Wisconsin's Walker signs must-issue carry permits into law

On Friday, Governor Scott Walker signed a bill that made Wisconsin the 49th state to allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms. Walker had tried to get the bill passed for years while a state legislator, but his Democratic predecessor, Jim Doyle, and Democrats in the legislature had stymied those efforts. This time the bill passed with bipartisan support and allows Wisconsin residents to get permits on a must-issue basis — meaning that the state cannot deny a permit application without justifiable cause, such as a felony record:

In one stroke, the legislation takes Wisconsin from being one of the final pair of remaining holdouts on concealed carry to having one of the more permissive bills in the country.

The proposal, which takes effect Nov. 1, joins other long-sought measures that Republicans passed this year, including requiring photo IDs from voters and making health savings accounts tax-exempt.

Signing the bill in Rothschild, near Wausau, Walker noted the length of the fight over the legislation, which he had once also supported as a lawmaker.

“By signing concealed carry into law today we are making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens,” he said in a statement.

The measure includes provisions requiring training and permits, which were sought by both Walker and Democrats. Some Republicans unsuccessfully pushed “constitutional carry” bills that would have allowed people to carry concealed guns without permits.

Protesters shouted about the threat to public safety facing Wisconsin residents that has been seen in, er, how many carry states?  Zero.  In fact, most states see a decrease in crime after the enactment of such legislation, as Rep. Cliff Stearns noted in 2009:

Allowing law-abiding people to arm themselves offers more than piece of mind for those individuals — it pays off for everybody through lower crime rates.  Statistics from the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report of 2007 show that states with right-to-carry laws have a 30% lower homicide rate, 46% lower robbery, and 12% lower aggravated assault rate and a 22% lower overall violent crime rate than do states without such laws.  That is why more and more states have passed right-to-carry laws over the past decade.

In 1987, my home state of Florida enacted a “shall issue” law that has become the model for other states. Anti-gun groups, politicians and the news media predicted the new law would lead to vigilante justice and “Wild West” shootouts on every corner.

But since adopting a concealed carry law Florida’s total violent crime rate has dropped 32% and its homicide rate has dropped 58%. Floridians, except for criminals, are safer due to this law. And Florida is not alone. Texas’ violent crime rate has dropped 20% and homicide rate has dropped 31%, since enactment of its 1996 carry law.

Another study makes the moral case for expanding and enhancing right-to-carry laws.  A report by John Lott, Jr. and David Mustard of the University of Chicago released in 1996 found “that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths.”  Further, the Lott-Mustard study noted, “If those states which did not have right-to-carry concealed gun provisions had adopted them in 1992, approximately 1,570 murders; 4,177 rapes; and over 60,000 aggravate assaults would have been avoided yearly.”

Think about it.  Nearly 8,000 of our fellow citizens have died between 1992 and 1996 because of the irrational fear that law-abiding Americans would abuse their right to self defense. In fact concealed carry permit holders are more law-abiding than the rest of the public. For example, Florida, which has issued more carry permits than any state has issued 1.36 million permits, but revoked only 165 (0.01%) due to gun crimes by permit-holders.

John Lott wrote about the dynamics of self-defense in his seminal book, More Guns Less Crime, which is in its third edition (and is available on Kindle now, too).  Here in Minnesota, opponents also warned about the return of the Wild Wild West and blood flowing in the streets, and the scare tactics turned out to be entirely false.  That’s because going through the training process provides a sobering douse of cold water on gun owners about the realities of using a firearm for self-defense.  My late friend Joel Rosenberg’s excellent book on the subject Everything You Need to Know About (Legally) Carrying a Gun in Minnesota and his most recent effort The Carry Book gave an entertainingly dire warning to those who thought that a carry permit was the same thing as a Junior Deputy badge.

Law-abiding citizens who seek out and receive the necessary training to get the permit know exactly the stakes involved, which is why (besides the fact that they were law-abiding in the first place) these states don’t see increases in crime rates, especially in relation to permit holders.  But having law-abiding citizens carry firearms may be why criminals suddenly take less interest in victimizing them, which may well be the reason for the drops in crime seen after adoption of carry-permit laws.

We’ll be celebrating Joel’s life and work at the MOB Day at the Range this Thursday evening, as well as raising funds for his family.  Looks like we can also celebrate the fact that our neighbors to the east have won the right to protect themselves, too.