I watched the 60 Minutes special report on the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act last Sunday (February 11, 2018). Superficially, it looked good: reasonably balanced interviews with articulate people on both sides, all of it hosted and narrated by Steve Kroft, earnestly doing his best to appear impartial. And no matter what, it certainly was a step up from Katie Couric’s so-called “Under the Gun” documentary in which footage was deliberately and unethically edited to misrepresent the Virginia Citizens Defense League (a pro-gun group) to make them look both stupid and dishonest. So progress is being made—to an extent.
In case you are unfamiliar with the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (also known as House Bill 38), it is bill that would amend Title 18 of the United States Code so that all states would be required to recognize the validity of concealed carry licenses from other states and allow license holders to carry handguns from one state to another, across state lines, without fear of prosecution. Right now, each state has its own, frequently conflicting, laws, and some states have conflicting regulations from city to city, resulting, as Steve Kroft himself put it, in a confusing hodgepodge of contradictory laws. The bill has passed through Congress, and now languishes, waiting to be brought to a vote in the Senate.
The people on the pro-gun side were Tim Schmidt, founder and CEO of the US Concealed Carry Association, and Representative Richard Hudson, Republican, of North Carolina. On the anti-gun, anti-HR Bill 38 side were Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Cyrus Vance, New York District Attorney for Manhattan, and James O’Neill, New York City Police Commissioner. There were also some sound bites from other people on either side.
Let me give you a quick rundown of what was presented.
Robyn Thomas accurately stated that passing this bill would allow a concealed carry license holder to carry a sidearm into metropolitan areas in other states that might have far more stringent laws. She cited Los Angeles and San Francisco, two California cities where concealed carry licenses are automatically denied, regardless of circumstances, except in the cases of the very wealthy and/or well-connected who have the clout to transcend the law. But what Ms. Thomas did not mention, is that to obtain a concealed carry license, even in the most gun-friendly state in the nation, Arizona, a complete and thorough background check is conducted, one that goes well above and beyond the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Nor did Steve Kroft point that out, nor was anyone on the pro-gun side given a chance to point that out. Why that omitted detail is important—apart from the obvious reasons—will become clear.
Cyrus Vance and Police Commissioner O’Neill boiled their argument down to “more guns equals more violence.” They also, according to Steve Kroft, are worried specifically about more suicides, even though countless studies have shown that guns no more cause suicide than spoons cause obesity.
Vance and O’Neill have formed a coalition of prosecutors and police chiefs, from nearly every big city in America, to lobby senators to vote against the bill. Representative Hudson, when confronted with the list of cities across America whose police chiefs oppose this potential change in the law, graciously put it down to differences in opinion by “good people” on both sides. Again, I will return to “more guns equals more violence” and to the question of police chiefs in major metropolitan areas shortly.
When Representative Hudson said the licenses should be treated the way drivers’ licenses are treated, Steve Kroft responded with an argument that is often used as a specious comparison to gun ownership, namely that to obtain a driver’s license, one must pass a test demonstrating proficiency as a driver, knowledge of the law, and establish that you’re not going endanger other people. (That last one is highly questionable and open to debate, but I’ll let it go.) Rep. Hudson, to his everlasting credit, pointed out that driving is a privilege; the right to self defense is just that, a right, protected and ensured by the Constitution. Car ownership and driving are not.
Robyn Thomas denied the right to carry a gun outside the home on the grounds that the Supreme Court has not specifically ruled on that aspect of the Second Amendment. I would argue that the word “bear,” as in the phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear arms…” has meant “to carry” for over 1000 years (Beowulf is the first written example cited by the Oxford English Unabridged Dictionary), so anything the Supreme Court might or might not say about the matter is largely moot. Tim Schmidt pointed this out, albeit in different, more politic words.
Rep. Hudson also pointed out that both gun ownership and concealed carry license holders have increased exponentially over the last two decades, even as violent crime numbers have dropped to historic lows. Which brings me to the most dishonest portion of this program.
First, Steve Kroft presented the argument that states with highly restrictive or draconian gun laws have lower violent crime rates than states with lax gun laws, in other words, “more guns equals more crime.” And, superficially, if you choose only to look at selected data, that is somewhat correct. (It is not true of all states.) But what Mr. Kroft either did not know, or chose not to reveal, is that all of the studies that purport to prove this have neglected to remove drug distribution centers from the equation. Take Arizona as an example of a state with the most relaxed gun laws in the nation: if you look at the violent crime statistics for the state, it’s not as bad as some, but it’s not good. It has almost the exact same rate of violent crime as California, a state where both gun ownership and concealed carry are extremely difficult and getting more so every day. I could make an argument that the similarity in crime stats doesn’t speak well for draconian gun laws, but anti-gun advocates present it as proof that guns do not have an effect on reducing crime.
But now take Phoenix out of the equation. Phoenix and Tucson are both drug distribution centers, where Mexican cartels funnel their products through to other parts of the country. No Democrat will ever admit it, but drugs equals gangs equals violence regardless of gun laws, and if you remove Phoenix from the equation, Arizona becomes one of the safest and most peaceful places on earth.
And now we come to Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn. Dave Workman, senior editor at The Second Amendment Foundation’s publication, The Gun Mag (www.thegunmag.com), reminded me of Chief Flynn’s reaction a few years ago to Wisconsin’s right-to-carry law: “My message to my troops is if you see anybody carrying a gun on the streets of Milwaukee, we’ll put them on the ground, take the gun away, and then decide whether you have a right to carry it.” Keep that reaction in mind, and remember that it is a violation of both the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor, the oath to “support and maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States,” and the established legal principle of innocent until proven guilty, so one might question why 60 Minutes would have put such a thug on the air in the first place. But since they did, here is Chief Flynn’s comment, carefully aired near the very end of the segment so it would remain in viewers’ minds:
“Every year since that law was passed in 2011, every year, nonfatal shootings have gone up, gun related homicides have gone up, and the number of guns seized from the streets by our department has gone up, that’s what our cockamamie law has done here.”
Passionate stuff. What’s wrong with it?
Police chiefs, unlike sheriffs, are political appointees. Does it strike you as odd that former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke’s every utterance about firearms and crime is diametrically opposed to Police Chief Flynn’s? That’s because Sheriff Clarke was elected by the people of Milwaukee County, and was answerable only to them.
Police Chief Flynn, as a political appointee, like every other major metropolitan police chief, has a very different agenda. Every word of his, and every action he takes, is intended to reflect the wishes of the men and women (he is appointed by the Mayor and the City Council) who gave him his job. Milwaukee is a Democrat stronghold. In fact, Milwaukee has been run by Democrats for more than a century, except for a few years when it was controlled by Socialists. (I’m not making that up.) Name a Democrat in office today who is pro-gun. Now name a major metropolitan area in the United States that is not run by a Democrat government. All those Democrat-run cities appoint their chiefs of police. For a good example of how the mayoral-police chief relationship works, or not, read LA Noir, by John Buntin, a brilliant and eminently readable history of the police force of Los Angeles, CA.
But beyond the liberal leanings of the Milwaukee Mayor and the city council, and beyond Chief Flynn having to lick the hands that feed him, listen to his words again: “Every year since that law was passed in 2011, every year, nonfatal shootings have gone up, gun-related homicides have gone up, and the number of guns seized from the streets by our department has gone up, that’s what our cockamamie law has done here.”
The words may or may not be true (I haven’t done the research), but it would be just as accurate and just as meaningful if Chief Flynn had stated: “Every year since the residents of Milwaukee switched from cable to satellite TV, every year, nonfatal shootings have gone up, gun-related homicides have gone up, and the number of guns seized from the streets by our department has gone up, that’s what the switch from cable to satellite has done here.”
Two events that occur simultaneously are not necessarily related, Mr. Flynn.
What about causation? Have drug-related arrests gone up or down in that same period? Is there a greater or lesser gang/cartel presence in Milwaukee since the law was enacted? Were the nonfatal shootings committed by concealed carry license holders? Were the gun-related homicides committed by concealed carry license holders? Were the guns seized from misbehaving concealed carry license holders?
To answer the last three hypothetical questions, government studies and independent studies have both shown that, as a group, the approximately 16-million concealed carry license holders in America are more law abiding than the general public. That should hardly be surprising, seeing how thoroughly they are checked and vetted and investigated before being issued a license. Want another factoid? Studies have also shown that concealed carry license holders commit fewer violent crimes than police officers.
Chief Flynn might want to cogitate on that fact before railing against the law-abiding citizens of his city. And the senators being lobbied by Mr. Vance and Mr. O’Neill might want to cogitate on it too.