Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Concealed Carry Craziness

Road rage and guns? Does concealed carry really make us safer?

By - Jul 16th, 2013 10:50 am

Last week two Milwaukee men “traded dozens of shots in a rolling shootout through two sides of town and down a freeway,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Each driver had a state permit to carry a concealed weapon and each portrayed the other as the pistol-wielding aggressor.

It’s almost a miracle, given the fight went on with bullets flying for five miles, that no one was injured. But the incident raises a couple questions: doesn’t the law allowing concealed carry inevitably lead to incidents like this? And does concealed carry make us safer, as its proponents claim, or just the opposite?

The answer to the first question is yes, concealed carry is a factor in many road rage incidents. In Waukesha county in February, driver Michael J. Bukosky pulled a gun, a loaded seven-shot Ruger, on an unarmed driver that annoyed him. The Violence Policy Center’s Facebook page documents hundreds upon hundred of violent incidents involving concealed carry, everything from people accidentally shooting themselves to bloody murders, and the list (which goes on forever) includes many road rage incidents that escalated to gun violence.

Are there any cases where concealed carry may have protected a driver? There was one such incident in Marathon County in December, where Scott Van Patter pulled a gun on a couple he claimed had attacked him.

The argument that concealed carry makes us safer is largely based on a study by economists John Lott and David Mustard, whose 1998  book, “More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws,” found there was a lower crime rate in states with a right-to-carry law. But their conclusions have been disputed by other researchers. In 2004, a committee of the National Research Council of the National Academies devoted a chapter in the report, “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,” to Lott’s research and found numerous problems with his analysis.  The report concluded “it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates.”

Given the many factors that can affect crime rates, trying to isolate the impact of one variable, the adoption of a concealed carry law, seems a difficult case to make. The Violence Policy Center takes a different, more fine-grained approach.

On the negative side of the ledger, the Center looked at how many people have been killed as a result of the law, with a study updated last month called “Concealed Carry Killers.”  The study documents 381 incidents in 32 states since May 2007, resulting in 516 deaths involving private citizens with permits to carry concealed handguns. Twenty-four of the incidents were mass shootings, resulting in the deaths of 107 victims. Fourteen of the victims were law enforcement officers.

Any incidents of self-defense were not included in the totals. But the Center also took a look at such incidents and found that in 2010, there were only 230 justifiable homicides in the nation involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the FBI. “That same year, there were 8,275 criminal gun homicides. Using these numbers, in 2010, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 36 criminal homicides. This ratio does not take into account the thousands of lives ended in gun suicides (19,392) or unintentional shootings (606) that year.” If you include the suicides and unintentional killings, there were was one “good” killing from justifiable homicide for every 123 bad killings including homicides, suicides and accidental deaths.

This was no fly-by-night report. It analyzed data from both the FBI Uniform Crime Reports and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey. It used this same data base to look at how often a victim of violent crime used a gun for protection over a five year period (2007-2011) and found there were a total of 29,618,300 attempted or completed violent crimes and in only 235,700 cases did the victims use a firearm to protect themselves. In short, the victim at least attempted to use a firearm in less than one percent — just 0.8 percent — of the incidents.

The study also looked at victims attempting to protect themselves from property crimes from 2007 through 2011 and found there were 84,495,500 victims of attempted or completed property crimes and in only 103,000 cases did the victim use a gun in an attempt at self-protection. That involved just .01 percent — one tenth of one percent of all cases.

But as low as these figures are, they are likely to decline in future years, because gun ownership is in decline. You wouldn’t think so given reports of increased gun sales, but the evidence suggests these sales are mostly to people who already own guns. Yearly surveys by the National Opinion Research Center show that from 1977 to 2010, the percentage of American households that reported having any guns in the home dropped more than 40 percent. Household gun ownership hit its peak in 1977, when 54 percent of American households reported having any guns. By 2010, the figure had dropped to 32.3 percent of American households.

“While household ownership of guns among elderly Americans remained virtually unchanged from the 1970s to this decade at about 43 percent, ownership among young Americans plummeted,” the New York Times reported. Household gun ownership fell to 23 percent for those under 30 and showed a similar decline for Americans aged 30 to 44.

Indeed, when you look at who owns guns, you begin to see how it overlaps with the Republican Party. Whites are more likely to own guns than blacks, rural people (53 percent) are more likely than city dwellers (23 percent), and those without a college education are more likely to own guns than those with college or post-graduate degrees.

Wisconsin, by the way, ranks 12th among the states in gun ownership, but it’s also a leading state for hunting, which skews the results upwards. But that doesn’t mean the voters supported passage of the concealed carry law. A May 2011 survey done for the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort group, which favors gun control, found voters opposed concealed carry by 60 percent to 32 percent.

Older surveys by the Public Policy Forum (late 1990s) and the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (early 1990s) found an even higher proportion of state voters, anywhere from 79 percent to 83 percent, opposed concealed carry.

Concealed carry was one of those issues where a fervent minority that wanted the law overrode the wishes of a far-less-intense majority that opposed it.

But when you look at the long-term trends on gun ownership, that fervent minority is steadily declining. Combine that trend with this new research showing how seldom private ownership of a gun actually protects crime victims, and one could imagine future challenges to concealed carry laws.

Short Takes

-Household gun ownership is one thing, but what about personal gun ownership? That, too, has been plummeting, dropping from 29 percent of Americans in 1980 to 20.8 percent in 2010.

-If gun ownership is in decline, what does this say about the vaunted power of the NRA?  It has claimed as many as 4.5 million members but other statistics suggest the number may be closer to 3 million, as the Washington Post has reported. Either way, it’s a very tiny percentage of the total electorate.

-There’s yet another example of the state turning down federal money, in this case, $14 million in funding for services for the disabled, including job placement.

-And Michael Horne offers a droll House Confidential on City Attorney Grant Langley.

Categories: Murphy's Law

31 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Concealed Carry Craziness”

  1. John says:

    Talk about skewed. Many of the “studies” you cite in support of more gun control are skewed. Take the so-called “Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort” study. They hired a polling company known for supporting leftist causes, who in turn, used a democrat voting list, to call around 400 people. Given the slant in their selections, is it any wonder? Even WAVE stopped using those poll results when the background on it was made public.
    And there are certainly lots of other studies, independent ones, that support More Guns=Less Crime.
    The NRA, this past winter, announced they have surpassed 5 million members, in spite of what the Washington Post, a left lying newspaper, claims, dubiously.
    Did you know that a large percentage of new gun buyers are also women, and young people?

    Do the studies you cite differnate between gang member and drug dealers killing gang members and drug dealers? Police shooting criminals? Violence between the same races (i.e. black on black, the leading cause of violent death among black males).

    How about the justice department numbers that point out the favorite weapon for murder is the blunt object, such as baseball bats and pipes?

    How about the leading cause of death among children being drowning, not guns-guns aren’t even in the top ten.

    Your whole post is based on .001% (2 people) of Wisconsin Concealed carry license holders doing something stupid-and I’d like to see some confirmation that they both had CCL’s.
    A couple of studies have shown that CCL holders are actually more law abiding than the average citizen, including one from the University of Texas.

    Are you going to quote the number of CCL holders in WI who have used a firearm to prevent or stop a crime? No? there have been a few. Or how about the non-licensed criminals who use guns for their crimes? Should be easy to find a bunch in milwaukee. Or you can look south to Chicago, with some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, but also the highest murder and crime rates.

  2. Stan says:

    You may want to actually read the article you cite about the Maryland incident. An off duty police officer shot and killed someone in a road rage incident not was killed.

  3. Bruce murphy says:

    Stan, thanks, you’re right, we removed that link, it’s really off point.

  4. Stacy Moss says:

    “Or you can look south to Chicago, with some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, but also the highest murder and crime rates.”

    Note — this is a correlation like the consumption of ice cream cones and drownings.

    “How about the leading cause of death among children being drowning, not guns-guns aren’t even in the top ten.”

    Actually that is wrong headed too. The leading cause of death of children is BIRTH!.

    More guns per person or square mile is a theory about the way to fight crime. But that just seems beside the point. The whole point of having a government and civil society is so we all don’t have to carry guns.

  5. Tom Strickler says:

    What an absolute mindless commentary! Just another biased attempt of propagating the unsubstantiated fear that all guns are evil! I hope you’re proud Mr. Murphy.

  6. Bruce Thompson says:

    Back in 2003, when Wisconsin and several states still banned concealed weapons I did a regression comparing the rate of violent crimes for states from FBI data with the rating the NRA gave each state. It turned out the states banning concealed weapons had a statistically significant lower rate.

    Of course correlation does not prove causality but it can still be very suggestive. An alternative explanation is that we in Wisconsin (and the other mostly midwestern states) are just naturally less violent than people in, say, Texas.

  7. Kylon Sam says:

    It’s amazing how many cowboys there are out there who love to defend guns. You people are absolute neanderthals. Carrying a gun around invites negative energy, invites fights and bad things to happen to you. Your cowboy fantasy is a cause of stupidity and destruction. Johnny Cash had it right – don’t take your guns to town.

  8. AR15 says:

    Sam you are too funny. oooo negative energy…. Would you get into a fight with someone carrying a firearm? So how would this “invite fights”? When I carry, I avoid all confrontation because that’s the last thing anyone with a defensive mindset wants. It’s fun to call people names but if someone is attacking you or a loved one, I guess I would rather be a Neanderthal then being a victim.

  9. Kyle says:

    AR – Now, lets be fair to poor Sam. Given that the rest of us are neanderthal cowboys, clearly he has evolved to a higher plane of existence. One where he can probably sense the negative energy we invite upon ourselves with our uncivilized ways.

    Although, if history has shown us anything, it’s that when the species divides like this, one side inevitably kills off the other. Usually the winning side is the higher evolution, but since the neanderthal cowboys currently have all the guns…

  10. So, the question is, would getting rid of concealed carry rights reduce this behavior that you’ve written about. I think to find your answer look at the situation in Chicago, one of the strictest gun control cities in the nation, inside of a state that just put concealed carry laws on the books for it’s citizens.

  11. Henry says:

    Driving with one hand while shooting with the other! Those CC classes must be awesome!

  12. Bill Sweeney says:

    Joe Nocera, a columnist for the New York Times, puts out a blog everyday called The Gun Report in which he and his staff print accounts of “day to day examples of gun deaths that resulted from accidental shootings, momentary rage, a feud with a neighbor, a drive-by shooting–and all the other reasons Americans kill each other with guns.” In the July 17, 2013 issue, he quotes from comedian Chris Rock:

    “You don’t need gun control. You know what you need? We need some bullet control. I think all bullets should cost $5,000. You know why? ‘Cause if a bullet cost $5,000, there would be no more innocent bystanders. People would think before they killed somebody if a bullet cost $5,000.”

    Yesterday’s report mentioned the Milwaukee case where 76 year old John Henry Spooner shot 13 year old Darius Simmons.

    If nothing else, the incident with the 2 men driving and shooting suggests that the training required in order to obtain a concealed carry license should be more rigorous. Maybe there could be some billboards: Don’t Drink & Drive AND Don’t Drive and Shoot.

  13. STACY MOSS says:

    Of course correlation does not prove causality but it can still be very suggestive. An alternative explanation is that we in Wisconsin (and the other mostly midwestern states) are just naturally less violent than people in, say, Texas.

    Yes this suggestive., which is the problem. Is this the signal or the noise? Your have to remember that when plowing through mountains of data we (humans) are more likely to confirm our preconceptions that find new knowledge.

  14. AJax says:

    I am always perplexed when I see educated people believing that anecdotal evidence can be used to prove a point. It cannot, because no correlation can be established by looking at one incident, nor any small number of incidents, for that matter. Statistics and economics should be required courses for all college degrees, so that we may someday suffer through fewer columns such as this.

  15. Bill Sweeney says:

    Some readers may also be interested in these articles:


  16. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Only 235,000 used guns to protect themselves???? Lots of people but figure are inaccurate. Read the CDC report that was ordered by Obama.
    As for the shoot out on streets, that was someone defending himself against a racial attack. Had nothing to do with CC.
    look how homicides have dropped in DC since there are allowed guns. compare Houston to Chicago. 572 murdered and ten times the violent crime while Houston only had 88 murder last year while having 60 gunstores and Texans carry. as long as the Left wants to keep thugs on the street, only 6% of gun criminals went to jail, then we need to protect ourselves.

  17. Chris Jacobs says:

    The problem with eliminating conceal carry is that it puts all the gun wielding power in the hands of criminals who don’t obey the law. That clearly was the problem in D.C. Everyone would love a utopia of nobody being able to pull a gun on anyone else, but its an unrealistic dream. Even if it were possible, a myriad number of other sophisticated weapons would take their place. The problem with gun control is that its laws always targets and affect the law-abiding people, and rarely punish the law-breakers. Too many tend to blame the instrument of destruction rather than the person using that instrument. Even if gun stores were gone, criminals would simply manufacture their own devices of mayhem, with a lot less safety in mind.

  18. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Why should the citizen have less ability to defend himself, than the thugs? Think the thugs will limit their magazine capacity? If you cannot have semiauto rifles or shot guns who will have advantage. It is well known that the thugs in this world, whatever color take advantage of these things to rob, rape and kill.
    Obama wants tog et ride of “Stand your ground”, claims that those laws create violence, when the CDC, he ordered up, report shows the opposite to be true. If you are in your home, someone breaks in, do your really have to run out and let someone take what they want, rape your daughter while you wait for police???
    How will you make that decision, to run or hide or shoot?? Under duress?? Give me a break, Murphy, you and the left run, hide and quiver in the closet or under the bed, praying for your life. I want to defend myself and my home.
    If the Left in Milwaukee would put the illegal gun users, straw buyers, thugs with guns in jail we could greatly reduce the problem.

  19. Stacy Moss says:

    “Why should the citizen have less ability to defend himself, than the thugs?”

    So the thugs have guns so we have guns….

    The thugs have nerve gas so we have nerve gas….

  20. Tom D says:

    Dohnal (7/20), you might want to re-think your claim that wide-spread gun ownership makes Houston safer.

    Tell me, if more guns make us safer, why is Houston twice as dangerous as New York City?

    First, your Houston murder stats are way off.

    You claimed that Houston only had 88 murders last year, but the actual number was 217.

    Since Houston’s population is 2,099,451 (2010 Census) and it had 217 murders, its murder rate was 10.34 per 100,000.

    On the other hand, NYC (population 8,175,133) has the toughest gun laws in the country and had 414 murders in 2012 (5.06 per 100,000).

    The nation’s toughest gun laws and less than half the murder rate of good-old Houston? How can that be?

    By the way, you also misstated the Chicago murder rate: in 2012, it was 509, not 572.

  21. Dave K. says:

    If we outlaw Lutefisk, only the outlaws will have Lutefisk!

  22. Dave K. says:

    AJax in post #14 states “Statistics and economics should be required courses for all college degrees, so that we may someday suffer through fewer columns such as this.” – sounds like an argument for big government stepping in and regulating college educations. Maybe we should also be required to learn logic. 🙂

  23. STACY MOSS says:

    All the sound and fury of a stat war, back and forth.

    Which got me thinking, maybe Dohnal wants to just say that he FEELS safer with a gun. That is an individual sort of thing. Now I wonder about the class of individuals who feel safer being able to kill someone in an instant. I think you could describe that as a tense situation. A gun is quite a burden to carry around.

  24. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Chciago has tougher gun laws than NY. NY has stop and frisk and they put people in jail for gun crimes, Chi does not. 572 the year before.

  25. Dave K. says:

    Property > Life.

  26. Tom D says:

    Dohnal, first you said there were 572 Chicago murders in 2012. After I called you on that, you now say it was 572 Chicago murders in 2011. But that claim is even farther off. (The Chicago PD reports 433 murders in 2011).

    See graph on page 4 of:

    Are you just making up your “facts” out of thin air?

  27. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    the figures I was seeing included seom suburbs.

  28. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    the figures I was seeing included seom suburbs. Regardless thee numbers are irrelevant, it is the comparison that counts.

  29. johnG says:

    Sure it will go away.That’s why all those stupid gun control laws passed in Congress.Oh wait,that’s right,they didn’t,i forgot,lmao

  30. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Milwaukee and Chicago have been a shooting gallery the last few months. How many of the 250,000 CC carriers were involved? How many semiauto rifles were involved??

  31. RJ says:

    I am a sportsman and X-DOD. I “do not” support in any way concealed carry or the new allowance of switchblade knives! Hell the legislature didn’t even have a public hearing on the latter one. In the military you have firearms training. In Wisconsin it is anything goes!!! Texas style. For the GOP its anything for a vote. But!!! Notice that you cannot bring your CC to thier office. Ha…buch of hipocrites. I for one am pissed that I have been stripped of my right to know “who” the hell is packing a pistol!! Now I have worry about my kids saftey in school and warn them about the dangers of untraceable switchblades! What about my right to not want to be anywhere around some idot that has “zero” handgun training. The GOP in WI has made this State much more dangerous. It not about the 2nd Amendment , hell most of them have probably never read the Constitution…. It’s all about power. Look at the voting records and bills the legislature is passing and then how they pass laws so they cannot be prosecuted later. Then look at our economy and how the bills being passed are for very specual intersts. This the classic bait and switch people. They want this distraction so no one looks closely at what they are really up to.

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