"Self-Defense, Your honor"
Self-Defense, Your Honor
Written by Erin Unbehaun
Edited by Sheryl Skibba
Were the authors of our United States (U.S.) Constitution incorrect when they stipulated that all Americans have the right to bear arms? In our liberal society, there are politicians and citizens alike who strive to strip us of our rights. Gun ownership is a right that the majority of U.S. citizens significantly value. It is recreation for some and collecting for others; however, a small number of U.S. Citizens believe that their purpose in having firearms is for self-defense and the protection of their families. Forty Eight states in our Union have adopted some sort of Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit (handgunlaw.us). The state of Wisconsin is one of two states that have denied their citizens the right to obtain a CCW permit; the vote passed Senate and Governor Doyle vetoed the bill according to the Wisconsin Concealed Carry Association (WCA). It is a fundamental belief of the National Rifle Association (NRA) that all citizens applying for these permits will be law abiding, sensible and mature when requesting their CCW permit; undoubtedly few criminals would willingly submit to fingerprinting, nor provide the law with the serial numbers of their firearms.
CCW means, carrying a weapon in a concealed manner, in order that no one around can visibly view, or readily recognize that one is armed. All states that have adopted the CCW programs have seen no rise in crime due to the number of citizens walking the streets with a concealed weapon. In fact, the crime rates continue to drop in a number of states, close to half according to the FBI's Uniformed Crime Report of 2007 (qtd. in Stearns). The economic problems our society confronts due to the recent recession promotes increased crime in some areas of our country, and many citizens feel the need to further their protection by obtain a CCW permit for a means of self-defense. One individual describes his experience and defends his decision in regard to his choice of executing of self-defense;
Andres Vegas is a pizza delivery driver and has been robbed and mugged while attempting to deliver a pizza on four different occasions. The first time was in March of 2005 [in Milwaukee, Wisconsin]. The second time was July 14, 2006, when Vegas was attacked and threatened at gunpoint. Vegas, armed with a firearm, exercised his constitutional right of self-defense and shot one of the assailants…On January 4, 2007, Vegas was again attempting to deliver a pizza when two men approached him and pointed a gun in his face. This time, he responded by again exercising his right to self-defense and shot his assailant in the hip. (WCA)
Andres Vegas lives in Milwaukee Wisconsin, a state that does not grant civilians the right to obtain a CCW for the purpose of self-defense. After the first incident, Vegas' handgun was confiscated and the District Attorney cautioned him if he used a firearm for self-defense again, that he would be prosecuted (WCA). After Vegas' second incident, the Court ruled in his favor that there was no other way he could have saved his life and Vegas he was released (WCA). This incident, and those similar, provides motive for the NRA endorsing civilians Right-to-Carry (RTC) concealed weapons for the purpose of self-defense. The NRA-Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) states “In the past decade, as more and more states liberalized gun laws in favor of open carry and concealed carry permits, the rate of firearm related homicides has fallen—and dramatically so—rather than risen” (“More Guns”). Citizens, like Vegas, must have the right to practice self-defense without fearing prosecution – unless warranted.
C riminologist Gary Kleck of Florida State University states, '” In approximately 2.5 million instances each year, someone uses a firearm, predominantly a handgun, for self defense in this nation”' (qtd. in Stearns). Facts like these are very disturbing. If you were using an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), and a masked man with a gun approaches you, and you are unarmed, how can you defend yourself? Maybe you do not like guns; but would you not feel more comfortable knowing that a law abiding citizen walking in the area witnesses this event, has a CCW, and can intervene providing protection? Many states have adopted the CCW programs with great success. This is due to the fact that there has been a proven dramatic decline in society's most common crimes. The FBI's Uniformed Crime Report of 2007 indicates that “…states with right-to-carry laws have a 30% lower homicide rate, 46% lower robbery, and 12% lower aggravated assault rate and a 22% lower overall violent crime rate than do states without such laws” (qtd. in Stearns). Statistics like these only further the fact that all states benefit by adopting a similar form of a CCW.
Benefits do not evolve strictly around handguns, which often is the first thought of many objectors, and is only one common complaint. Research shows that in some states the carrying of tasers, commonly known as stun guns also require the individual carrying to obtain a CCW. Few states have a Opt-Out clause, otherwise known as a Gun Free Zone. What this means is private businesses are able to post a sign prohibiting CCW holders to carry a concealed firearm into their business, violation of this law is grounds for revocation of the concealed carry permit holder. If an individual chooses to break the Opt-Out law they are also in violation of trespassing, and they receive the maximum penalty under law.
A citizen in possession of a CCW is prohibited by law to carry a weapon into certain institutions, such as our school system. In the article “Concealed Carry Weapon Permits: A Second Amendment Right or a Recipe for Disaster on Our Nation's Campuses?” written by Reginald Fennell, PhD states that “'Utah is the only state to allow concealed carry at all public colleges/universities, by prohibiting public colleges/universities from creating their own restrictions'” (99). This same legislation is being proposed in Michigan as well with the full support from the NRA as well as the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus' organization. This goes to show that with the reduction of crime in society, advocates of this legislation are convinced, that violence in our schools and universities can also decline.
There are many regulations and guidelines that must be followed in order to obtain a CCW. This is what separates the responsible citizens obtaining permits to legally carry a firearm, and the criminals carrying illegally. Those trying to obtain a permit need to be, in most states at least 21 years old and agree to, submit their fingerprints, along with the serial number of the firearm[s] that will be used for carrying. Additionally, a thorough background check of the individual is performed. Undoubtedly, few conceive one concrete reason why any sane individual who intends to use the firearm to commit a crime would go through all of that? One term enters the thoughts of most; self-incriminating. Most states require applicants to take a firearms safety and training course. This course spends most of its time explaining “When you are legally justified to use deadly force…to defend your life or that of another…Morals, ethics and tactics are also discussed in this one-day course…Learn and review the basics of firearm safety, the ethics and laws regarding the carry of a firearm on or about your person in public” (“Minnesota Firearms Carry Class & Renewal Class”). The U.S. government must consider creating equal mandates across all states, all territories, and possessions regarding training and safety.
One substantial problem with the CCW permit program is the fact that, not all states have the same requirements for obtaining a permit. This means that one may have a legal permit in Florida, but it will not be honored in Missouri. Some states have a reciprocity clause written into their CCW programs. According to Merriam-webster.com, reciprocity means “a mutual exchange of privileges; specifically : a recognition by one of two countries or institutions of the validity of licenses or privileges granted by the other” (“Reciprocity”). Other states, or the U.S. government, must create equality regarding the reciprocity clause.
United States Senator John Thune of South Dakota is currently working on “The Thune amendment (#1618) [that] would allow individuals to carry lawfully concealed firearms across state lines, while at the same time respecting the laws of the host state” (“From the Office”). Some states grant reciprocity to permit holders from other states. Senator Thune's amendment would allow all states to grant reciprocity. Under this amendment Senator Thune is convinced that statistics have proven that states with a CCW program in place have had dramatic decreases in overall crime; he is confident that with more armed civilians able to cross state lines this trend will continue. “A Department of Justice study found that 40 percent of felons had not committed crimes because they feared the prospective victims were armed” (“From the Office”). With statistics like these why would any state not want to be on board with the CCW programs?
Wisconsin and Illinois are the only two states that are not on board with the other forty eight states that honor the CCW permit program. It is proven that “States that have the most restrictive gun control laws tend to have the highest ratios of robberies (confrontational violent crimes) to non-confrontational property crimes “(“Less Crime”). Anti-gun Governor Doyle of Wisconsin has vetoed the Personal Protection Act concealed carry bill twice; the first time was 2004 and the most recent veto was January 20, 2006 according to the WCA. January 26, 2006 Wisconsin Senators voted to override Governor Doyles veto; the vote passed 23 to 10 according to the WCA. Anti-gun and Former Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) of Illinois was a major hurdle for the Land of Lincoln residents. Due to corruption charges the Senate voted to have Governor Blagojevich removed from office January 29, 2009 according to the Chicago Tribune. Illinois is now slowly gaining traction towards resident's ability to obtain a CCW permit, with support of the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee and the Farm Bureau according to the NRA-ILA.
With organizations like the NRA and the WCA, someday all fifty states in our union will have the right to a CCW permit for the means of self-defense. All gun owners and firm believers of our forefathers's insight, must band together and support these organizations. While states that have adopted a CCW program enjoy and appreciate declining crime rates, anti-gun advocates in Wisconsin and Illinois approve status quo; is this acceptable? Maybe one day an anti-gun advocate will be in distress, in need of help and no one with a CCW will be able to prevent death. Must a situation that is life altering occur prior to each state citizen contacting their representatives demanding change, requesting a CCW program? Remember each of us is capable of spending a couple of minutes to save a life by sending an email to their own state representative. Facilitate life, or remain accepting theft, injury, and death by being a victim instead of an advocate.
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