Firearms deaths fall as millions obtain permits to carry concealed guns
By Mike Stuckey
Senior news editor
updated 8:43 a.m. ET, Wed., March. 24, 2010
Waving a chromed semiautomatic pistol, the robber pushed into the building in the bustling Five Points neighborhood of Columbia, S.C., just before 11 p.m. on April 11, 2009. “Gimme what you got!” he yelled, his gun hand trembling.
Attorney Jim Corley was one of four people in the room, the lounge area of a 12-step recovery group’s meeting hall. “He said, ‘Give me your wallet,’” Corley recalled. “So I reached around to my back pocket and gave him what was there.”
Unfortunately for the gunman, later identified as Kayson Helms, 18, of Edison, N.J., that was Corley’s tiny Kel-Tec .32, hidden in a wallet holster and loaded with a half-dozen hollow points. Corley fired once into the robber’s abdomen. The young man turned. Corley fired twice more, hitting him in the neck and again in the torso. Helms ran into the night and collapsed to die on a railroad embankment 100 feet away.
Reports filed by officers who arrived at the scene a short time later called it an “exceptionally clear” case of justifiable homicide. Following South Carolina’s “Castle Doctrine,” which allows the use of deadly force in self-defense, police did not arrest Corley. They did not interrogate him. Corley was offered the opportunity to make a voluntary statement, which he did.
Helms’ friends and relatives were left to mourn, barred by the same Castle Doctrine from filing a civil lawsuit.
Jim Corley became an unintentional spokesman for a burgeoning movement of millions of Americans who secretly and legally pack pistols in waistbands, under jackets, strapped to ankles, stashed in purses or — like Corley — tucked in hip pockets.
From its beginnings in the 1980s, the “right-to-carry” movement has succeeded in boosting the number of licensed concealed-gun carriers from fewer than 1 million to a record 6 million today, according to estimates from gun-rights groups that are supported by msnbc.com’s research. And while hotly debated, the effect of this dramatic increase is largely unknown.
Gun enthusiasts claim a link between more private citizens carrying concealed weapons and the nation’s dramatic decrease in violent crime. Gun-control activists argue that concealed-carry permits are being handed out to people who should never get them, sometimes resulting in tragic, needless shootings.
Effect on crime is hotly debated
But even with the push to expand concealed-carry rights now in its third decade, no scientific studies have reached any widely accepted conclusions about the movement’s effect on crime or personal safety.
Statistics from the national Centers for Disease Control do indicate that the murder and mayhem predicted by many opponents of concealed-carry laws have not come to pass. But even that point, while celebrated by gun-rights activists and conceded by some concealed-carry opponents, is disputed by others.
Both sides do agree on one thing: More Americans than ever are carrying hidden guns.
Firearms laws have been growing more relaxed across the United States for years. Gun-control activists have failed in efforts to re-enact the nationwide ban on certain semiautomatic rifles they call “assault weapons.” They were unable to block a change in federal law, signed by President Obama this year, which allows guns to be carried in national parks. And they watched in dismay as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2008 that the Second Amendment grants residents of Washington, D.C., the right to own and keep loaded handguns in their homes.
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Record numbers now licensed to pack heat - Life- msnbc.com