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Currently Browsing: Carrying / Self-Defense

What the LTC Data Can Tell Us

I just wrote about the trends in my own county’s license to carry a firearm issuance and noted that year-over-year, the numbers were up more than 65%. So you’d think that I’d be cheering this piece at The Reload for covering the statewide numbers and looking at how Philadelphia County was out of whack with the rest.

But I’m not.

Why? Because while I did look at year-over-year data in my post, it was presented with very important contextual information – like the closure of offices, shifting demand, and where we stood compared to 5 years ago which matters for looking at trends. Now that still isn’t the entire picture, but it puts the 65% increase into an important context that takes into account those with expiring licenses from 5 years earlier. (If everyone renewed exactly when they needed to do so, that is responsible for 42% of the issuances in 2020.) And the introduction of an online application may have shifted more early 2021 renewals into 2020 – all data we won’t be able to see in trends until next spring.

Are license issuances up? Without question. The questions are on how much.

And here’s why The Reload’s piece leaving out information about the shifts in demand bothers me. Because how you present data can change the picture of things quite a bit.

Take the graph below. In red, I used Stephen Gutowski’s model of strictly looking at year-over-year data to plot change in demand on my county since 2004. (I have my county’s historical numbers saved for easy calculations, but not the statewide data.) According to his method, our county’s issuance rates have gone on a wild ride of a low of -26.1% decline (2014) to the high of 65.1% growth (2020) with repeated declines in 2019, 2017, 2014, 2010, 2008, and 2004.

But that steadier blue line? That’s the rate of change on issuances for rolling 5 year periods – the period that licenses are valid in Pennsylvania. That shows a much steadier rate of change from a low of -4.8% (2004) to a high of 16.8% (2013) with small declines only in 2018, 2006, and 2004.

And, if you want raw numbers, here are the rates of currently valid licenses for the same county over the same period (total of previous 5 years of issued licenses). This trend line looks very different than the rates of change in issuance…

Why does this look so different than even my tamer rolling 5 year numbers above? Because of the way it accounts for surge years. The end of 2012 and 2013 were incredibly high due to the political fallout and threats following Sandy Hook in late 2012, so we saw a license issuance drop in 2014 because all of those new licenses issued 1-2 years prior were still valid. That doesn’t mean that all of those newly licensed people disappeared. They should be part of the numbers through at least 2018 when those 2013 LTCs expired. (We did actually see a very small drop between 2017 and 2018 – not all of those people who got their licenses opted to renew them, clearly.)

So while year-over-year data has a place in analysis of where we stand with the right to bear arms movement and possible sympathetic voters in Pennsylvania, it’s not the whole picture and no one should get too excited by extreme swings up because they are usually followed by slight drops later on.

More Hassle. Less Opportunity. More Licenses?

Like many government offices, and especially those in Pennsylvania, in person access to the offices that process applications & renewals for licenses to carry were either completely cut off or significantly reduced for much of 2020. In order to keep demand reduced, Pennsylvania’s Governor extended renewals of many government documents and licenses that normally expire. For example, no one whose license to carry (LTC) a firearm “expired” last year from March 20 on has an expired license yet. They are good through the end of June for now. And, if the concern remains about having people flood into offices, then they may be extended yet again.

Regardless, the Bucks County numbers for licenses to carry issued in 2020 (both new and renewals that didn’t even need to happen) were up by just over 65% compared to the 2019 numbers! If you could the total of LTC holders over the previous 5 years (period they are valid), that means the number of residents 21 and over who could carry firearms concealed was up 13% by the end of last year.

According to State Police statistics, 15,324 licenses to carry firearms were issued in Bucks County in 2020. In 2019, that was only 9,280. And that isn’t just people getting licenses renewed since, in addition to the fact that people didn’t even have to renew for most of 2020, the office only issued 8,833 licenses 5 years prior. So that means that even if every single person from 5 years prior definitely renewed, we were still adding about 74% more concealed carry licenses in the county over that period.

One of the things that the Sheriff instituted is online application and renewals with in person pickup so that they could get more people reviewed safely and only deal with interactions for pick up which doesn’t require as much time face-to-face (or, more of concern, breathing the same air). That does probably account for some of the increase, though the requirements to obtain one didn’t change at all. And the price definitely didn’t drop – it actually increased slightly for those opting for online payments.

If any of that demand on renewals was deferred until 2021, then we could be in for some epic numbers for 2021.

If you assume that all of the LTCs issued in the last 5 years are still valid, then that means 56,514 Bucks County residents were licensed to carry at the end of 2020. The county-level census data isn’t available, so the best I have is the 2019 estimate that doesn’t allow me to sort by under 21, just under 18. So the total includes some 18-20 year olds who aren’t qualified. Regardless, that number is just over 501,000, so that means about 11% adults are licensed to carry here. Every 9 or so people you see at the grocery store? One of them is likely to have a license to carry.

That’s not too shabby. Of course, it means we really need to step it up with more local opportunities for all of those people to shoot, connect with a community of gun owners, and hopefully get them some ammunition to go into those little-used guns.

Doesn’t Fit Narrative

Bitter has been watching coverage of this possibly foiled mass shooting from her old neck of the woods. Once the local news mentioned the shooter was confronted by an armed citizen, the Facebook Live feed was cut. I’m not kidding I heard that and shouted out to Bitter, “Kill the story! Kill the story! Priority one! The rubes must not know!” Not a minute later, Facebook cut the feed.

It’s looking like a domestic. So possibly the armed intervention wouldn’t have mattered. The local news is covering the armed intervener, but I can promise you this will not make any national news.

Armed in Houses of Worship

I’m not the church going type, but I don’t think I’ve been in a church unarmed since I got my carry permit 16 years ago. The fact is they are juicy targets for whack jobs looking for headlines. Same for festivals and other public gatherings.

Gun-toting rabbi says congregants should arm themselves.

I couldn’t agree more. I get a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of guns in churches, but the fact is that the quickest way to end a mass shooting is accurate and prompt return fire. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the cops or someone else. Carefully aimed bullets are carefully aimed bullets, and despite what idiots in the media think, these are trainable scenarios where armed citizens usually prevail when around. Other than the emotional reaction, there’s nothing special about a church as a place that makes it different for carrying than any other place.

Good Guy With a Gun

Our opponents have argued and would argue that this guy didn’t stop a mass killing, because it was stopped before it reached the definition of mass killing. But that hardly matters, since the headline is going around, and people know better. The quickest way to stop a mass shooting in progress is well-placed return fire.

The Senate Math for CCW in 2017

It’s not looking probable; we would need a miracle. Here’s the breakdown

Starting with the 2013 vote (57 Ayes to invoke cloture), I did up a spreadsheet of the likely vote results in 2017, based on current occupancy, the 2013 vote, and the Senators political stances on the issue.

I came out with maximum of 59 Aye votes (assuming Luther Strange gets to vote Aye or his replacement votes Aye).

The vote delta (because we had both gains and losses)

NH: -1 (Maggie Hassan replaced Kelly Ayotte)

IA: +1 (Joni Ernst replaced Tom Harkin)

SD: +1 (Mike Rounds replaced Tim Johnson)

WV: +1 (Shelley Moore replaced John Rockefeller)

However, what I don’t see is the 60th vote. I broke out the Nay votes who are in seats up in 2018 in states that voted for Trump

Bill Nelson is a hard NO
Claire McCaskill is a hard NO
Sherrod Brown is a hard NO
Bob Casey is a firm No
Tammy Baldwin is a hard NO

And, if anyone flips to be the 60th, I wouldn’t put it past some of the presumptive Ayes to flip to Nay to prevent it. Fix NICS is already being pulled out as a cover for voting Nay (and was used for that purpose in the House).

Now, maybe the GOP leadership knows something I don’t, or this really was a setup to burnish everybody’s 2A pro/con credentials. Whichever way that goes, if you want reciprocity this year, better start praying.

But I’m Told This Never Happens

Concealed carry permit holders never stop mass shootings, right? That’s what the anti-gun folks keep telling us any time we bring up the topic. I noticed local media covering this fact, but not national media. USA Today? Nothing. The WaPo? Someone confronted the shooter, and he shot himself. Bloomberg’s propaganda outlet:

A young church usher confronted the gunman, who accidentally shot himself in the chest during the altercation.

They omitted the part the Tennessean actually reported:

Engle confronted Samson after he entered the church. Samson pistol-whipped Engle. After Samson shot himself, Engle went to his vehicle, got his own weapon and held Samson at gunpoint until police arrived, police said.

It would have been more useful had it been on him instead of in the car, but I’ll take it. There shouldn’t be any reservations about carrying in church. Churches are targets.

I Have To Agree on Armed Protests

SayUncle comments on the Second Amendment Foundation’s position on armed protests.

“We are not a fan of armed protests and highly discourage that,” said Alan Gottlieb, the founder and executive vice president of the SAF. “Firearms serve a purpose, and the purpose is not a mouthpiece. It’s to defend yourself. If you are carrying it to make a political point, we are not going to support that.”

I wouldn’t go to one of these protests unarmed, but it would be concealed. But I agree with Uncle: I wouldn’t go to one of these protests where both sides are idiots.

What you’re going to end up seeing are states passing laws against protesting while armed or starting to use laws on the books against parading while armed.

Final Thoughts on the Castile Case

I think whether or not a person cares about an injustice depends on whether they can see themselves in the shoes of the victim. That’s why it’s hard to make systematic change. People don’t tend to care about injustices they can’t ever see happening to them.

In this case, I think the answer is an unqualified yes that for just about all of us, we can see ourselves getting burned in a situation like this. Police training on how to deal with armed citizens has been a drum we’ve been collectively beating for a while, and the Castile shooting is a prime example of a department that isn’t offering proper training to its officers. I’ve seen on other forums people pointing out in the dash cam video: “Watch the action of his partner on the far right of the screen. That’s not the kind of behavior you’d expect from a backup officer when shots are being fired.”

This all jibes with what Prof. Joe Olsen, who lives in Minnesota, mentioned when this all first came to light in the media: the department in question would seem to have serious training issues. Here is the basic issue, from my point of view:

  1. Mr. Castile informed Officer Yanez that he was armed. At this point, he should have been reading the “not a cop killer” signals loud and clear, since cop killers don’t tend to inform the officer they intend to shoot that they have a gun before they shoot them. Philando Castile was signaling “I’m one of the good guys,” by informing Officer Yanez he was armed.
  2. Officer Yanez claims that Mr. Castile then reached for the gun. The girlfriend disputes this. Perhaps he could have been reaching for his wallet to show his license to carry. It looked to me in the dash video he already had some documentation out. If Castile did make a move for something without instruction, this was his mistake. But because of item one, it did not need to be a fatal mistake. The Officer overreacted.
  3. Our legal system is set up to create a high burden for prosecutors. The burden the state bears is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that the prosecution has to disprove a claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Absent any other evidence, I believed this case was going to end in acquittal, unless there was some evidence that was not released to the public that showed Castile didn’t make any kind of sudden or “furtive movement.” It is also a fact, perhaps an unfortunate fact but a fact nonetheless, that police are afforded a lot more leeway for reasonableness by juries than you or I would.
  4. Like Colion Noir, I don’t think Officer Yanez woke up that day hoping he’d have the opportunity to shoot a young black man. I don’t have any evidence he is racist one way or the other. I believe the proximate cause here is a lack of training on dealing with legally armed civilians. Do I think race played a role? Yes. I believe cops are going to be biased towards a certain way of thinking and acting when dealing with young black men. To argue that police don’t profile is foolish. That would be to assume they are machines rather than flawed people with biases. But the way that is overcome is training.

Finally, is the NRA wrong not saying much? Now that the jury verdict is in, no. I’m not big on second guessing juries, and so I can’t blame anyone else for not doing so. But I think they should have been out there talking about the case and expressing concern a lot more often and loudly than they were. The Castile case was talked about in the NRA Legal Seminar, but NRA certainly wasn’t out there talking about it much in public. It’s possible to have a discussion while still being respectful to the justice system and to the millions of police officers out there who know how to handle armed citizens.

The fact is that NRA needs to diversify its membership. It needs to attract young people. So it should be talking about these issues. While people with law enforcement and military backgrounds will probably always remain heavily represented among NRA’s membership, if the Association is to have a future, that future is going to look a like more Colion Noir, and a lot less like Ted Nugent’s fan base. By NRA’s silence, they’ve given the media and their opposition a great example to show the people NRA needs to attract that “Those NRA people don’t care about people like me.”

Finally, I want to end with this video by Massad Ayoob and Tom Gresham:

UPDATE: I’m also adding this multi-part Twitter rant by Julian Sanchez, because it’s brilliant.

An Open Letter From Colion Noir

I offer without commentary:

In The case of officer Jeronimo Yanez, I don’t feel he woke up that day wanting to shoot a black person. However, I keep asking myself, would he have done the same thing if Philando were white? As I put on my Monday morning quarterback Jersey, it is my opinion that Philando Castile should be alive today. I believe there was a better way to handle the initial stop. If he suspected Philando was a suspect in a robbery, there were ways to conduct that stop in a way that would have completely avoided the shooting altogether, but Yanez neglected to do so.

Read the whole thing.

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