by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic is no fan of guns. He’s amenable to gun control. In fact, he thinks the United States would benefit by becoming more like Canada in its treatment of guns.
Yet Goldberg is not so anti-gun that he ignores reality. That’s what makes his new nine-page feature on American gun laws so interesting. While conceding that law-abiding citizens with guns could play a significant role in preventing or limiting the damage associated with gun-toting mass murderers, Goldberg finds plenty of interview subjects who are unwilling to concede that point.
In 2004, the Ohio legislature passed a law allowing private citizens to apply for permits to carry firearms outside the home. The decision to allow concealed carry was, of course, a controversial one. Law-enforcement organizations, among others, argued that an armed population would create chaos in the streets. In 2003, John Gilchrist, the legislative counsel for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, testified, “If 200,000 to 300,000 citizens begin carrying a concealed weapon, common sense tells us that accidents will become a daily event.”
When I called Gilchrist recently, he told me that events since the state’s concealed-carry law took effect have proved his point. “Talking to the chiefs, I know that there is more gun violence and accidents involving guns,” he said. “I think there’s more gun violence now because there are more guns. People are using guns in the heat of arguments, and there wouldn’t be as much gun violence if we didn’t have people carrying weapons. If you’ve got people walking around in a bad mood—or in a divorce, they’ve lost their job—and they get into a confrontation, this could result in the use of a gun. If you talk to emergency-room physicians in the state, [they] see more and more people with gunshot wounds.”
Gilchrist said he did not know the exact statistics on gun-related incidents (or on incidents concerning concealed-carry permit holders specifically, because the state keeps the names of permit holders confidential). He says, however, that he tracks gun usage anecdotally. “You can look in the newspaper. I consciously look for stories that deal with guns. There are more and more articles in The Columbus Dispatch about people using guns inappropriately.”
Gilchrist’s argument would be convincing but for one thing: the firearm crime rate in Ohio remained steady after the concealed-carry law passed in 2004.
The article offers us a good reminder that many people are unwilling to let facts get in the way of their ideological positions.