CCW In Michigan: Privilege or Right?

October 21, 2011

Political Theory, Uncategorized

This animation shows a CCW legislation timeline for the United States.

(Click here to see a full size view of the animation.)

On July 1, 2001, Michigan Legislature enacted a law that allowed citizens of the state of Michigan to carry a concealed weapon, such as a pistol, with a permit (application here).  Many anti-gun activists cried about how gun related violence would increase dramatically and that then governor, John Engler, would surely regret signing the act into legislation,

Back in January 2001, anti-gun activist Sarah Brady issued a statement condemning Michigan Gov. John Engler for signing a concealed carry law. Brady promised that, “Mark my words: this insult to caring Michigan citizens will not go unnoticed, and will not be forgotten.” What has largely been forgotten, however, is Brady’s alarmist rhetoric.

10 years later, crime in the state of Michigan, whether it be gun related or not, has steadily decreased.  Pro-gun activists cite this drop in crime to correlate directly with the privilege of carrying a concealed weapon.  Although the fear of increased gun violence is always nearby, Michigan crime records since the inception of the CCW law show that allowing permitted citizens to carry firearms has a very positive effect on the community.

Violence Data

2010 Michigan State Police Crime Records (most recent available)

2001 Michigan State Police Crime Records

Since the inception of the CCW law in July, 2001, gun related violence in Michigan has dropped annually.  In 2001, there were 36,148 Aggravated Assault offenses reported to the state of Michigan, in 2010, the latest data available, there were 26,465 reported offenses of Aggravated Assault.  This represents a 27% decrease of very violent crime.  In same year, handguns only accounted for 12.6% of those aggravated assaults.  Another dangerous offense, armed robbery, also decreased.  Between the years 2010 and 2001, reported robbery offenses dropped from 12,798 to 11,358, a 11% decrease.  Most impressively, murders have dropped 20% between the years of 2010 and 2001, from 661 murder offenses to 528.  These examples of violent crime decreasing can in part be explained by criminals getting deterred by the chance of running into a Michigan citizen carrying a concealed weapon.

Although Closed Concealed Weapon permit holders in the United States are predominantly male, rapes in the state of Michigan have dramatically decreased since the inception of the CCW law.  Even though 97% of rapes in 2010 were committed against females, there has been a 37% (1,991 incidents) decrease in rape offenses of the first degree between 2001 and 2010.  While most of the permit holders are men, women benefit greatly from legalization of widespread concealed weapon carry.  Allowing citizens to carry closed concealed weapons has decreased crime in the state of Michigan, but does that even matter?

Community Trust On The Decline

Along with crime rates dropping, many also say that public trust is dropping as well.  Curtis L. Ivery is one that believes patience and communal trust has declined,

The trust and understanding that we should have or be working toward is no longer necessary. You do not need to trust, listen to or attempt to understand someone else because you have a gun.

This viewpoint shows that americans are less trusting and have less patience than they used to because they can hide behind a gun.  Ivery’s perspective is strongly relatable to a article by Putnam (Bowling Alone), who stated that “…Americans are also less trusting. The proportion of Americans saying that most people can be trusted fell by more than a third between 1960, when 58 percent chose that alternative, and 1993, when only 37 percent did…”  Putnam goes on to say that people who are engaged and have social capital are more likely to participate in politics, spend time with neighbors and express social trust.  His correlation with social capital and engagement in politics can help explain why the National Rifle Association, an organization which advocates firearm rights, has had steadily growing membership.

Privilege or Right?

Not only does allowing CPL’s help curb crime, but it is a constitutional right given to us by our founding fathers.  The right to bear arms was in the Bill of Rights included in the second amendment to the United States constitution, “”A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Even as the law stands now, many right wing and pro-firearm activists feel that carrying a concealed weapon is too much of a privilege that can be taken away and not an American right.  Not only do pro-concealed weapon activists feel that having to obtain a permit is too much privilege and not enough right, they also feel that the government should not be keeping records about where the firearms are registered to and how many firearms a citizen possesses.

Only two states currently allow completely unrestricted gun carrying, Alaska and Vermont.  Vermont Legislature has made its law pertaining to the carrying of concealed weapons very short and clear,

V.S.A. §4003 Carrying dangerous weapons

A person who carries a dangerous or deadly weapon, openly or concealed, with the intent or avowed purpose of injuring a fellow man, or who carries a dangerous or deadly weapon within any state institution or upon the grounds or lands owned or leased for the use of such institution, without the approval of the warden or superintendent of the institution, shall be imprisoned not more than two years or fined not more than $200.00, or both.

The Gun Owners of America posts 8 reasons why every state in the union should adopt a Vermont Style CCW law, citing reasons such as that CCW is a constitutional right, officials can too easily abuse the use of permits, Vermont boasts of one the lowest crime rates in America and permits lead to confiscation of firearms amongst other things.

So I ask you this, should Michigan (or even your home state) adopt a Closed Concealed Weapon law that is unrestricted like Vermont?



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5 Comments on “CCW In Michigan: Privilege or Right?”

  1. acicurel Says:

    I would argue that having a CCW cannot cause a decrease in violence because it does not serve as a deterrent. As a concealed weapons permit, all it can do is help an individual once a situation has escalated towards violence. I feel that the downward trend of violence is more correlational than causation. How can having more hidden guns on the street have an affect on violence when they are hidden?
    I also do not believe that the Constitution outlines the rights of arbitrary individuals to bear arms, let alone concealed arms. It recognizes the need for a “well regulated Militia” not a poorly regulated population of concealed gun wielders. Militias have a purpose: to defend its constituency. Individuals carrying guns on their own do not serve this purpose. One does not serve the purpose and spirit of the 2nd Amendment by bearing arms while walking to the movies. Having concealed weapons is not only wrong, it is dangerous.

  2. Matthew Vlasic Says:

    I think it would be ridiculous to reform Michigan’s policy on Closed Concealed Weapons. Not only is Vermont’s policy much too forgiving, but Michigan’s violence numbers have decreased with the current policy and tampering with it this soon would be a mistake. It is extremely surprising to me to see such an improvement in gun violence statistics after the law was put into effect. Having said that, I feel like with too much gun-carrying freedom people would tend to get reckless and careless (Does the name Gilbert Arenas ring a bell?). It seems like the current law has established somewhat of a healthy balance between keeping the streets safe for those who walk them normally and also keeping other people protected by letting them carry a concealed weapon. To me, it seems like carrying a concealed weapon is all about peace of mind and if the consequences for wrongfully carrying or using it are too forgiving, then the streets would become more excessively dangerous.

    In my opinion, the act of carrying or even possessing such a destructive weapon is a truly frightening thought. If the state of Michigan had an unrestricted law people would possibly feel obliged to carry a gun. Would you want to be the only person walking on the street without “protection”? This law would not be nearly strict enough if changed to unrestricted and I feel like it would go too far. People who want to carry guns in this state already have enough liberty to do so and it is important that they don’t abuse this dangerous right of being able to carry a tool that has the ability to shoot and kill others.

  3. parijog Says:

    I agree with the post above. Why fix a law that has shown positive results in reducing violent crimes in Michigan? The opposition to this viewpoint offer up evidence taken from the constitution. This amendment was written over two hundred years ago, when firearm technology was in its infant stages. When guns weighed nearly 10 pounds and could only shoot one bullet every minute, it was unlikely that anyone could do massive amounts of damage to innocent people in the case of violent crimes. Today, firearm technology has become so advanced that one gun in the wrong hands could wreak havoc on a community of hundreds. In this day and age, it is impossible to apply components of the constitution that are so dependent on the technology of the day.
    I do believe that individuals should be allowed to carry guns, but only after the strict screening processes that are already in place have deemed that individual as a non-threat to society.

  4. guysnick Says:

    I too agree with the post. If Michigan’s current CCW law has resulted in a large decrease in violent crimes over the past decade, then why change it? I understand that the Bill of Rights explicitly mentions each American citizen’s right to bear arms. However, the Bill of Rights took effect more than two centuries ago, and it does not give specific details on determining whether or not anybody – regardless of whether or not he or she has a criminal past – should be able to carry a concealed weapon. Much has changed in the time since the Bill of Rights was ratified.

    I understand that it is every person’s right to carry a weapon, as illustrated by the U.S. Constitution. However, I do not believe that this means everyone should simply be able to walk into a gun store and purchase a weapon with no permit and no background check. There should still be a fairly extensive application, and it should not be easy for someone to obtain a gun permit. It should not be easy for someone to get his or her hands a potentially deadly weapon.

    Finally, I do not think it is fair to compare Michigan to Vermont. Sure, Vermont may boast one of the lowest crime rates in America. But Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, has a population of just over 42,000 people. Michigan has the large, and often quite violent, urban centers of Detroit and Flint to be concerned about when thinking about adopting a Vermont-style CCW law. I suppose it is possible that such a CCW law would deter potential criminals from instigating a conflict, for fear that their victim might have a concealed weapon. On the other hand, a Vermont-style law could also result in the obtaining of guns by people who otherwise would not be able to get a permit to purchase them. Overall, I do not think that the state of Michigan should change its current CCW law. If it appears to be working to decrease violent crimes, why change it?

  5. sarahspath23 Says:

    I do not think Michigan should change its current CCW law to unrestricted like Vermont or to only allowing people to carry concealed weapons if they demonstrate the need to. However, my initial gut reaction to this blog was that carrying a concealed weapon should be a privilege. This is mainly due to my strong feelings against the carrying of concealed weapons. Although, I do believe that there is a valid point in that the right to bear arms is part of a national document.

    I grew up in one of the safest cities in the nation and never really worried about crime, but heard about the shootings and other crime in nearby Detroit quite often. I think part of the reason I am against carrying a concealed weapon is because I feel that if no one was allowed to carry a concealed weapon without a very good reason, criminals would find other solutions to their problems besides crime; they would lose their means of getting what they want (although this may be my optimistic thinking).

    So my initial response to this issue was that allowing concealed weapons would increase violence, but it turns out that violence decreased in the period in which the current CCW law was enacted. I don’t know what other laws were created during this period, but it seems that the CCW law did have an impact on the crime. I can understand than criminals may be deterred and people more protected with the ability to hold concealed weapons. However, I feel that there may be other things at play here like possibly stronger education laws or cracking down on crime.

    I can understand why individuals feel safer if they can carry a concealed weapon, but does the public in general feel safer knowing that there are more people carrying concealed weapons? I personally do not feel safer knowing this, especially after reviewing the permit application. Although the permit application does ask many questions about any previous criminal or mental history, I wonder how carefully these applications are scrutinized. Does every application receive attention from multiple government employees to ensure that the answers given are correct? The process by which the weapon permits are approved is critical here.

    This brings in the issue of trust as well because the public may be less trusting of each other with the increased ability to obtain a permit to hold a weapon. This naturally makes sense because if more people are able to carry a concealed weapon, it could potentially put the lives of even more at risk. Although the overall crime has dropped, what are the specifics of crime involving children or teenagers, who may have increased access to weapons? I feel as though being able to carry a concealed weapon with just a permit leads to other, maybe less publicized, consequences such as increased youth violence and public fearfulness.

    Secondly, I can understand the argument about how since the right to bear arms is in the U.S. Constitution, it is a right to carry a concealed weapon, not a privilege. We have been taught that the U.S. Constitution is an ultimate authority. Although the right to bear arms is a relatively old concept and maybe the initial motive behind including it in the Constitution is gone, it is still part of the Constitution. There have not been amendments that change this right extensively and until the right to bear arms becomes an important national issue and Congress does something to change this right, it should be followed. If people say that this right does not need to be followed, then others could begin to not follow other rights as well. In order to maintain the consistency of the law, it is necessary to bide by it.

    However, I do believe that as time progresses, stipulations need to be added to this right in order to address more current issues. Having a completely unrestricted right to carry a concealed weapon in Michigan would have many people doubting the government’s ability to protect their citizens. This is because with such high crime in many central city locations, as mentioned in one of the posts above, having no laws to restrict the carrying of weapons would, in my opinion, perpetuate the crime and lead to chaos and outrage.

    Overall, although I do understand the right to bear arms as a right, I think that recent crime issues need to be taken into consideration when deciding on the policy for CCW. Not only should the overall changes in crime rates be considered, but also the public’s feelings of safety and trust. Currently, I think that Michigan’s CCW policy is working for us and should not be changed unless new information about the public or violence comes to light.

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