Concealed Carry in Corvallis and Statewide: Unholstering the Debate, Statistics and Laws

Carrying a concealed firearm is one of the most hotly contested rights we have in this country. In Oregon, one must simply meet the requirements to get a Concealed Handgun License; the state may not limit the number of permits it hands out and may not deny one for any reason other than those laid out in the statute (ORS 166.291).

The rules are simple for Oregonians to get the right to stash a piece:

1)     No Convictions

You can’t have any felony convictions, that’s a given. But Oregon has a slightly more onerous addition than most states. A misdemeanor will disqualify you, too. So if you ever had any convictions for anything more serious than a speeding ticket, you’ll have to proudly display your holster if you want to carry in public.

2)     Over 21 and a Citizen

You have to be old enough to order a beer while you’re secretly strapping. You also have to be a citizen, or a resident alien who has been here more than six months and can provide a written statement of intent to become a citizen.

3)     No Outstanding Warrants

Perhaps you read #1 and thought, “Well I have no convictions… yet. But I am wanted in Louisville for passing bad checks. I better apply now while I’m still clean…” Sorry, no hidden gun for you.

4)     You Actually Have to Prove You Know How to Use a Gun

Per ORS 166.291 (f), you have to pass an approved gun safety course to show competence with firearms.

Concealing a firearm when in public can do a lot of different things. It can make a situation more volatile, but it could also potentially provide a disincentive to prospective criminals.

concealedcarryGun control advocates blame it for increasing gun violence. Gun rights advocates insist the opposite, that law-abiding citizens carrying concealed weapons reduces crime and gives citizens a fighting chance in the event of an incident like those that took place at Newtown, Connecticut or Aurora, Colorado.

The unsatisfying truth is that mass shootings like those, both perpetrated by mentally unstable young men, are completely unpredictable events. Statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined the phrase “Black Swan” to describe events like those two tragedies: events which are completely unpredictable and anomalous, but for which we attempt, in the aftermath, to rationalize as a way to plan for the future and convince ourselves we’re in control.

One thing we do know for sure is that in the aftermath of such events, gun sales surge. Concealed Carry Permit applications do as well. This is for a mix of reasons. Some of the new sales and permits are caused by people who see the violence as a wake-up call to arm themselves. Some are from existing gun owners who feel the increased scrutiny on guns in the wake of such tragedies can only lead to the government curtailing their availability, and thus stock up.

In Oregon, Concealed Handgun Licenses increased by 11% from 2011 to 2012, reaching an all-time high in 2012 of over 152,000 licenses. That means 4% of Oregon’s population is walking around with a gun under their coat. Nearly 2,500 of those licenses belonged to Benton County residents, or roughly 3% of our total population.

This is important to bear in mind as it pertains to self defense laws in Oregon as well. As mentioned here in the Advocate last week, Oregon’s self defense law revolved around a duty to retreat, as declared by a 1982 State Supreme Court ruling. But in 2007, the State Supreme Court reversed itself, deeming there was no duty to retreat, and thus effectively creating a “stand your ground” law similar to the controversial Florida statute. With 3% of our citizens concealing firearms in public and the right to use deadly force, those in favor of restricting gun ownership are queasy about the concealed carry provisions.

In most states a licensed gun owner can carry their weapon right on their belt openly in public. To carry one’s weapon out in the open is considered part of the right to own a firearm. Carrying it out of sight is a different situation.

As of 2002, seven states banned the act of concealed carry, and 11 more made the issuing of permits at the discretion of the county sheriffs, allowing them to arbitrarily allow or reject applicants based on their own judgment. Only one state, Vermont, allowed citizens to conceal their firearms in public with no permit at all. After Columbine, 9/11 and a raft of State Supreme Court cases, fast forward to 2012.  Ten years later, there are no states that outright ban Concealed Carry. Only seven states give state officials any discretion to reject an application, and four states require no permit at all.

One can only assume the controversial Zimmerman trial verdict will result in another run on guns and concealed carry permits. With self-defense laws now under scrutiny along with Concealed Carry, I expect gun owners and prospective gun owners will get while the getting is good. Proponents of gun control insist that they do not wish to “take away their guns,” they just want to make common sense limits. But wedge strategy makes it hard for either side to trust each other’s intentions.

Alas, the cold war will continue. One side of the extreme arming itself to the teeth, the other attempting to melt down all the guns — that’s what some people would have us think, anyway. The good news is that plenty of people out there are indeed searching for a reasonable, moderate solution.

By Ygal Kaufman

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7 thoughts on “Concealed Carry in Corvallis and Statewide: Unholstering the Debate, Statistics and Laws

  1. There was one requirement for an Oregon concealed handgun license stated in the article that wasn’t completely accurate. The article states that you must not have been convicted of a misdemeanor. This only applies to 4 years prior to the application. Misdemeanors older than 4 years aren’t a dealbreaker. This can be found in the Oregon Revised Statutes, ORS 166.291, subsection H

  2. Dear Ygal,

    If you truly believe that mass shootings are ‘black swan’ events, then you will be eager to take me up on this offer (unless of course you don’t believe what you are writing). I will bet you and give you 2-to-1 odds (my $2000 vs your $1000) that there will be more mass shootings in the US than in Western Europe per capita over the next year.

    The real truth is that the ‘balance fallacy’ in the last paragraph of this piece reveals the intellectual fraud inherent in the article. You appear to be more interested in placating both sides of the debate rather than actually revealing truth. I strongly suspect that you can do better.

    1. Unfortunately, there are two sides to the debate, both equally passionate. Finding a moderate solution IS in order, and the more the public knows about and understands guns the more intelligent discourse we can have. Keep up the good work author. Comment troll, please show me the link to your article so we have something ‘superior’ to compare to.

  3. Hi Stan, Thanks for reading my article and commenting. I think perhaps you missed my point about black swan events. The United states has a very different culture than Western Europe for a lot of different reasons, all of which combine and make themselves evident in different ways. I’m sure you’re right that there’s likely to be more mass shootings in the US than in Western Europe, per capita or otherwise. We do indeed have a lot more guns, and with them more opportunities for crazy to express itself through shooting. But I’d also be willing to bet you that Western Europe will have way more knife crime, per capita, and more mass knifings. Does that mean the UK should be making knife sheaths illegal? Certainly a mass knifing is less destructive than a mass shooting, so maybe we should just adopt their levels of gun control, make our peace with knife violence and that’ll solve that, right? But what about the mass shooter in Norway who killed more people in one go than Columbine, Aurora & Newtown combined? Does that mean Norway has a gun crime problem? If the mass murdering lunatics of Aurora and Newtown didn’t have access to guns, would they have instead become productive members of society? Or would they have tried their crimes with knives and only maimed some people? Or would they have chosen to inflict their damage with bombs and killed even more people? It’s impossible to say. If we were actually seeing mass shootings happening every day, happening in statistically significant places (i.e. mass shootings happening frequently in states where there are more guns and less laws), and being perpetrated by sane people, it might become more statistically significant, and therefore a useful measure for the gun debate. Fortunately they don’t happen that often, and their locations make causal links very difficult. Unfortunately, a steady dose of media saturation distorts the statistical significance of such events. Colorado and Connecticut are not exactly the country’s gun Meccas (ranking in the middle and back of the pack respectively, in gun ownership per capita). As horrible as 5, 10, or even 50 Newtown type incidents in a year would be, they still would be statistical outliers, Black Swans, that should not be used to move policy debate.
    Certainly a debate can be had about which culture is more desirable to live in. Is it the one with more individual freedom and more gun crime? Or the one with more top down control and less gun crime? It depends on the person asked, I suspect. But using events like mass shootings as trends, instead of the Black Swan outliers that they are, is misguided and leads to bad policy, in my opinion.
    My point was simply that events such as mass shootings, or the run of mass stabbings that China has faced in recent years, are anomalous and incredibly infrequent, even if media coverage might make you think otherwise. And legislation that governs concealed carry permits would have done less than nothing to change the outcome of those events, neither shooter in Aurora nor Newtown perpetrated their crime with any help from concealed carry permits.
    Writing a balanced appraisal of the facts of the Concealed Carry permitting process is all I set out to do, so I think stating both sides of the debate was appropriate. I did not set out to debate gun rights with the piece, and I think if you read it again, you may see that as well.
    Thanks again for reading and joining the conversation!

  4. Ygal,

    Black Swan events are not just defined by infrequency, and the fact that you are now trying to attribute differences between the US and Europe to culture suggests that you don’t really know what ‘Black Swan’ means.

    Trying to cover different sides of a debate is perfectly fine. What is not fine, but which is way too common in the media, is suggesting that arguments on both sides of a debate are equally valid. Making up imaginary facts, including imaginary knife-related violence facts, to defend such a ‘balance fallacy’ is even worse. It’s hard to blame you for doing this because many of the nations most prominent journalists also do it, and get rewarded for doing so. But maybe you have a chance to be better than that.

    Re: the gun issue, let me suggest that you consider a much more defensible position instead one that challenges your credibility. The US has looser gun laws, more gun ownership, and much higher gun-related violence that other industrialized nations. According to a Boston Children’s’ Hospital study released earlier this year, US states with more restrictive gun laws have less gun violence than US states with less restrictive gun laws. These facts do not necessarily make looser gun laws wrong. So don ‘t make a fool of yourself by explicitly or implicitly denying these facts. Culturally, we accept higher rates of gun violence in exchange for the right to own guns for self-defense. Full stop.

    1. “If we were actually seeing mass shootings happening every day, happening in statistically significant places (i.e. mass shootings happening frequently in states where there are more guns and less laws), and being perpetrated by sane people, it might become more statistically significant, and therefore a useful measure for the gun debate.”
      I never defined Black Swans as merely infrequent. But infrequency is the bedfellow of statistical insignificance. Here’s an example. If 2 different commercial airline pilots purposely steered their planes into mountains killing hundreds of people, and it happened in the same year, you would almost certainly have people clamoring for background checks for pilots, and new laws governing airlines. But the fact that 2 pilots happened to go crazy, does not tell us anything meaningful about plane safety. If on the other hand, 20 pilots did it, and they all graduated from the same flight school, that would be a clue that something fishy was going on. That is why I called mass shootings like Newtown or Aurora black swans: they were tragic, but they told us almost nothing about gun control success or failure.
      I’m confused why you think I made up “imaginary knife related violence facts.” I made a bet based on my impression of things. The prevalence of knife crime in Western Europe, particularly the UK, is not seriously debated by anyone. The United States has a much higher murder rate per capita across the board, meaning murders by any weapon, including knives. And it’s difficult to make direct comparisons in numbers because crimes are defined and recorded differently in different countries and continents. However studies (of varying and debatable methods) have universally found that “knife crime” per capita is higher in the UK. Some say, somewhat unbelievably, that you’re as much as 4 times more likely to be the victim of violent crime with a knife in the UK than here. I tend to doubt that figure, and I would certainly entertain debates about how much higher it really is, but I can’t seem to find any data, or even just people claiming, that “knife crime,” as nebulous a term as that is, is actually as bad or worse here than in Western Europe. But I’m open to the possiblity. If you did point me to such data, I’d be willing to entertain that notion.
      Regarding that Boston Children’s Hospital study, here’s a quote from a article about it:
      “In an editorial that accompanied the study, Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, a University of California, Davis emergency medicine physician, cautioned that this type of study is “inherently weak” and that a correlation between more laws and fewer deaths does not show cause and effect.”
      I wish it was a simple as that, but it’s really not.
      You seem to believe very strongly that there’s obvious blacks and whites and no nuance at all in any of this. Which is fair, I guess. I just don’t happen to agree with you. Thanks again for reading. Maybe my next piece will redeem me in your eyes.
      It’s called, “Is There a God? Who Knows?”
      Just kidding.

  5. No redemption necessary, Ygal. You are obviously smart enough and conscientious enough to go look up the facts.

    We could go on with the rebuttals… As you suggested, gun control is one of the least black & white issues, but I’ll stop bugging you after a couple of parting points.

    1. As Matt Taibbi recently said, all journalism is advocacy even when you play the ‘fair and balanced’ game. The only question in this case is whether you are advocating for “safe consensus” or for what the preponderance of evidence actually tells you.

    2. Sure, you can pick away at the facts (e.g. correlation vs. causation), but you have to do some precarious logical gymnastics not to arrive at the basic truth about guns. The preponderance of both interstate AND international data suggest that access to guns results in higher gun violence, including mass shootings, independent of other factors. That does not mean that the trade-off is not worth it. Knife violence and thuggish intimidation might very well be reduced by gun ownership.

    But that is not justification for feeding balance fallacy swill to the reading public, especially when you are writing for a weekly that competes for readership against a daily paper filled with watered down journalism. If you do your homework and get the facts right, then avoiding journalistic mediocrity is well worth annoying a few readers. Don’t write scared.

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