." A criminal told John Stossel, then with ABC, that he wasn't "worried about the government saying [he] can't carry a gun" because he's "gonna carry a gun anyway." A Washington, D.C.-area assault victim asked, "If someone gets into your house, which would you rather have, a handgun or a telephone? You can call the police if you want, and they'll get there, and they'll take a picture of your dead body." If we replace "house" with "restaurant" in that last quote, we may ask if some restaurateurs see themselves as noble for creating gun-free zones from which defenseless patrons can depart for the beyond.

Can just anyone be licensed to carry a gun? Arizona has strict requirements for obtaining a concealed carry permit. Applicants must be twenty-one or older, state residents or American citizens, and not under felony indictment or conviction. To obtain a permit, one can never have been legally denied gun possession, must not suffer mental illness or have been judged mentally incompetent, and cannot have been committed to a mental institution. Prospective permit-holders must pass firearms safety training, which addresses marksmanship and judicious shooting, the legal issues and mental conditioning for using deadly force, and techniques for weapons care, maintenance, handling, and storage.

Considering the statistics presented here plus the state's stringent requirements for concealed handgun permit-holders, why would any Arizona restaurant operator choose to disarm honest patrons and announce to armed lawbreakers the presence of easy prey on premises? Multiple queries to the parent company of the restaurant in this article's opening story have gone unanswered. Perhaps restauranteurs' "logic" is based on California Senator Diane Feinstein's claim that "Banning guns addresses a fundamental right of all Americans to feel safe." To people willing to wrap themselves in illusion, Feinstein's silliness feels good. A sober, law-abiding adult at a table a few feet away with a gun that you'd never know she had unless she used it to stop a killer from killing you? That feels bad.

To anti-gunners who embrace false security, what's important is how it feels, not what's real. By not having concealed weapons in the same building with their food, restaurant patrons can savor "the sign" just before the killer who laughed at the sign swings into action. Diners would surely feel awful witnessing a gal with a gun stop a guy with a gun who was only crying for attention.

Licensed hand-gunners steer clear of establishments that don't welcome them and patronize the ones that do welcome them. And if Mr. Dirtbag threatens deadly force, a licensed hand-gunner will engage Messrs. Smith and Wesson to dispatch Mr. Remington, sporting his shiny metal jacket. Mr. Remington will rush out to greet Mr. Dirtbag. The meeting will be brief.

A physicist and former high tech executive, Chuck Rogér was a columnist for a Phoenix newspaper and now blogs at chuckroger.com. Email: swampcactus@chuckroger.com

[i] "A Comparison of Risk, Accidental Deaths-United States-1999-2003," Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, 2005.

[ii] "Concealed Carry Laws Reduce Crime," National Center for Policy Analysis, 2001.
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