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Steve Hansen: Standardizing permits may lead to more gun control

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A recent Lodi News-Sentinel story suggested that concealed weapon privileges are not applied equally in California. Permission to carry, which is at the discretion of local law enforcement agencies, varies from one county or city to another.

While this is true, it may be more important to note that permission to carry varies dramatically not only in California, but throughout the entire country. Each state has its own regulations — ranging from virtually no concealed weapons allowed, to others having no restrictions at all. The majority of the more politically “liberal” states have the most controls on CCW issuances. California is one of them.

A good reason why our state does not have a consistent policy is that needs vary from one community to another. For example, most cities are considered by lawmakers to have adequate police protection. That’s in contrast to rural areas where law enforcement officers can be few and far between. In some of these places, there may be only two or three officers on graveyard shift for an entire county! People are on their own should a threatening situation develop.

The fear among those who support strict laws against concealed weapons is the belief that the more who carry, the greater the chances are for gun violence. While the evidence can be controversial, the preponderance is in favor of the CCW advocates.

Let’s look at some of the states that have right-to-carry laws. Florida is one, which enacted its “shall issue” law in 1987. One study found that as a result, crimes committed against its citizens decreased.

On a personal note, my brother-in-law, a Florida physician, reported that carjacking dramatically dropped after the enactment. But cars with symbols identifying them as rental units continued to have problems. (The bad guys assumed they were occupied by unarmed tourists!)

The state of Utah not only issues CCW permits to its residents fairly easily, but will issue to non-residents as well. Their primary point for consideration is an applicant’s absence of a criminal record. If clear, most private citizens are eligible to carry. Their permit is accepted in more than two dozen other states. However, California and Nevada are not among them. In Utah, state crime statistics are no worse than average and fare better than places with tough restrictions such as California, New York and Maryland.

But aren’t CCW holders more likely to be involved in crime? Not according to statistics released by the Texas Department of Public Safety. A study released in 2011 covered 63,679 people, who were convicted of a variety of noteworthy crimes. However, only 120 were concealed weapons permit holders. This is in a state where permits are fairly easy to obtain. Less than two-tenths of one percent of these holders were convicted of a criminal act. Most of these involved domestic violence, which took place in homes where a permit is not required.

While some may view California laws on this issue as unfair and inconsistent in application, now is probably not the time to make adjustments. Most states in the country, even in restrictive ones like Illinois, are moving toward more open policies toward CCW permits. However, many of our state legislators seem to maintain an emotional rather than a factual attitude toward these policies and other gun-related matters.

As needs vary, so should the issuances of permits. Under the present legislative conditions, any change in the law that takes place in California would more likely restrict everyone, rather than provide additional law-abiding residents with more personal freedom for the protection of themselves and others.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.