He’d probably say he’s not “encouraging” anyone, just defending their right to do so, but if you read Ed’s post about this last month you know better. And no wonder: In Detroit more than most places, when seconds count, the police are many minutes away.

Some liberals are naturally concerned that having more citizens carrying will disrupt the prosperity and tranquility for which the D is known the world ’round. Chief James Craig’s unconvinced:

“In fact, there’s been research … by the Department of Justice and some scholars that armed citizens, good citizens, can have a deterring effect on violent crime,” he said. “While I sit here with lots of optimism and encouragement that crime is declining, we still have incident after incident where individuals like elderly people get dragged out of their cars at gunpoint.

“There was a study done comparing the U.S. to Great Britain that suggested that home invasions, while people were in the house, were less likely in the United States than in Great Britain. And the reason why is because the suspects know there’s a greater likelihood that people in America are more likely to have guns inside their homes. So they tend to wait until the home is vacant to commit the home invasion.

“In England, suspects, because of the restrictive gun laws, 50 percent of the home invasions are committed while the people are in their homes…

“This is not often talked about: responsibility,” he said. “I do not condone vigilantism. I don’t support individuals arming themselves and doing the work of police officers. Police officers are trained to enforce the law. I think you put people at risk when you have people that are out playing police. I do see that a concealed weapon is an opportunity for self-protection only; not to go out and enforce the law.”

Daniel Payne looks at the DOJ’s numbers and wonders, if more guns equals more crime, why have we seen less crime in America over the past 20 years?

Last year the Department of Justice released a report revealing that firearm homicides declined nearly 40% between 1993 and 2011, and nonfatal firearm injuries declined nearly 70% within the same time period. Every year since 2002 has seen a rise in the number of NICS background checks performed, yet in 2011 the firearm homicide rate was lower than it was in 2002; in fact, all firearm violence, both fatal and nonfatal, was lower the former year than the latter.

The significance of Craig speaking out isn’t that he might catalyze a change to the law but that he’s educating the public on a right they already possess. Open carry is already legal in Michigan, but not all Detroit residents know that. People who might otherwise might want to buy a gun for home protection may assume, incorrectly, that Detroit controls guns as tightly as New York, Chicago, and other big cities do. When you’ve got the chief of police on TV encouraging people to consider it, though, that perception’s bound to change. And so all eyes in the gun-control debate turn to the D: Expect to see either an NRA ad or a Mike Bloomberg ad next year about the murder rate there, depending upon which way it goes.

Here’s Craig addressing the subject early last month.