Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Armed and dangerous

Advocates of gun anarchy like to proclaim that stricter gun laws only serve to keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. However, a New York Times investigation of North Carolina concealed weapons permit holders shows that those armed "law-abiding" citizens can become very, very dangerous.
...The New York Times examined the permit program in North Carolina, one of a dwindling number of states where the identities of permit holders remain public. The review, encompassing the last five years, offers a rare, detailed look at how a liberalized concealed weapons law has played out in one state. And while it does not provide answers, it does raise questions.

More than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, excluding traffic-related crimes, over the five-year period, The Times found when it compared databases of recent criminal court cases and licensees. While the figure represents a small percentage of those with permits, more than 200 were convicted of felonies, including at least 10 who committed murder or manslaughter. All but two of the killers used a gun.
The story relates a number of cases where permitted hot heads flip out and then use the close proximity of a weapon to assault or kill, going from "law-abiding citizen" to dangerous felon in the blink of an eye.

The Times also reports that felons often get to keep their concealed guns and their ability to purchase more.
The review also raises concerns about how well government officials police the permit process. In about half of the felony convictions, the authorities failed to revoke or suspend the holder’s permit, including for cases of murder, rape and kidnapping. The apparent oversights are especially worrisome in North Carolina, one of about 20 states where anyone with a valid concealed handgun permit can buy firearms without the federally mandated criminal background check. (Under federal law, felons lose the right to own guns.)

Ricky Wills, 59, kept his permit after recently spending several months behind bars for terrorizing his estranged wife and their daughter with a pair of guns and then shooting at their house while they, along with a sheriff’s deputy who had responded to a 911 call, were inside. “That’s crazy, absolutely crazy,” his wife, Debra Wills, said in an interview when told that her husband could most likely still buy a gun at any store in the state.
A sensible proposal would be be for anyone accused of a violent crime in North Carolina to immediately have their gun rights (including any special gun permits) suspended and weapons impounded until their criminal case is adjudicated. Courts would revoke all gun rights and dispose of the weapons upon conviction but allow people to petition for reinstatement of their rights some period after completing sentences.

If North Carolina can suspend driving privileges for some accusations of traffic offenses and impound vehicles for some accusations of crimes, it can surely do the same for guns.