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Twenty years ago, carrying a concealed weapon in public was strictly controlled or illegal in nearly half of U.S. states. Fewer than five million Americans had a concealed-carry permit. Today, carrying a concealed firearm is legal in all fifty states. And the number of permit holders has risen to nearly 13 million Americans. Most of these cite self-defense as the primary reason for carrying a gun outside the home. But critics of these laws say the latest research shows no clear connection between carrying a gun and preventing violence. Diane and guests discuss the rise of concealed-carry gun laws in the states and what it means for individual freedom and public safety.
- Evan Osnos Staff writer, The New Yorker magazine; author of "Making a Killing: The Business and Politics of Selling Guns" (The New Yorker, June 27, 2016)
- John Donohue Professor, Stanford Law School
- Tim Schmidt President and founder, U.S. Concealed Carry Association; publisher of Concealed Carry Magazine
- Antonia Okafor Southwest director, Students for Concealed-Carry
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. It's now legal to carry a concealed weapon on all 50 states. Nearly 13 million Americans hold concealed carry permits up from 5 million 20 years ago. The University of Texas began classes this month with a new law that allows students to carry guns on campus. Joining me to talk about the rise of concealed-carry laws and what they mean for both individual and public safety, Evan Osnos of The New Yorker magazine.
MS. DIANE REHMFrom a studio at Stanford University, John Donohue of Stanford University School of Law, and by phone from West Bend, Wisconsin, Tim Schmidt of the United States Concealed-Carry Association. I'm sure many of you have thoughts on our subject. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And thank you all for joining us.
MR. EVAN OSNOSThanks very much, Diane, for having me.
MR. JOHN DONOHUEGood to be here.
REHMEvan Osnos, let me start with you. You begin your latest piece in The New Yorker with a street fight that took place in Philadelphia, like, six years ago. Tell me why and what it was all about.
OSNOSYou know, this is a street fight, exactly as you say, that probably would've been forgotten by all the participants had there not been one important detail and that was the presence of a handgun. There were two young men who were coming out of a bar just after 2 o'clock in the morning in the winter of 2010, Gerald Ung, who been an IT consultant for Freddie Mac. He wrote poetry in his spare time and he was with friends and he encountered, on the street corner, they were all looking for taxicabs and he got into a confrontation with another young man named Eddie DiDonato, who had just graduated from college.
OSNOSHe was the captain of the lacrosse team and had just started work in the insurance industry. And in fact, nobody can really remember how it all began. Everybody had been drinking, as they say. And over the course of the next 70 seconds, what had been this very ordinary argument took a strange turn and it turned out that Gerald Ung had a concealed-carry permit and he was carrying a .380 caliber handgun. And he pulled out the handgun and he fired -- he couldn't remember how many times, actually, into Eddie DiDonato, but it turned out to be six shots and he hit him in the spine and in the intestine and in the liver and elsewhere.
OSNOSAnd when he called -- and at that point, Gerald Ung called the police on his cell phone. He called 911 and in the 911 recording, one can hear, in the background, him saying to Eddie DiDonato, why did you make me shoot you and Eddie DiDonato says, please don't let me die. So this case ended up going to trial and it became, in its own way, in the concealed-carry community, a signal moment, an important test of how, in fact, the presence of these new kinds of guns, and carried in this new way, would be interpreted by the courts and ultimately by society.
REHMAnd how did the courts decide?
OSNOSWell, Gerald Ung was charged with attempted murder and was exonerated. He was, in the view of the jury, and it was a jury trial, he had been acting in self defense. And the key point, the sort of central detail of the case, was that at one point during the case, at one point during the confrontation, I should say, one of the people on Eddie DiDonato's side had said, I'm going to kill you. It was in the course of sort of shouting and screaming on the street corner. And that sentence became very important in its own way because it was interpreted as a reason why Gerald Ung might have a reasonable fear for his life.
OSNOSAnd in the concealed-carry community, this was regarded as a victory, the fact that he had been to use this gun and had not gone to prison for it.
REHMAnd tell me why Gerald Ung bought the gun in the first place.
OSNOSIn the case, Gerald Ung explained that he had been worried about street crime. He had heard anecdotes, for instance, about somebody being raped nearby. He was not from the city. He was from a prosperous suburb outside Washington D.C. He'd moved to Philadelphia for law school and found himself in an unfamiliar environment where he really wasn't comfortable. He had heard -- he remembered hearing a scrap of news on television about how there was, on average, one murder a day in Philadelphia.
OSNOSAnd in his mind, the solution to his anxiety, to his problem was to buy a gun and he bought one first -- he bought two guns and got a concealed-carry permit in Virginia and then -- which was valid in Pennsylvania, and then he went to the shooting range, as he put it, three or four times, he couldn’t quite remember, and started carrying it everywhere. Everywhere that -- he wasn't allowed to carry it, at that point, on campus, but he would carry it when he went out at night, particularly if he was going out with friends because he worried about crime.
REHMEvan Osnos, he's staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. His recent article "Making A Killing: The Business and Politics of Selling Guns" appeared in the June 27 issue of The New Yorker. John Donohue, does what happened here with Gerald Ung and the case that was made against him fit in with the research you've done about guns and carry laws over the last 25 years?
DONOHUEYou know, it's interesting. The case that you were just discussing is one of the ambiguous cases because we don't know whether it was really good that he had a gun or bad that he had a gun. The gun folks think it was good because this guy was threatened and he was able to stop the threat. The folks who are skeptical about right to carry say, you have this severely injured person that without guns maybe somebody would've gotten a bloody nose, but now you have a person permanently damaged.
DONOHUEAnd, indeed, if you look across the anecdotes, it's hard to tell from the anecdotes whether these are good or bad. You can talk all day about the horrible anecdotes from right to carry and then you can also mention some where things worked out well. So, for example, just in the last year or so, there have been a number of tragic cases where children have shot their mothers. In one case, a woman shot herself in the face and killed herself trying to adjust her gun in a bra holster.
DONOHUESo there have been, you know, many tragedies associated with right to carry. One of the most recent ones, just this summer in Ohio at a right to carry training session, one of the students in the course, who had just gotten a permit, discharged the weapon in a gun store and the bullet went through a wall and killed the gun store owner. So these are sort of the disasters of right to carry, but then, of course, you can find anecdotes where someone was able to defend themselves.
DONOHUEThe job for a researcher like myself is to try to tease out from the statistical evidence whether, on balance, they are more damaging or more helpful.
REHMJohn, let me ask you, though, about mass shootings, the number of which we've seen in the past couple of years. Is there any evidence that concealed-carry has helped to either prevent or stop one of those shootings in progress because, you know, after each one, you hear somebody say, well, if only somebody there had had a gun, we would've gotten the shooter and been able to prevent the loss of life?
DONOHUEYou know, the FBI has actually done a fairly good investigation of this question. They looked at a 160 incidents of active shooter cases and in the 160 cases they looked at, about 25 percent were stopped by police, but none were stopped by what I would consider a civilian with a right to carry permit. There were five that were stopped by individuals who did have right to carry permits. Four of those were security personnel and one of them was an active duty Marine. So you just don't see examples where mass shootings are stopped by private individuals with right to carry permits.
REHMJohn Donohue is professor of law at Stanford University. He's been studying guns and public safety data for more than 25 years. Tim Schmidt, as founder and president of the U.S. Concealed-Carry Association, what do you think? How do you respond to what you've been hearing? Do you continue to believe that citizens who obtain concealed-carry permits and arm themselves are truly safer?
MR. TIM SCHMIDTGood morning, Diane. Thanks for having me on the show.
SCHMIDTI think Evan did a great job of highlighting a story that's, I mean, truly tragedy and I think it's a tragedy because from my experience, it's almost always a bad idea to do a handful of things while you're drinking. Number one is certainly to even carry a gun while you're drinking, driving a car while you're drinking is a bad idea, wielding a knife while you're drinking is a bad idea. So the bottom line is that, I mean, the gentleman who, unfortunately, you know, decided to defend himself while he was drinking is a perfect example of an irresponsible gun owner.
REHMAll right. Tim, I’m gonna have to stop you right there so we can take a short break. When we come back, I'll come straight to you and get you to talk about your work in founding this association.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about concealed-carry laws, which have now been approved in all 50 states. Even Osnos is here. He's a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. He wrote about this subject in an article titled, "Making a Killing: The Business and Politics of Selling Guns," which appeared in the June 27 issue of The New Yorker. John Donohue is on the line with us. He's at Stanford University as professor of law. He's been studying guns and public safety data for more than 25 years. And by phone from West Bend, Wis., Tim Schmidt. He's president and founder of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association and publisher of Concealed Carry Magazine.
REHMTim, you were talking, before the break, about why so many citizens do buy and use these laws to carry guns. Why is it so important to them?
SCHMIDTWell, so the mission of the USCCA is to educate, train, and ultimately create more responsible gun owners. And the key word there, Diane, is responsible gun owners. So I was mentioning before the break that, you know, the story that Evan outlined -- I mean, this is a perfect example of people who have guns while they're drinking. That is not responsible at all and that's not even -- that's nothing that we condone whatsoever.
SCHMIDTYou know, the good news is that the vast majority of concealed-carry permit owners and gun owners in the United States are responsible people. I mean, there's 300 million guns in the United States. And so, of course, you know, with that many guns and that many gun owners, of course there's going to be all sorts of stories of people that did something stupid, that made bad decisions, that, you know, essentially, you know, had tragic events happen to them. But the fact of the matter is that even at the low end of the research, 65,000 to up to 1.5 million times a year, firearms -- privately-owned firearms are used to defend against crimes -- to stop rapes, to stop murders, to stop assaults.
SCHMIDTAnd, you know, it's horrible to talk about the, you know, the accidents and the bad decisions. But if you look at the big picture, if you step back and really look at the big picture, I think it makes sense that firearms are simply a tool and they're a powerful tool. They're a tool that needs plenty of training and responsibility and, in the end, the balance is good.
REHMJohn Donohue, do you want to comment?
DONOHUEYou know, the important question is, what is happening on balance with the move to right to carry. Let me just give you a couple of quick statistics. If you compare violent crime in the 10 states that have not adopted right-to-carry laws, over the period from 1977 to 2012, they experienced a 38 percent drop in violent crime. If you look at the 36 states that did adopt right-to-carry laws over that time, virtually no change in their violent crime rate. So there has been a very benign movement in violent crime in the United States, but it's been restricted to those states that have not adopted right to carry.
DONOHUESo that is a -- that makes me cautious about the movement to right to carry, because it does seem as though it prevents the drops in crime that we're seeing across the board.
REHMAll right. Here's an email from Doc, who says, personally, I don't own a handgun. But I took the concealed-carry class offered by our sheriff's department. The first question the deputy asked us was, how many of you are here because you want to protect your home? She then said, well then, I hope you all have a functioning fire extinguisher. Because accidental fires are much more common than break-ins. Your weapon will be of no use when facing a fire. Evan Osnos, tell me why you decided to look into this concealed-carry law?
OSNOSVery often, when we talk about guns, we focus on the large, semi-automatic rifles that are so often in the news because they're present in the case of these high-profile massacres -- AR-15s and other platforms. But actually, the biggest thing going on in the gun business and in the culture and the law around guns is actually around these small, concealable handguns, which are advertised and marketed for what's known as maximum concealability. And the sheer number of them may surprise people. In fact, two decades ago, concealed-carry handguns were illegal or strictly controlled in 22 states. And today, as you mentioned in the outset, they're legal in every state.
OSNOSAnd the number of people with concealed-carry permits is now about 12.8 million in America, which, to put it in perspective, is about 12 times the number of police officers and detectives. Meaning that, on any given day -- and this is really what attracted my interest, I'd lived overseas for 10 years and I came back to the U.S. -- and I discovered that, on any given day, if you go into a public place, there is a reasonable statistical probability now that there are people among you carrying guns in ways that you're not aware of.
REHMNow, here's a statement from Shirley on Facebook. She said, if I walk into a store, a classroom, a restaurant or an event and see anyone other than a policeman or a security guard with a gun, I'm leaving. What do you say to that, Evan?
OSNOSWell, the interesting thing is how many people she might not be aware of who are in fact carrying guns. I -- in the course of this research, Diane, I took a -- I got a concealed-carry permit. I took a class that would entitle me to carry a concealed weapon in more than 30 states. And what surprised me about it, frankly, was how easy it was to get. I went for a class at the NRA headquarters in Virginia. And it was a four-hour process.
OSNOSAnd the first thing we were told when we came in was, you will not be handling a firearm today. That's not required in order to get this permit. Meaning that I could, and I did, walk out of there after four hours -- I was home in time for lunch -- but I was legally certified to be able to carry a weapon in all kinds of public and private places.
REHMAnd you had never held a gun?
OSNOSI mean, over the years, I had had a little bit of experience with guns for one reason or another, you know, summer camp and spending a little time reporting on the military. But the truth was that the idea that people like me could come out of there with a gun after four hours surprised me and frankly didn't make me feel very comfortable.
REHMTim Schmidt, how do you respond to that?
SCHMIDTSo there's really something interesting that you mentioned before about all 50 states allow concealed carry. That's actually kind of a hazy statement, because there's only approximately 31 states that have shall-issue laws, whereas the remaining states have may-issue laws. And may-issue laws, essentially put the final discretion into the hands of either the local sheriff or the magistrate in terms of whether or not you're going to get a concealed-carry permit. In those states -- for example, California and New York -- it's very, very difficult to get a concealed-carry license.
SCHMIDTBut, so, if you look at the statistics from the states that have the shall-issue laws, essentially allowing private citizens to carry concealed weapons, on average 24 percent lower violent crime rate, 19 percent lower murder rate, and 39 percent lower robbery rate than the states that ultimately forbid these concealed weapons in the form of the may-issue laws. So, I mean, certainly, Mr. Donohue, I respect your research. But if you look at just the shall-issue states, concealed carry does reduce crime. And of course I understand there's always going to be people that have this kind of irrational fear about a firearm. I mean a firearm is simply a tool. It doesn't anything on its own.
SCHMIDTAnd I respect those people. And, quite frankly, I offer them to come to West Bend, Wis., and I'll teach them that guns are nothing to be afraid of. Ultimately, they can help you a lot.
REHMAll right. I think John Donohue wants to comment.
DONOHUEYou know, that's a very misleading statistic. Because if you're comparing, you know, South Dakota to California or New York, of course South Dakota has a lower crime rate. It's a rural state. But it had a lower crime rate before it passed right-to-carry laws. The question is, what happens to crime after the right-to-carry law gets passed. And that's where we see that the states that pass these laws do not experience crime reductions. The states that have fought against more permissive carry, such as California and New York, have enjoyed very sharp declines in crime. And they are the ones that we should be looking to for, what is policy that reduces crime now, not the states that are adopting right to carry.
REHMI think, Evan, it would be important here to distinguish between right-to- carry, open-carry and concealed-carry laws.
OSNOSSure. Right-to-carry and concealed-carry mean, in effect, I think for purposes of this discussion, the same thing. They are the right to be able to carry a gun that's not visible to the public, not visible to a police officer, for instance. There is a smaller community that's known as -- that advocates what's known as open carry. And that is -- and you've seen this on the news in a lot of places, people will be carrying a gun over their shoulder, for instance. And this is often, in some cases, it's almost a kind of political protest, a form of demonstrating that one has the right and this is why I'm exercising it publicly. And some places, like Starbuck's for instance, have made decisions to say, we will not permit people to open carry.
OSNOSBut the real bulk of this phenomenon, the thing that has been most transformative in the culture of guns has been concealed carry. And, you know, I think it's worth sometimes pointing out that even though people tend to focus on the open-carry phenomenon, that really that's not the center of gravity. It's really what you can't see that is driving the change.
REHMAnd, Tim Schmidt, tell us how you came to found the U.S. Concealed Carry Association. How come you have now made this your life's work?
SCHMIDTOf course, Diane, I'll tell you that. But first let me just say one quick thing about...
SCHMIDT...the practicality of guns and doing the best thing with guns in the United States. So right now, I'm sure that the rest of the guests will agree with me that there's roughly 300 million guns in the U.S. right now. And I don't -- it doesn't matter what legislation we pass, what -- they're not going to disappear. They're simply not going to go away. And so from my perspective -- and this really gets into why I started the USCCA -- from my perspective, education, training and responsible gun ownership is really the only truly sustainable violence-reducing solution.
SCHMIDTNow I started the USCCA over 14 years ago. And really it kind of came about when I started having children. I kind of went through this, my own personal self-defense awakening. And I realized that, you know, as my wife was holding this brand new baby, that, you know, really, it's my responsibility. I'm the person that ultimately is responsible for the self -- for the protection of my kids. And I know that may sound a little corny to some people, but it's really the truth. That's why I started the USCCA and we have close to 200,000 members and subscribers. And I like to think that our customers, our members, our subscribers are by far the most responsible gun owners in America.
OSNOSI think that the statistic that often doesn't get mentioned when we're talking about why people buy guns and what the effect is on their lives, is that the reality is that when one brings a gun into their home, it substantially raises the risk of dying by gunfire, by homicide, by accident. And the truth is that even if somebody is trained -- and training is, and I would certainly agree with Mr. Schmidt on this, training is essential. I would argue, in fact, I think that states should be doing more to make sure that, just like when you drive a car, that there is a basic level of training that's required.
OSNOSOr even, to provide one example, that in order to be a manicurist in the state of Virginia, you have to get more training than I was required to get in order to get my Utah State Permit. But that statistic, the fact that just by bringing a gun into one's life, there is this much higher risk, that's not something that gets talked about in the literature, in the publicity materials around the act of buying a gun.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And joining us now from Dallas, Texas, Antonia Okafor. She's southwest regional director of Students for Concealed-Carry. That's a student-run, national, nonpartisan organization that advocates for legal concealed carry on college campuses in the U.S. Welcome to you, Antonia. Thanks for joining us.
ANTONIA OKAFORThank you so much.
REHMTell me why you first got involved with Students for Concealed-Carry?
OKAFORYeah. Well, it actually started locally. I'm a grad student at University of Texas at Dallas. And last year, as a grad student, I was writing about campus carry as the discussion came about with the 2015 state legislative session, where people were -- where legislators were deciding if they were going to pass the bill or not. And so the more I got involved and got more -- it was vocal on campus, particularly with the student government that was going to lobby in Austin a couple of weeks after I had started talking about it, I realized that there wasn't really a very vocal and pronounced voice that was for the pro-campus-carry side within my campus.
OKAFORAnd I decided to get involved as a director for Texas and also for Arizona and Oklahoma and New Mexico as well.
REHMSo how many schools are there that now allow guns, concealed-carry weapons into the classroom?
OKAFORSo in the form that Texas has passed, eighth -- Texas is the eighth state to have campus carry in that form. Tennessee just passed a professor carry, saying that professors are able to have a concealed-carry gun (unintelligible)
REHMSo both professors and students?
OKAFORYes. So they have to be 21 years of age and older. They have to pass, you know, LTC license test, his is a license-to-carry permit, and then also be certified by the state. And that means getting a criminal background check and a mental-health background check. But for the most part, we're dealing with maybe some seniors, but we're really dealing with graduate students, professors and staff who are going to be of age to be able to have this right on campus.
REHMI'm wondering whether you're at all concerned about a student who may not have been identified as having mental health problems, who walks into a classroom and for some reason decides to shoot someone else, maybe the professor, maybe another student?
OKAFORWell, the fact of the matter is, if we're going to trust -- and, in this case, we're trusting the fact that the government is going to make sure that that is not an issue, that they do pick up the people who have a mental health history and who should not be holding a gun and have a firearm in a legal sense. But we also have to remember that if someone is going to do something to harm someone else, they're usually going to do that illegally. And we've seen -- statistics show that over and over again, of people who are doing things illegally to harm other people. So really this is focused on law-abiding citizens, law-abiding students who have shown a history of being able to responsibly hold a firearm and be able to carry that on campus per the rules of the state.
REHMAntonia Okafor, she's southwest regional director of Students for Concealed-Carry. Want to thank you so much for joining us. We'll take a short break, right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about concealed carry laws, and you just hear from Antonia Okafor in Dallas, Texas. Evan Osnos, what about these campus carry laws? How widespread are they?
OSNOSWell, you've actually encountered a lot of pushback in places that are, in fact, pro-gun in a lot of ways, but it seems as if campus carry is perhaps one of the areas in which even people who are advocates of gun rights are hesitating. So one of the most prominent opponents that we've heard from is the head of the UT system, General McRaven, who was after a Special Forces commander in the Army for a long time, he's very comfortable with young men and women carrying firearms, but what he has said is it worries him that you have guns coming on to campuses where you have this very specific chemistry on a campus, where you need to be able to have robust debate and disagreement, and you have young people living far from home for the first time in some cases, making decisions that they might regret later.
OSNOSAnd the reality is, and I know it's easy to say, well, we put guns into the hands of young men and women all day when they go into combat, but that comes with a level of training, preparation and supervision that is simply not available on a campus. And so it's one of the reasons why some states have been very, very slow to adopt it.
REHMJohn Donohue, how do you feel about campus carry laws?
DONOHUEWell, I think grade inflation would go up a lot on the Stanford campus if students were allowed to carry guns. It's probably not a good idea to be bringing guns into an academic environment, especially, you know, relatively young men are probably the most dangerous group to have weapons, and you probably don't want to encourage that. But again, there's so much fanciful thinking that one hears with the right to carry advocates because the likelihood that you will actually be able to use a weapon beneficially is far less than most people who go out and buy guns think.
DONOHUEYou heard from Tim a second ago saying that he thought his family would be safer with a gun, but it's not clear that that's true for the overwhelming number of people who do get right to carry permits. And remember the standards for getting these permits are extremely low. So many of these individuals will have some element of mental illness and are untrained, and even studies of the police use of weaponry, the ability to hit a target in an active, you know, criminal episode is very limited.
DONOHUESo I think if you -- if you want to do something to reduce crime, you know, support universal background checks. There is some evidence that mass shootings are quite a bit lower in the states that have universal background checks. And maybe get a pepper spray gun, which is a non-lethal way to defend yourself or your family.
REHMTim Schmidt, how do you feel about campus carry laws?
SCHMIDTCampus carry laws, it's kind of an interesting thing to think about because if a bad guy is going to come on a campus, he's not going to give a rip what sort of law there is. And so the only thing that campus carry laws essentially do is allow for the chance that there is someone that's trained and is responsible and knows what they're doing to potentially fend off that crazy person with a gun. So it goes -- campus carry laws are very similar to carry laws across the country.
SCHMIDTThe fact of the matter is that bad guys don't follow laws. It doesn't matter how many laws you create, it doesn't matter how many hoops you make for them to jump through, background checks, all the stuff. Gun control laws, they simply don't work. The only people that follow gun control laws are the good guys. It's only the good guys.
SCHMIDTAnd just real quick, Evan, by the way, it was great to meet you at the NRA convention this year. I just have to tell you something, man. That guns in the home fact is a complete myth. I assume you're talking about Dr. Arthur Kellermann 's study. Dr. Arthur Kellermann did the study, and the thing is that the study -- he only studied homes where homicide had taken place with guns.
SCHMIDTAnd so therefore, according to that methodology, you could prove that since diabetes are much more likely -- or people with -- or diabetics are much more likely to possess insulin than non-diabetes, so therefore possession of insulin is a risk factor for diabetes. So the whole guns-in-the-home myth about doubling the chance of it being used against you is a complete fabrication, and I expect more out of you.
OSNOSWell, I'll let John Donohue fill us in on the statistics that have been vetted by the science in this case. I think it's worth pointing out a couple of things. I think number one, when we talk about the risk of a mass shooter coming on to campus, this is something that you hear very often when you talk to people about why they're getting guns, and it's understandable. If you turn on the news today, you see evidence of mass shootings in one place after another.
OSNOSAnd what we have to do is balance that against the risk associated with bringing a gun into our lives. And the thing that you don't often hear about is that the risk of dying of a mass shooting today is less than the risk of being struck by lightning. It's lower than the risk of contracting and dying of tuberculosis in the United States. And this is not in any way to minimize the problem of mass shootings, it's to say let's be -- let's be thoughtful about what in fact are the costs and benefits of bringing in a weapon to try to protect ourselves.
OSNOSAre we exposing ourselves to greater risk than we would be if we thought, well, actually, I have a much higher risk of getting into a car accident today than I do of getting into a mass shooting?
REHMAnd John Donohue, as we talk about risks in the home, Tim Schmidt made a comment I'd like you to respond to.
DONOHUEWell again, when you bring a gun into the home, there -- you're obviously elevating the risk of accidental shooting. So that becomes one concern. And then of course one of the greatest problems that is often ignored is that the theft of guns from the home is enormous, and that's a huge problem both for right to carry, there was an episode a number of years ago where Sean Penn managed to get a right to carry permit in California, which is rather rare, he had it in his car when he went to Chez Panisse, a very fancy restaurant in the Bay Area, came back, his car was stolen, and his two guns were missing.
DONOHUESo not only do you expose others to danger, perhaps from the misuse of your own gun, but when your guns are stolen, then others are at risk, and of course we saw this with the Adam Lanza case, where he essentially stole his mother's gun and killed 26 people in Sandy Hook.
REHMAnd this issue of concealed carry is certainly likely to come up even more in this year's election, Evan.
OSNOSYeah, you've heard that, you know, actually in its own way guns have become a central issue for Donald Trump. He's been endorsed, after all, by the NRA, and one of his promises is that he would seek to create a national right to concealed carry. This would make it like a driver's license, valid in all 50 states. He's also said, for instance, that he wants to see the end of gun-free school zones, and he's talked about other ways in which he want to expand the right to carry into places where it's not always permitted.
OSNOSSo even though Donald Trump historically has expressed his reservations about guns, he has criticized politicians for, as he put it, toeing the NRA's line, he's had a transformation of his thinking and his politics, and he has now positioned himself as the most fervently pro-gun presidential nominee than we've certainly had in modern presidential politics.
REHMAll right, and let's open the phones to Michelle in Akron, Ohio. You're on the air.
MICHELLEThank you for taking my call, Diane.
MICHELLEMy question is this. Since we have concealed carry in our national parks, our churches, our schools, why do our legislators not allow the same in Congress and at our government offices at a state level? I find this very hypocritical, and as a teacher I find it appalling. I would like to see how our government, elected officials would vote if this were open to their House of Congress and state legislators.
OSNOSWell, I attended the Republican national convention this year, and this was one of the issues that had been discussed, sort of awkwardly, in advance was would it be possible to have a gun inside the arena at the Republican national convention. And in the end, the decision was made that no, this would not be safe, the Secret Service wouldn't allow it. So there's a tension there between the politics, perhaps, and the practical.
REHMAnd what about inside the halls of Congress itself?
OSNOSWell, no, I've never heard of that idea being advanced. If it's being considered, I think it may encounter some of the same objections that it did at the convention. Tim, would you think that that was a good idea?
SCHMIDTSo I think that there's probably -- there's plenty of guns inside the halls of Congress, but they're all held by private security guards for the congressman. So this is a very interesting point. The legislators who don't want private citizens to have guns, of course they have their own security guards with their guns. So does that make sense?
OSNOSThis is an argument that you often hear these days particularly surrounding -- you've heard that Donald Trump has said, for instance, that Hillary Clinton enjoys the protection provided by her security, but she seeks to take guns away from ordinary people. I think -- I mean as a practical fact, I don't -- most members of Congress aren't protected by private security and as they go about their work in the Congress, but the broader point is an interesting one.
OSNOSIt's -- what it gets to is that there has been a shift in the message in the guns community and the idea that it now an attempt by elite lawmakers to deprive ordinary citizens of the right of self-protection. This is a -- it's turned out to be a very powerful point, and in its own way it's a reflection of the -- I think the populist divide that you see going on in the politics of the Republican Party.
REHMAll right, a caller, Michael in Charlotte, North Carolina, says, and this I'll direct to you, John Donohue, the year after North Carolina introduced its concealed carry law, there was a double-digit drop in violent attacks against citizens. The drop was even more pronounced for attacks against women. The concealed carry is a good thing. Can you confirm that statement, John Donohue?
DONOHUEOh, I'm glad you raised that point, Diane, because Texas sometimes make -- people in Texas sometimes make a similar representation, that crime was dropping after the adoption of their right to carry law. And if you look at this carefully, many of these laws were passed in the mid-'90s, and crime was dropping everywhere in the United States, but it was dropping faster in the states that did not adopt these laws than in the states that did.
DONOHUESo if you're just looking in a naïve way at what happened to crime in Texas over this period, you might say, oh, things are getting better, but the evidence suggests things would have gotten better still had they not adopted right to carry. So you do need a much more sophisticated analysis than most NRA advocates are capable of or have engaged in.
OSNOSYou know, I want to address something that I think is sort of underlining our conversation today, and that's the fact that we are, in many ways, the -- we are experiencing a debate in which two sides are operating with almost completely disconnected sets of facts and experiences. And you can go about your day fortifying your own belief.
OSNOSAnd I actually -- and this is a genuine compliment to Tim Schmidt for coming on today to talk about this because this is a chance to actually have multiple communities talking to each other in ways that don't happen all the time. And, you know, I was grateful to him that he spoke to me for this story, and I think that one of the things that we're confronting, if we want to actually deal with the problem of gun violence, and I think we all agree that the number of people dying by gunfire every year is unacceptable, if we want to deal with that, we have to start having conversations in which we agree on some of the basic facts and realities.
REHMAnd -- but who's going to define what those basic facts and realities are?
OSNOSWell, I do think that Dr. Donohue, for instance, is one of the scholars who has been recognized for being as strict and as vigilant about being clear on what numbers support and what they don't support. So I'm glad he's here.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And let's go to Washington, Illinois. Larry, you're on the air.
LARRYYes, thank you very much. Real quickly, I just recently got my concealed carry permit, and the only reason I actually did that was so that I could protect myself from those other concealed carry people that might be in the restaurant with me, not knowing if they just had a terrible divorce or road rage incident. Is there any concern for this snowballing?
OSNOSIt's a really interesting point. It's one of the things that came out in the course of the Gerald Ung case is that as you -- and I encounter this a lot, when I talk to people at the NRA convention and elsewhere, that one of the reasons why people have chosen to buy a concealed weapon and to carry a concealed weapon is that they sense that people around them are doing it more and more. I spoke to a man named Sid Onan, who works at the Department of Agriculture, who said, you know, I never really thought about carrying a gun, I didn't really grow up with guns beyond, you know, shooting, going occasionally hunting, and now all of my friends are carrying handguns, and it just felt as if, if I didn't do something, and my family was hurt, I would feel terrible about it.
OSNOSBut there's an important point here, which is that if you look at what happens when you begin to carry a gun, it does change your perception of your world around you. It changes how you perceive the threats to you. And it also, and this is important, it changes the likelihood that you're going to see another person as carrying a gun. You're more inclined to see another person as doing so because, after all, in your mind you've made the choice to do so, and so it's a rational thing to expect.
REHMAnd so does that make your situation, as well as that other person's situation, more tense and perhaps more dangerous?
OSNOSWell, as Tim Schmidt said at the outset, we are dealing with a situation in which some gun owners are responsible, and some are not, and you cannot know when you go into a situation if the person across from you in the food court has made the kinds of training and other decisions that would allow them to use that gun safely.
REHMTim, I want to give you the last word here.
SCHMIDTOh thank you, Diane. You know, Evan, you've made some great points, and you're right, it is -- it is an issue of responsibility. And the fact of the matter is, though, is that there will always be guns in the United States. Our country was founded on responsible firearm ownership. If it wasn't for firearms, we would -- we would never have won our independence from England.
SCHMIDTAnd so from a practical perspective, it really makes sense to me, I mean the gun control laws that we have on the books right now, they don't work. Gun-free zones don't work. Education, training and responsible gun ownership, key word is responsible gun ownership, is truly the only sustainable violence-reducing solution. And, I mean, like you said before, Diane, I've made that my mission in life. My mission in life is that every gun owner is responsible, can be trusted and is well-trained and knows what they're doing and makes right decisions and doesn't do some of the dumb things we've been talking about today.
REHMOn the other hand, I mean, you're putting an awful lot of faith, Tim, in that gun owner's responsibility, aren't you?
SCHMIDTWell, Diane, yes, I am, and maybe that's the difference between me and other people, and that is that at the end of the day, I trust my fellow citizens. I trust that they're going to be responsible, they're going to make good decisions. Of course there's always people that don't do that, but the majority of people are trustworthy, good people, and that's what I truly believe.
REHMAll right, thanks for joining us. Tim Schmidt, he's president and founder of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association. Evan Osnos is a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. "Making a Killing: The Business and Politics of Selling Guns" appeared in the June 27 issue of the magazine. John Donohue III is professor of law at Stanford University. Thank you all so much.
DONOHUEThanks, Diane, for having us.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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