A matter of trust

Posted: Nov 25, 2005 12:05 AM

Wisconsin is, by all accounts, a fairly modern state.  They have interstate highways, running water, electricity, and the internet.  But Wisconsin doesn’t have something that forty-six other states do:  concealed carry. 

Legislators in the Badger State are working to correct that.  For the past few years, bills authorizing residents to carry concealed firearms for personal protection have come up in the Assembly.  In fact, last session, the bill passed out of the legislature and ended up on the governor’s desk.  But Governor Jim Doyle vetoed the bill, and the override attempt in the legislature ended up one vote short. 

The current debate in Wisconsin features much of the same rhetoric we’ve seen over the past 20 years in places like Texas, Florida, and Ohio.  The streets will be awash in blood.  Crime will rise.  Innocent women and children will be at risk in restaurants, playgrounds, and schoolyards.  The only problem with that line of thought is that we can look at 46 other states and see that concealed carry laws have been implemented without any of those doomsday scenarios happening.

Since the argument that concealed carry leads to more crime is so easy to debunk, some anti-gun groups are challenging the law on other grounds.  Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (or WAVE) says “concealed guns are generally a terrible self-defense tool and are hardly ever used to actually thwart burglaries or assaults.”  Of course, the group can’t cite any statistics to bear out their assumption.  I can, however, cite some statistics demonstrating the group’s argument is full of holes.  In the 1992 FBI Uniform Crime report, a number of felons were surveyed about concealed carry.  Of those interviewed, 34 percent were stopped by an armed citizen.  40 percent stated they decided not to commit a crime after fearing their would-be victim was armed.  The FBI’s report also stated "Violent crime rates are highest overall in states with laws limiting or prohibiting the carrying of concealed firearms for self-defense."

WAVE also says police in Wisconsin are opposed to concealed carry.  While it’s true that the legislative committee for the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association is opposed to the bill, a survey by the National Association of Chiefs of Police shows widespread support for concealed carry.  Over 63 percent of the more than 22,000 police chiefs surveyed said they believe a nationwide concealed carry law would reduce crime.  I find it hard to believe that Wisconsin’s police chiefs would be that out of step with their counterparts across the country.  It’s much more likely that political pressures are to blame for the statements by this law enforcement group.

Statistics show criminals are apprehended by armed citizens all the time.  Surveys show police chiefs and law enforcement aren’t opposed to concealed carry.  And history has shown that concealed carry is implemented without an increase in crime.  Yet some politicians in Wisconsin continue to reject the idea of concealed carry.  Here’s my question:  why don’t these politicians trust the people who elected them?

Forty six other states trust their residents (to some degree or another) with the responsibility that comes with carrying concealed.  Is there something about Wisconsin that I’m missing?  The Wisconsin residents I know seem to be smart folks.  They’re friendly, honest, and law abiding.  Yet a few politicians seem to think they can’t handle the same rights and responsibilities that people in forty six other states enjoy. Perhaps some politician opposed to concealed carry can explain to me why they believe the people that voted for them are not to be trusted. 

It’s not too late for these politicians to decide that they, in fact, do believe the people of Wisconsin are capable of being responsible citizens.  The Wisconsin Personal Protection Act will come up for a vote in the legislature in a few weeks.  Hopefully it will be sent to the governor’s desk, and hopefully he will sign it into law.  I would like to see Wisconsin become the 47th state in the Union to recognize that law abiding citizens are capable of rational and responsible self-defense.  If that fails to happen, voters in the state should ask themselves why they continue to place their trust in politicians who refuse to do the same for the people they serve.