CPRC in the Austin (Texas) Statesman: “Open Carry versus Campus Carry: what should be the priority”

12 Feb , 2015  

John Lott’s piece in the Austin (Texas) Statesman’s is as follows:

With well over 700,000 concealed handgun permit holders in Texas, there is a good chance that someone next you in a grocery store or restaurant is carrying a concealed handgun. But some are only satisfied if others actually know that they are carrying.  They think that by openly carrying guns they can make others comfortable with guns. They want to make a statement.

Texas lawmakers are now wrestling with the questions of campus carry and open carry. They couldn’t face a clearer choice between enhancing safety or making political statements.

Open carry advocates carry rifles because they can’t legally openly carry handguns. While no problems have occurred, simply handling a rifle as opposed to keeping a handgun in a holster, raises the risk that something might go wrong.

Open carry advocates have not been the best at public relations and they have scared some people. Much has been made of supposed gun bans by Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Chipotle, Wendy’s, Applebee’s, Chili’s and Sonic’s supposedly banning guns. In fact, these companies merely “respectfully request” that customers not openly carry guns. Passing an open carry law where proponents carried handguns, instead of rifles, would be less threatening and thus likely make it less of a PR issue.

Still, there is a more basic problem with open carry – it isn’t as effective in protecting people.

Criminals and terrorists can strike anywhere and at any time, that gives them a huge strategic advantage. When an attacker sees someone openly carrying a gun, they can either attack that person or wait for a more opportune moment. Alternatively, they can select another target.

Concealed carry makes attacks riskier. A killer can’t attack an auditorium in Texas without facing near-certain resistance. And, of course, an attacker has no idea who might be packing heat.

Mass public shooters openly admit to targeting gun-free zones. Elliot Rodger, who killed three people in Santa Barbara, California, explained his choice last June. In his 141-page “Manifesto,” Rodger ruled out targets where his killing spree was likely to be cut short.

Justin Bourque thought along similar lines that same June. He killed three people in Moncton, Canada. Prior to the shooting, Bourque took to Facebook to make fun of gun bans. He posted pictures of defenseless victims explaining to gunmen that they weren’t allowed to be carrying firearms.

Or take the Aurora, Colorado massacre.  The killer lived within a twenty-minute drive of seven movie theaters showing “The Dark Knight” premier.  Instead of choosing the largest theater or the one nearest to his home, he picked the only theater that posted signs banning permitted concealed handguns.

Since at least 1950, all but two of the mass public shooting in the US (and every single in Europe) has occurred in gun-free zones.

PoliceOne, the largest private organization of police officers in the US, recently asked its 450,000 members: “Considering the particulars of recent tragedies like Newtown and Aurora, what level of impact do you think a legally-armed citizen could have made?” 80% said: “Casualties would likely have been reduced.”

In the US, over 12 million American civilians are licensed to carry concealed handguns.  Clearly, these Americans save lives. In the Oklahoma beheading case this past September, permit holder Mark Vaughan stepped in before a second victim could be beheaded.

Opponents of concealed carry on college campuses worry about irresponsible young people misusing their guns. But this concern has no statistical basis. A study this past year by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that college-age permit holders in Texas and Michigan (two states which break down revocation data by age) are at least as responsible as older permit holders.

Open carry isn’t bad, but concealed carry is better. There are more important changes to be made. At $140, Texas has one of the highest permit fees in the US. Lower fees would increase the number of people who can protect others. It would especially help those who are most likely to be victims of violent crime — poor blacks living in high-crime urban areas.

If safety is the goal, let’s eliminate gun-free zones or lower permit fees. Open carry may make a political statement, but is that really the top priority?

* Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and a former chief economist for the United States Sentencing Commission.

UPDATE: Both the Campus Carry and Open Carry bills passed out of the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee with 7-to-2 votes.

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8 Responses

  1. Let us do both. It is not that hard.

  2. […] in Texas.  It is subscription, but Mr. Lott also mirrors the entire commentary on the web site Crime Prevention Research Center (where he is president).  Mr. Lott felt the latitude to undercut the Austin-American Statesman by […]

  3. Chris Wilson says:

    I think you contradict yourself a little here. If gun free zones attract criminals and evil doers; how would open carrying a firearm not repel them? Are we talking about two different types of criminals? Criminals want things the easy way. They see a gun and they will either pick another victim or wait until that threat to their crime leaves.

    How a person carries is a personal preference to me. I would prefer to carry concealed most of the time. If others want to carry openly, then that’s their choice. My PROBLEM AND ISSUE is having to pay a fee and ask permission to exercise my Rights. Now if a property owner doesn’t want firearms on their property then that’s their right as well. I just won’t go there. My little rant for the day.

  4. will Ford says:

    Mr. LOTT you are grossly wrong on open carry. If you do not want O.C. say SO. Other wise , you are not helping. Please refrain from what you think on this matter as it IS not correct for rights of people that DO want it.. I usually agree with you,BUT not this time

  5. Jay Hafemeister says:

    The reason open carry legislation is a priority is because the people in Texas have made it one. The push for open carry legislation hasn’t originated in the legislature. It didn’t come from the NRA or the TSRA. Until recently NRA and TSRA have been quietly hostile to open carry legislation in Texas. The push for this law comes from unpaid individual rights advocates lobbying their legislators.

    Open carry should pass. If for no other reason than to take it off the table next session.
    If you don’t like open carry. (I don’t.) Then carry concealed. (That’s what I’ll continue to do.)

  6. Dennis says:

    “While no problems have occurred, simply handling a rifle as opposed to keeping a handgun in a holster, raises the risk that something might go wrong.”

    John, have you totally lost it? You state “no problems have occurred” then use the anti-gun argument “something MIGHT go wrong”?? Then you get into the CC vs open carry. You can’t back up your statement that CC is superior to OC. What of the visual deterrent on a criminal, of an openly carried sidearm? We OC all the time in VA. Where are your numbers about how the OCers are getting shot and mugged vs those that CC?

    Other than the faux pas, I thought the article was great, but please the antis get enough help without us adding to it. You know they’ll quote you and take it out of context.

  7. MarkPA says:

    The OC vs CC debate should not be discussed as one to the EXCLUSION of the other. There is nothing incompatible about enjoying the opportunity to carry either way according to individual preference and circumstances. The way many express their opposition to OC implies that because CC is superior (in their opinion) OC should not be tolerated/promoted.
    I think that it would be ideal if about half of carriers OC’ed and half CC’ed. The OCs would remind criminals and crazies that the area is a gun-carrying zone. If there is one or two OCs in the vicinity the likelihood of CCs is high. If there are no OCs in the area then one is tempted to speculate that there might be no CCs either.
    The Idaho incident where a mother was shot by her toddler son brought to mind one obvious advantage to OC. Women, especially (grand)mothers who are escorting children, are advised to carry on-body. There is too great a chance that a child will invade a purse with potentially tragic results as in Idaho. What if this mother had OC’ed in a retention holster? The tragedy would have been less likely to have occurred.
    Women’s clothing makes CC problematic for them. If women OC’ed most (perhaps all) the clothing issues would be alleviated. If women OC’ed they would have the fastest possible access to their guns (rather than fumble with a CC holster and clothing or reach for a gun in a purse). They would certainly signal that they are not the low-hanging fruit.
    The major objection I see voiced against OC is that it is an advertisement to “Shoot me first!” This makes no sense in the context of a woman escorting children. A criminal or crazy is unlikely to rationalize that a woman with children is going to draw his fire by pulling her gun. Her much more predictable response would be to lay-low, prepare to draw, and proceed to draw and fire-back IF-and-ONLY-IF the active shooter picks her as a target. The criminal/crazy is better advised to shoot at anyone OTHER than a woman OCing while escorting children.
    The other major objection against OC is that the practice scares the horses, I mean hoplophobes; as such, it is politically counter-productive. I consider this argument to be very serious and worthy of our careful examination. So, let’s imagine women – escorting children – going about their normal activities while OCing. Do we really think that the hoplophobes are going to be frightened by this image? If so, how will they describe what they see? What will be the images broadcast by the state-owned-media? How scary would such descriptions/images be? Just a little-less scary than a gaggle of grizzly thirty-somethings in beards and cammo?
    If anything, I think we should actively encourage women – especially those who escort children – in OC to seriously consider the advantage of OC. We ought to explained to the uncommitted voters that banning OC impedes on women’s safety by driving them “underground” to CC in less effective holsters or in off-body purses.

  8. johnrlott says:

    MarkPA, do you realize that they have previously tried twice to get rid of gun-free zones on college campuses? But in both cases they failed because of filibusters. Spreading yourself too thin risks not getting anything. The point of my piece was that if safety is your main concern, getting rid of gun-free zones is clearly the more important issue.

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