Should permitted faculty and students have the right to carry a concealed handgun on college campuses? Right now once someone qualifies for a permit they can carry a concealed handgun with them virtually anywhere in a state except for a few designated gun-free zones. Prominent among those "protected" areas are universities and schools. Yet, twelve states, including two large ones, Texas and Florida, are currentlly engaged in the debate over whether to end these bans.
Florida and Idaho have legislative hearings scheduled for Wednesday. The Idaho House should be voting on the bill by the end of the week. Legislative committees in Arizona and Oklahoma have already passed bills. Texas is planning votes during the week of March 21st.
But are these changes dangerous? Would faculty and students pose a danger to others? Wouldn't police accidentally shoot permit holders who are trying to stop an attacker?
Fortunately, we don't need to speculate about what might happen. We actually already have a lot of evidence and experience from numerous campuses.
Seventy-one college campuses allow students with permits to carry concealed handguns, and many more let faculty carry, some for over a decade. But none -- absolutely none -- of these schools have experienced the type of harm predicted by opponents. Not a single permit holder on these campuses has been involved in a firearm accident or crime.
We also have extensive experience with permitted concealed handguns on campuses prior to the push for gun-free zones during the early 1990s. Back then, in the states that allowed concealed permitted handguns, students and professors frequently carried handguns, and there simply weren't any problems then either.
But we have even more evidence than that. Permit holders, not just on campuses, are exceedingly law-abiding. Consider the two states at the front of the current debate, Florida and Texas: Both states provide detailed records on the behavior of permit holders on easily accessible websites. During over two decades, from October 1, 1987 to February 28, 2011, Florida has issued permits to over 1.96 million people, with the average person having a permit for more than a decade. Few -- 168 (about 0.01%) -- have had their permits revoked for any type of firearms related violation, the most common was accidentally carrying a concealed handgun into a gun-free zone such as a school or an airport, not threats or acts of violence.
Over the last 38 months, only four permit holders have had their permit revoked for a firearms related violation -- an annual revocation rate of 0.0003%. The numbers are similarly small in Texas. In 2009, there were 402,914 active license holders. 101 were convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony, a rate of 0.025 percent, with only few of these crimes involving a gun.
Permit holders have succeeded in stopping a wide range of multiple victim public shootings, at schools and elsewhere. Yet, so far there has not been a single incident where a permit holder has accidentally shot a bystander.
Likewise, the police have managed to get to these attacks without shooting any permit holders. Gun-free zones don’t deter criminals, just the law-abiding. -- A faculty member with a concealed handgun permit who breaks the campus ban would be fired and find it impossible to get hired at another university.
A student with a permit faces expulsion and won’t get admitted to another school. For law-abiding individuals, violating the ban dramatically impacts their lives. Yet, for someone like the Virginia Tech killer the threat of expulsion from having a gun on campus means essentially nothing, even if he had lived, given he would already face 32 death penalties or 32 life sentences.
Not only does the overwhelming research on right-to-carry laws show that letting citizens defend themselves reduce violent crime, but schools that have allowed permitted concealed handguns have seen drops in crime there also.
Americans have experienced over and over again what a failure gun-free zones have been. Chicago's and DC's murder and violent crime rates soared after their handgun bans were imposed and fallen after their bans ended.
No gun ban around the world that has produced a drop in murder rates. Gun-free zones are a magnet for crime of all kinds. In addition, even the strictest gun regulations or bans haven't stopped multiple victim public shootings from occurring.
In Europe, these attacks are quite common. Last year in England, despite it very strict gun laws, 12 people were killed and another 11 wounded in one attack. The two worst K-12 public school shootings have occurred in Germany, and both of those attacks have taken place in the last decade.
The fears over concealed carry on college campuses are the same as the earlier debates in the 40 states that now have right-to-carry laws. But despite predictions about innocent blood being shed, no right-to-carry state has even held legislative hearings about rescinding the law. Just as with these other places, the debate over letting permitted concealed handguns on college campuses will quickly be forgotten.
John R. Lott, Jr is a FoxNews.com contributor. He is an economist and author of "More Guns, Less Crime” (University of Chicago Press, 2010).
John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.