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The Washington Post has weighed in on the Woollard  v. Sheridan ruling and, surprise, surprise, surprise, they’re against it. That’s the recent Maryland Supreme Court ruling that the state can’t require citizens to show a “good and substantial reason” in order to get a carry permit. Most of the piece is simply background on Maryland’s permit law and a reprise of the case. They state that Judge Legg’s ruling is well-reasoned, although the WaPo Editorial Board agrees with the state’s decision to appeal, but it isn’t until we get to the very last paragraph that they reach the meat of their argument:

But the state has a duty to protect public safety, and careful oversight of who can walk around with lethal weapons may be a legitimate component of that.

What the WPEB is completely ignoring is that this ruling changes nothing about the permitting process except to remove the good and substantial reason component. So all of the “oversight” currently in place (background check, gainfully employed, medical and psychological histories, a guess as to whether the applicant has “a propensity for violence or instability”) remains in place. Indeed since the completely subjective “propensity for violence or instability” test remains, boards can continue to weed out blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, people who didn’t contribute to the right politicians -ahem- undesirable applicants.

As for the state’s duty to protect public safety, in case after case after case the courts have ruled that the police have no duty to protect individuals, merely the public at large. Even in the case of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, where the police violated a Colorado law which required them to enforce restraining orders, the Supreme Court ruled that they were not liable when they failed to do so. Thus it is up to individuals to provide for their own defense, not the state.

The WPEB concludes:

Judge Legg too quickly dismisses as a “rationing” scheme the state’s compelling interest in maintaining order in the public arena. Second Amendment rights should be respected, but public safety need not be thrown out in the process.

I’m not exactly sure how the WaPo’s deep thinkers believe we can respect a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right[1] while still requiring good and substantial reason to exercise it, but we will let that pass for the moment. Let’s look at the idea that issuing carry permits to law-abiding citizens undermines the state’s ability to maintain order.

The statistical mavens at the Violence Policy Center have started tracking what they call Concealed Carry Killers. Although there are serious questions about their methodology and numbers, let’s use them for the sake of conservatism.

According to the VPC, there have been 391 people killed by permit-holders since May of 2007. According to there are currently about 6.9 million permit holders in the U.S. and according to Google there are about 310 million people in the country.

That means 2.21% of the population has carry permits. Now, according to the between 2007 and 2010 there were 63,518 homicides in the U.S. (I’m figuring that counting the first 4 months of 2007 is offset by not counting 2011; hey, it’s a S.W.A.G.). So, doing a little math, we find that the 2.21% of the population which has permits to carry committed 0.62% of the homicides.

So when you combine that with the fact that guns are used to save lives more than twice as often as they are in homicides (see my analysis here) it seems that far from throwing it out, public safety would be well served by allowing more people to carry.

[1] L. Neil Smith, Letter to a Liberal Colleague



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  1. Even the Washington Post cannot summon up more than a tepid defense of “may issue” ccw laws. This bodes well for this ruling surviving an appeal, perhaps even becoming law through the Supreme Court.

  2. The decision was handed down by a federal judge. The highest state court in Maryland is called the Maryland Court of Appeals. I don’t know if yours is a factual error, or if you’re trying to make a commentary about how our Federalist system is out of whack. If it’s the former, a word to the wise should be sufficient.

  3. Who picked the picture for this article?
    NOT a good picture!
    Dumb guy has his finger in the trigger during the draw / or re-holstering in his man-purse.
    Your next IGOTD>

  4. The article’s writer doesn’t really want to stress the narrowness of the holding. A casual reader might conclude that the ruling forbids states from requiring licenses for people who want to carry guns (when the ruling actually only struck down the “good and substantial reason” part). Overcharacterizing a ruling you don’t like is a good way to stir up opposition to that ruling. It’s been done very effectively regarding Heller, and Citizen’s United, most recently.

    • Except that in the case of Citizen’s United, I think we really are seeing the unintended (negative) consequences.

  5. “…the police have no duty to protect individuals, merely the public at large.”

    I was shocked and unaware of this situation. This, plus the reactive-only nature of 911-type policing puts a whole new spin on the need for personal reliance. Are there any other (layman-friendly) resources to support this?

      • While the Castle Rock v. Gonzales case is a good illustration of the common misconception that the police have some legal duty to protect you, I also “like” the Riss v. New York case as it was an early (albeit State) determination of this legal concept, being decided in 1968. But also because of the undeniable common sense approach and logic of the lone dissenting judge: “Linda’s reasoning seems so eminently sensible that surely it must come as a shock to her and to every citizen to hear the city argue and to learn that this court decides that the city has no duty to provide police protection to any given individual. What makes the city’s position particularly difficult to understand is that, in conformity to the dictates of the law, Linda did not carry any weapon for self-defense (former Penal Law, § 1897). Thus, by a rather bitter irony she was required to rely for protection on the City of New York which now denies all responsibility to her.”

  6. The WaPo simply isn’t sure how many readers they’ll lose if they don’t say something vaguely anti, so they stuck that bit at the end of the article. Lately they’ve been testing the waters and seem to realize the hard reflexive anti bit actually offends as many readers as a bit of mild and accurate pro writing. It’s a business. They’re coming along. I encourage them to continue their increasingly balanced coverage, and to allow their columnists to point out the virtues of defensive firearms in a city large parts of which continue to harbor violent predators.

  7. Commies, More so now than ever before, I fully expect them to add a red star to their front page at some future point, when they’re sure that it no longer matters that people actually know it! And they work at that, every day.

  8. What I find most exciting about Wollard is its rejection of the classic “public safety” argument always put forward to defend these restrictions. Judge Legg refused to accept at face value this classic but unsubstantiated obeisance to the legistlative declaration that “public safety will be served”, but without any factual showing to support the invocation. The same theme is found in the perpetual refrain, “more guns equals more crime,” or “there will be blood in the streets if we allow everyone to carry weapons.” Three federal district courts in Californai have held that the invocation of the public safety dogma, by itself, is sufficient to meet the intermediatiate scrutiny test for the carrying of weapons outside the home. Although agreeing that public safety MAY be a reason to restrict permits, Judge Legg held the State has the burden of proving that the specific regulation will increase public safety. The great thing for us is that the reputable studies that have been done simply fail to support the proposition as a matter of fact. There is no study ever conducted that more guns leads to an increase in crime, or more specifically, more gun crime. Instead the evidence is that very few lawully obtained weapons are used in the commission of a crime, and that even the antis concede that the evidence is that if more guns to not reduce crime, at worst they certainly don’t increase it either. (Lott has reported extensively in this area.)
    If followed, Judge Legg’s analysis will be ther first time that gun grabber laws will be exposed to the searing light of scientific inquiry rather than simply the invocation of “commonsense” beliefs and other fairy tales.

  9. Today (Friday, 3/16/2012) I had an appointment for some medical tests. There were no signs on the outside of the medical clinic stating that carrying of self defense weapons was prohibited. After I entered the clinic, there was a sign suggesting that for the “safety” of our clients (sic) “smoking, eating, and carry of weapons was prohibited”. Said sign was not in compliance with state law, and I was carrying my defensive firearm. As such, I ignored the “prohibition”, had my tests, and nobody knew the difference. I intend to speak with supervisory personnel about this issue in the near future, but the bottom line is I will carry, anytime, anywhere, as no one has the ability to determine where and when I will be able to defend myself and others.


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