The Violence Policy Center regularly puts out the claim that concealed handgun permit holders are a danger to themselves and others. Right now they claim that concealed handgun permits have been responsible for 636 deaths from the entire United States over almost seven years from May 2007 to March 2014. John Lott has pointed out errors in the VPC numbers for Florida, so here let’s take the errors in just one state Michigan.
— In the Michigan state reports on concealed handgun permit holders that are cited by the VPC, 185 people died of suicides during the four reports from 2007 through 2012. That is 29 percent of the purported 636 deaths for the entire United States that the Violence Policy Center attributes to permitted concealed handguns.
But there is the problem: If you look at page 2 in the latest report, you will see that the 28 suicides do not list a cause of death. The report merely notes that permit holders committed suicide. We don’t know if they committed suicide with a gun and if it was a gun, that it was the gun that they carried concealed. Given that the overwhelming majority of these suicides were presumably at home, like the vast majority of suicides, it isn’t even clear why a concealed handgun permit is relevant.
The suicide rate among permit holders in Michigan in 2012/13 (6.2 per 100,000 = ((28/450,000)*100,000) is about 62% lower than the suicide rate in the general adult population (see screen shot of suicide rate numbers from the CDC for adults in Michigan).
— The VPC claims that the Michigan State Police show in their five reports between 2007-08 and 2011-12 that murder cases were as follows: Pending 20 Convicted 14. In fact, if you look at the reports themselves you find:
2012-13: Pending 4, Convicted 1
Total: Pending 14, Convicted 11
In other words, during 2007–08, five cases were pending and there were no convictions. The Violence Policy Center makes several fundamental mistakes. First, it can’t add simple numbers up correctly. While the VPC claims 20 pending cases and 14 convictions, the Michigan State Police report a total of 14 and 11 cases respectively.
If you include both pending and convicted cases for all these years, you are going to obviously double count cases. Obviously, some pending cases end in convictions. The problem is clearly even worse than that as many cases will be pending over multiple years. So if you have a news story on a case and then the case is pending for several years before the permit holder is found to have acted in justifiable self-defense, you will count one case as four bad cases when it shouldn’t have even been counted one time.
The Violence Policy Center also includes cases of permit holders who were convicted of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and causing a death, but there is no evidence that the permit holder was carrying a concealed handgun at the time of the motorcycle accident (these cases were as follows: 2010-11 two cases, 2011-12 one case).
Yet, despite having the annual state reports that already included both pending and convicted cases, the VPC then includes news stories from these individual years that involved suicides, murders, and even a case where no charges were filed. (Their news stories for other years don’t present the same problem.)
Troy Brake, 4 murders, September 29, 2008
Salam Shaker Zora, murder, January 23, 2009
Arlando Davis, one person killed, but no charges filed, May 24, 2009
Kevin Hoover, murder, July 21, 2009
Harlan Drake, 2 murders, September 11, 2009
Jamar Pinkney, Sr., murder, November 16, 2009
Tigh Croff, murder, December 27, 2009
Edward Bell, murder, May 12, 2010
Hayes Bacall, murder, July 2, 2010
Justin Luckhardt, suicide/murder, July 13, 2010
Blake Hullihen, murder, December 7, 2011
You thus have 12 cases for just Michigan that are triple counted. In addition, the reason that many of the arrests don’t result in a conviction is that people were found to have acted in self-defense. If someone uses a gun defensively in public, they are going to be arrested and detained by police until an investigation has been done. Including those cases and news stories about those arrests, thus double counts cases that shouldn’t even be included in the total — if anything they should be counted as benefits from concealed carry, not costs.
Another case from Michigan probably illustrates an instance where a permit holder was behaving properly.
Alrando Davis, permit holder who probably was defending himself against someone without a permit, May 24, 2009
— Even though there are a lot of errors in the VPC numbers, assume that the VPC claim of 636 deaths (including suicides) are correct, one has to note that there are over 11 million concealed handgun permit holder in the US right now. An annual number of deaths of 90, the rate is 0.00083%. The rate of non-suicide deaths is obviously even lower, 0.00058%.
— A comparison can also be made to the rate that police are arrested or convicted of firearms-related crimes. Police were convicted of firearms violations during the period from January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2007 at a rate of about 0.007%.
— Finally, PoliceOne.com, the largest private association of police officers in the US with over 425,000 members (something over 330,000 active and the rest retired), did a survey of its members last April and found strong support for concealed carry. When asked: “Do you support the concealed carry of firearms by civilians who have not been convicted of a felony and/or not been deemed psychologically/medically incapable?” about 91 percent answered, “Yes, without question and without further restrictions.”