We passed a milestone recently, but thanks to media silence most people probably don’t know it. Oct. 1 marked North Carolina’s first year under House Bill 937, which expanded our concealed handgun permit law into restaurants, assemblies of people for which admission is charged, parades and funerals, state government parking lots, municipal parks and, to an extent, educational properties.
Perhaps the press stonewalled because results didn’t match its dire prophecies. During debate over what newspapers dubbed “guns in bars,” editorials conjured images of shootouts between drunks, admonishing guns and alcohol don’t mix. (Few mentioned that concealed handgun permit-holders would still be prohibited from imbibing alcohol.) Ridiculing language allowing permit-holders to keep handguns in closed compartments of locked vehicles on campuses, they forecast killings at football games.
Each time we expand concealed carry, the media predict mayhem. Each time, they are wrong. We haven’t confirmed a single case of a concealed handgun permit-holder misusing a firearm in a restaurant or on campus. Meanwhile, since passing concealed carry in 1995, violent crime plummeted by 45.9 percent with corresponding drops in murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery.
The least controversial measure in HB 937 involved assemblies charging admission – at least until last week, when agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced he would flout the law by posting the state fair against concealed carry.
Ironically, on the same day old predictions of mayhem proved false, new ones appeared: Guns will fly out of holsters on rides, discharging and injuring children in the crowded fair, we’re told. Besides, why on earth would anyone need a gun at this folksy venue of livestock, carnival rides and deep-fried Twinkies?
Ignoring, for a moment, that modern firearms do not discharge when dropped, accidental discharges have yet to plague any of the four states we have so far found that permit concealed carry in state fairs: Florida, Oregon, Texas and Virginia. Indeed, in 19 years of concealed carry, we’re aware of only one such accident by a permit-holder, and nobody was seriously injured.
As for why anyone would want to protect themselves at “aw, shucks” events like the fair, allow me to treat you to a few headlines.
From the Tampa Tribune: “ ‘Wilding’ youths overwhelmed deputies at state fair” – “Deputies quickly became overwhelmed as a small group of running teens swelled to hundreds of people running and pushing everyone and everything in their path.” Troxler, who insists fairground police can protect people, should note from the same piece, that, “We actually had deputies who witnessed crimes but couldn’t take any action because [t]he crowd prevented them from getting to them,’” said Sheriff’s Col. Jim Previtera.
How about this headline: “ ‘Beat Whitey Night’ at Iowa State Fair”? – “Police are investigating whether a series of assaults at the Iowa State Fair were racially motivated since the attackers reportedly announced it was ‘ Beat Whitey Night.’ ”
The Christian Science Monitor reports: “Wisconsin State Fair mob attack: Police seek hate crime charges” – “Police in West Allis, Wis., say some attacks by black teenagers on white people outside the gates of the Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 4 were racially motivated and should be prosecuted as hate crimes.” At a previous Wisconsin fair, the mayor of Milwaukee was beaten with a metal pipe.
Throw in a “mundane” $100,000 armed robbery of a concession in Minnesota and a fatal stabbing in a parking lot outside the Washington State Fair, and you can see how “folksy” these events can be.
But even this should be secondary to our agriculture commissioner’s flouting state law. Revisions to §14-269.3 exempt concealed handgun permit-holders from prohibitions on guns at assemblies for which admission is charged, allowing posting only on private property, which the fairground is not. Moreover, §14-269.4, listing state properties like the executive mansion where guns are barred, doesn’t include the fairgrounds. Although Troxler cited unspecified “gray areas” in the law as justification, no lawyer we’ve consulted finds any such “gray areas.”
Although we’re pursuing injunctive relief to ensure Troxler obeys the law, if we win he should worry less about permit-holders who have, since 1995, proven themselves sane, sober and law-abiding than about E. coli outbreaks and ride accidents that have plagued the event.
Studies most recently by Mark Guis of Quinnipiac University suggest that concealed handgun laws deter violent crime. Even hundreds of police can’t safeguard each individual in a crowd of more than 100,000 – especially against active shooters or terrorists. By virtue of background checks and training, permit-holders represent a resource, not a hazard.
F. Paul Valone is president of Grass Roots North Carolina.