Monday, November 5, 2007

Fewer than expected

Friday evening a University of Nebraska graduate student emailed me with a few questions about the impact of Nebraska's new concealed handgun law on crime, and my opinions generally about concealed carry. I've left a long trail of opinion on this issue, mostly to the effect that carrying concealed guns is not a great idea. Although I am personally ambivalent about concealed carry, it no longer matters. It's a done deal by the Nebraska Legislature, and my job is to enforce the law as it exists. Her questions though, caused me to pause and think about what's different than I expected--now that we are a year down the road.

I told her that the most significant surprise to me was the low number of applicants. The State Patrol (which actually issues the permits) had predicted 19,000 Nebraskans would apply in the first year. This prediction was based on the experience of other States that passed concealed carry legislation. I figured Lincoln would be proportional, so we would have around 2,500 in the first year. As of today, there have only been 402 permits issued in Lincoln and Lancaster County. There have been 16 applicants we were concerned about due to prior arrests, convictions, or mental health crises that came to the attention of the police. Six of these 16 had some kind of conviction that would bar them from receiving a permit. Of those, the State Patrol has denied five, and one is still pending.

In the other ten cases, while we had concerns, the applicant met the criteria of the law and was issued a permit. I chronicled one of those cases in a previous post on this blog. To date, I am aware of no cases in which a permit holder has thwarted a crime, although I expect that this will inevitably happen. I am aware of only one case in which a permit holder did something stupid: a drunk driver in an injury motorcycle collision in Waverly who neglected to inform the deputy and the paramedics that he was packing heat, as required by law. I expect these types of occurrences will continue to be rare.

The student wanted to know how concealed carry has impacted crime. I have always doubted that concealed carry would have any impact whatsoever on crime, one way or another. There is a ton of research on this issue, it is quite contradictory and quite methodologically flawed. The kinds of crimes that might be committed because of the presence of a concealed weapon or prevented because of the presence of a concealed weapon are so rare (especially in Lincoln) that the direct impact of this law in either direction is negligible. A handful of overnight lawn ornament thefts would have a greater impact on our Part 1 crime rate than the net effect of concealed carry

During the decade of the 1990's, crime declined steadily and significantly in the United States. Advocates of concealed carry credited the growing number of States authorizing concealed handguns with that trend. Beginning in 2005, though, there have been some significant nationwide increases in violent crime. You won't hear anyone claiming credit for that trend.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't the individual in the Waverly incident from Omaha? Have there been any incidents by Lincoln carry-conceal permit holders? Just wondering. In the media frenzy prior to the passing of the carry-conceal law there was a lot of doom and gloom, blood in the streets, Dodge City type of predictions. Has there been any of this type of incident? -- a concerned carry-conceal permit holder.

Anonymous said...

It's likely that plea-bargaining prosecutors and lenient-sentencing judges should take a lot of the credit for any general increase in violent crime, as could parole boards under pressure to empty cells, and local elected officials that prioritize their own re-election above public safety.

I've read your quite understandable frustration over things like 6-for-1 plea deals before. Every time I read that someone in Lancaster County has been charged with a serious violent felony, I look them up on the Nebraska Inmate Locator and at the Lancaster County Attorney. I recommend that all news readers do that. The vast majority of the time, you'll see the arrestee has a long list of dismissed and reduced charges, even serious violent felonies reduced to misdemeanors, 6-10 year sentences that really meant paroled in 2 or 3, and so forth. Violent felons re-offend at such a high rate. They don't call them "career" criminals for nothing, and once out on parole, most of them get right back to that career.

A larger Nebraska city has a much higher murder rate than ours, so we can see a much larger sample there. From looking the victims up over time (on the Nebraska Inmate Locator), a significant majority of those murder victims seem to be previously convicted felons, and a significant majority of their murders are committed in one small region of that city. Looking at that chart, you might think Lincoln has more rapes, burglaries, thefts, and assaults - but it just looks that way, because victims in that other city are far less likely to report those crimes, perhaps due to a cultural distrust of law enforcement, or a fear of retribution.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of lawn ornament thefts ... (I don't know how to put a link in here).

Tom Casady said...

Roaming gnomes!

Anonymous said...

The gnomes obviously want to be in custody, because if they didn't, they'd all slip out of there. You've got to understand, gnomes are incredibly skilled at making, modifying, and manipulating complex mechanical devices. Even if you had a pair of cuffs small enough, they'd defeat the lock as soon as your back was turned. Detention cell door lock? They'd be out of there like water through a net.

Someone must be bringing in some kind of food that they like, and that's causing them to hang around. They like Chex Mix quite a bit.

By the way, has the armorer started losing spare parts yet? Springs, screws, that kind of thing? If so, it's a good bet who has them.

Anonymous said...

I've talked to several people about getting their permits. I "heard" there was only one instructor and that the waiting list was very long. I think people are waiting to see what changes with the process.