Charlotte County Florida Weekly

Experts debate: If there are no permits, will crime increase in Florida?



If a permit-less concealed carry law passes, that means there would be more weapons on the streets, since a permit would no longer be required to carry a concealed weapon. It also means that no training would be required, so there would be more people carrying guns with less training to use them properly.

The question is, will this lead to an increase in crime?

Predictably, gun rights advocates say no. Gun safety advocates say yes.

Scholars have been writing about this for decades, said Joseph Blocher, professor and co-director of the Center for Firearms Law at Duke University Law School. “What happens when a state loosens its restrictions on public carry of guns? And I would say that there are enough studies out there to frustrate people on both sides.”

“There are studies suggesting that loosening public carry restrictions contributes to a decline in crime rates,” he said. “As I see it, there is more and stronger evidence to the contrary that when you loosen public carry restrictions, actually at least certain kinds of violent crime rates tend to go up. And it’s very, very hard to prove that one way or the other, because there are so many different variables that go into figuring out what a crime rate is going to be.”

Whichever study you cite, people will say, ‘Oh, that’s been debunked,’ ” he said. “That’s true for both sides.”

No, it won’t result in more crime, said Dan Wos, nationally known gun rights advocate and author of the “Good Gun Bad Guy” book series. “This is the typical idea people have about constitutional carry,” he said, referring to the term used by gun rights advocates for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. “The truth of the matter is constitutional carry doesn’t eliminate background checks.”

He’s right about that. In Florida, buying a gun does not require a permit, but the law requires the buyer to pass a background check. They buyer won’t get the gun for three days or until the background check is complete.

However, that’s only if you buy through a federally licensed seller. If someone buys a gun through a private sale or an unlicensed vendor who happens to be selling at a gun show, or online from a site such as Armslist.com, then no background check is required.

This is the so-called gun-show loophole. It allows people who would otherwise be prohibited from purchasing a gun — like felons, those convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, people with serious mental illness and others — to get one.

An amendment to the Florida constitution, passed in 1998, allows individual counties to pass laws to close this loophole and require background checks for purchases from unlicensed vendors and private sales, but only 10 counties have passed it so far. Palm Beach County is one of them. Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties are not.

“Where there is more concealed carry, there is less crime,” Mr. Wos said. “Where there are stricter gun restrictions there is more crime and violence because good people are rendered unarmed and helpless. When people can’t defend themselves, bad guys take advantage.”

Luis Valdes, Florida director of Gun Owners of America, agrees. “I get this question all the time. Before I was director, I was a cop for 15 years. I’ve been on both sides of this.” Some in the media say it causes a rise in shootings, he said. “It’s not a rise in shootings. It’s a rise in people defending themselves from violent crimes.”

If you conceal-carry a weapon, you are your own first responder, the first to stop any harm against yourself and your loved ones, Mr. Valdes said. “If someone is breaking in, by all means call 911.” But if there is bad traffic or a law enforcement staffing problem, it may take 5 to 10 minutes to get there, he said. “A lot can happen in those 5 to 10 minutes.”

Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy for Giffords Law Center, said she doesn’t know if passing permit-less concealed carry in Florida will lead to an increase in crime. “Nobody knows,” she said. “What we do know is that states like Florida that already have very weak laws when it comes to carrying guns in public do have higher rates of violent crime and handgun homicide,” she said. “Will permit-less carry make it even worse? We don’t know yet.”

The center releases annual gun law scorecards for all 50 states. Florida’s score was a C- for 2021. The state had an 8% increase in gun death rate, ranked 29th out 50 for gun death rate and 24th out of 50 for gun safety strength rank. Gun deaths per 100,000 was 13.7.

But in his 2021 report, “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States,” John R. Lott Jr., author of the book “More Guns, Less Crime” and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, writes that while there has been exponential growth in permits, there has been a general “linear” decline in murder and violent crime rates. The rate has dropped around 11% for the past two decades, he writes, except for the extraordinary high murder rate in 2020, and violent crime fell 24%. “Meanwhile, the percentage of adults with permits soared by fivefold,” he said.

“The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed academic research by economists and criminologists concludes that ownership of permitted concealed handguns causes a reduction in violent crime,” Mr. Lott said.

Not so, says Devin Hughes, founder of GVPedia, a nonprofit that aggregates and provides access to data and research about gun violence.

In a December 2021 commentary published in the Orlando Sentinel, Mr. Hughes wrote: “The truth is that out of the 65 national-level academic studies on concealed carry laws, a plurality find that weakening concealed-carry laws increases crime. Of the 35 most recent academic studies (since 2005) on this topic, 23 (66%) find that weakening concealed-carry laws increases crime. Only five studies since 2005 (14%) show a decrease in crime.”

The group’s Permit-less Carry 2022 Fact Sheet says that in an analysis of CDC data from states with permit-less carry laws that have at least three years of data available, they found that “states that pass a permit-less carry law suffer from a 22% increase in gun homicide for the three years after the law’s passage, more than doubling the 10% increase for the country overall in the same time period.”

The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Looking at the second part of the amendment definition, “I don’t think that the founders had any idea how advanced arms would become,” said Pamella Seay, a constitutional and international law professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

What is a “reasonable” definition of arms today? she asked. “Your sidearm. Guns you use to hunt. Guns you use for self-defense. And then we get into ammunition and the ability to shoot multiple times. Do you need a gun that is fully automatic? You pull that trigger and it just keeps on shooting. Do you need that? For what? “

The question has arisen once again with the latest mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Orange County, California, both on May 14. In Buffalo, 10 people were killed and three others injured at a supermarket in a Black neighborhood, simply because of the color of their skin. In California, one person was killed and five others injured in a church with a Taiwanese congregation by a man motivated by a hatred of Taiwan.

Just 10 days later, on May 24, an 18-year-old gunman killed 21 people, including 19 students and two teachers, at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

They join a litany of multiple mass shootings over the years.

Florida has its own notorious mass shootings. In 2016, a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. In 2018, another gunman killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“Florida is a state that has made national headlines time and time again for minor disagreements about popcorn in a movie theater or loud music, or a bag of Skittles, to turn into deadly confrontations where fathers lost their lives and left their children without them because minor disagreements turned into shootouts,” Ms. Anderman said.

She is referring to the Feb. 22 acquittal of a retired police officer who shot and killed a man in a Tampa movie theater in 2014 after an argument ensued when the man ignored the announcement to turn off cell phones during previews and continued texting his daughter’s babysitter. The retired officer told him to stop. The man eventually threw a bag of popcorn at him. The retired officer claimed self defense.

In 2012, Trayvon Matin, 17, was shot and killed in Sanford after he was approached by George Zimmerman as he walked in a neighborhood. A scuffle ensued. Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of the shooting under the “stand your ground” law. Mr. Martin was carrying iced tea and a bag of Skittles. ¦

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