- - Monday, August 28, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Last month former Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey offered his view of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The bill will allow a qualified individual to carry a concealed handgun into or possess a concealed handgun in another state that allows individuals to carry concealed firearms.

According to the proposed legislation currently working its way through Congress, a qualified individual must: First, be eligible to possess, transport or receive a firearm under federal law; second, carry a valid photo identification document; and third, carry a valid concealed carry permit issued by, or be eligible to carry a concealed firearm in, his or her state of residence.

Additionally, the bill specifies that a qualified individual who lawfully carries or possesses a concealed handgun in another state is not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone, and may carry or possess the concealed handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.

Mr. Ramsey is against the bill, stating that it will have a disastrous impact on public safety and law enforcement. He has a number of concerns and he began his commentary citing the murder two years ago of Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson.

Officer Wilson entered a GameStop store to buy his son a gift and encountered two brothers holding up the store. Officer Wilson attempted to stop the armed robbery and protect the customers and store employees and he was shot dead by the two criminals.

What Mr. Ramsey omitted from his article is that the guns used to murder Officer Wilson were purchased illegally, carried illegally and discharged illegally. The two criminals did not possess a concealed carry license, as they are ineligible as convicted felons.

I respect Mr. Ramsey. I believe he was a good police boss. I interviewed him in his office at Police Headquarters in Philadelphia and I was impressed, but I disagree with his view on concealed carry and its perceived threat to police officers and the public.

Many people who are in favor of gun control — now called “gun safety” by advocates, as it sounds less dictatorial — often fail to differentiate between legal gun ownership and illegal guns used by criminals. The fact is, backed up by statistics such as a study of gun crimes in Pittsburgh in 2008, the overwhelming majority of gun crimes in America are committed by people who possess guns illegally and not by legal gun owners with concealed carry licenses. Criminals simply do not purchase firearms legally at a gun store and they do not apply to the local police department for a concealed carry license. Criminals purchase guns illicitly from other criminals and they carry and use them with abandon.

Many Americans desire a concealed carry license in order to defend themselves and their families against criminals armed with illegal guns. The police, no matter how proficient and professional, simply cannot respond to all ongoing crimes in those vital first minutes. So many Americans want to legally arm themselves. The public at large and police officers have little to fear from legal gun owners, but criminals do.

I recall a police officer chuckling when he told me that criminals fear armed citizens far more than cops.

Last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would continue to prioritize firearm prosecutions. He noted that violent crime was on the rise in many parts of the country, with 27 of America’s biggest 35 cities coping with rising homicide rates.

“Law abiding people in some of these communities are living in fear, as they see families torn apart and young lives cut short by gangs and drug traffickers. Following President Trump’s executive order to focus on reducing crime, I directed federal prosecutors to prioritize taking illegal guns off of our streets, and as a result, we are now prosecuting hundreds more firearms defendants,” Mr. Sessions said. “In the first three months since the memo went into effect, charges of unlawful possession of a gun — mostly by previously convicted felons — are up by 23 percent. That sends a clear message to criminals all over this country that if you carry a gun illegally, you will be held accountable. I am grateful to the many federal prosecutors and agents who are working hard every day to make America safe again.”

In my view, this is true gun control. We should target illegal guns used by criminals and not legal gun owners who have the right to carry firearms. And a citizen’s right to carry should not end at his or her state border.

Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage and terrorism.

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