Steve Chapman

Chicago Democrats act as though this is either a) a surefire formula for more bloodshed or b) a reckless leap into the unknown. It's neither. In recent years, we have accumulated a wealth of evidence about what happens when a state establishes a "shall-issue" system under which qualified citizens may pack pistols.

Since Florida blazed the trail in 1987, state after state has followed. During that period, the national homicide rate has fallen by more than 40 percent. Florida's dropped even faster. Back then, its murder rate was far higher than Illinois'. By 2011, it was lower.

It would be too much to assume that the spread of concealed-carry accounts for the improvement. Lots of factors have produced the national reduction in violent crime. But it hasn't gotten in the way.

Opponents, however, never tire of insisting that letting individuals tote firearms will unleash mass carnage. The Washington-based Violence Policy Center makes much of the fact that since 2007, by its count, 516 people have been killed by permit holders.

But a quarter of those were suicides, which are not a danger to public safety. Though the figure sounds high, it's less than 90 a year -- in a country with more than 50,000 homicides and suicides annually.

The number of licensees who make lethal misuse of their guns, likewise, is a microscopic percentage of the estimated 6 million people who are authorized to carry. The overwhelming majority behave in a responsible, lawful way. The people behind the epidemic of violent crime in Chicago, by contrast, don't bother with permits and wouldn't qualify for them.

For this group, the new law is irrelevant. Politicians who use the ongoing slaughter as a reason to oppose it only confirm that when it comes to government's most important function, they haven't got a clue.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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