The WAFP opposes the legalization of the use of concealed weapons by the citizens of the State of Wisconsin.
According to testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Wisconsin is one of six states that does not have legalization for the carrying of concealed weapons. It is also one of the safest states in the nation with the 5th lowest incidence of violent crime in the U.S. If the state legislature is to pass legislation that promotes use of concealed weapons for personal protection, it should be done with clear and inarguable evidence that such laws would decrease the incidence of violent crime, while not putting the citizenry at additional risk. To make a change in law that has stood for 130 years in this state should be a decision based in fact, rather than emotion and opinion.
To this point, no such clear and irrefutable evidence exists. Advocates for this change who testified at Judiciary Committee hearings quoted the publications of John Lott, a University of Chicago law professor. Other scholars on this subject have criticized this research for both its content and methodology. (New England Journal of Medicine 339:2029-2030, Book Review of D. Hemenway, PhD. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding crime and gun-control laws. Making a Killing: the business of guns in America.) The Judiciary Committee also heard from others who gave emotional testimony of their own victimization and their opinion that these tragedies would not have been perpetrated were they to have been armed with a gun. Testimonials of the benefit can be matched with examples of harm. The legislature instead must rely on evidence in this decision.
The evidence noted in several articles in recent medical literature is worthy of the legislature’s attention.
The Wisconsin Research Network Firearm Safety Survey was published in the July 2003 Wisconsin Medical Journal. This survey was done in eleven widely disbursed clinics in large and small Wisconsin communities. Responses were received from nearly 1,000 individuals who were asked about the types of firearms kept in their homes, for what purpose these firearms are kept and specifically, how these firearms are stored in their homes. We learned that firearms are commonly kept in the homes of our patients, with 60% of respondents reporting firearms ownership. This compares to 25% of adults reporting gun ownership in national telephone surveys. We learned that individuals reported keeping guns for personal protection more commonly if they lived in larger cities. Handguns were more likely to be owned, if firearms were kept for protection. And lastly, we learned that firearms are far more likely to be kept in an unlocked and/or loaded condition, when kept for protection. Typically firearms that are kept for hunting, target shooting, or other recreational activities are maintained in a safe condition in the homes of their owners.
Legislation intended to promote use of guns for personal protection would appear to raise the risk for increasing the numbers of households with guns kept in unsafe storage. Is the education and training requirement for licensure to carry concealed weapons a guarantee for safe storage? The research of this question shows discouraging results from such education. A telephone survey was done in Massachusetts gun owners who had extensive safety instruction as part of their firearm purchase. 21% of these recently educated consumers kept their firearms loaded and unlocked. These same authors reported that guns kept for protection correlated with handgun ownership and unsafe storage, similar to the observed pattern in the Wisconsin Reserch Network Firearm Safety Survey. ( Sanguino MS, Dowd MD, McEnaney SA, Knapp J, Tanz RR. Handgun safety: what do consumers learn from gun dealers? Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002; 156:777-780) Also, the current bill does not restrict individuals licensed in other states to carry concealed weapons, even if that state has no similar education or training requirement.
The consequences of unsafe firearm storage go beyond the examples of accidental shootings. An article from the March 7, 2003 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report which is published weekly by the Center for Disease Control looked at the source of firearms used by students in school associated violent deaths between the years 1992 and 1999. The predominant source (over 60%) of firearms associated with these homicide and suicide deaths were firearms kept in the homes of the perpetrator’s parents or in the homes of friends and family members. Specifically, these were firearms stored in unsafe unlocked or loaded conditions. This article documents that students generally do not go to the street to buy firearms when contemplating these very disheartening, impulsive acts of violence.
The CDC has provided considerable insight into the impact of violence on the lives of students. Nationwide, 6.6% of students report missing one or more days of school during the previous month for fear of violence. In Wisconsin 13.3% of high school boys reported carrying a weapon at some time during the previous month; 4.8% reported those weapons to be guns. (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2001. Supplement to MMWR June 28, 2002; 51/No. SS-4) Does the Wisconsin State Legislature really want to pass laws that might increase the risk of giving access by adolescents to unsafely kept firearms?
The proposed legislation gives very few restrictions to where concealed weapons might be carried. The right of property owners or businesses to restrict guns from their premises is apparently overridden by the gun owners right to carry the concealed weapon. It would also appear that employees have a right to carry concealed guns to their workplace over the objection of their employer. Can this be appropriate safe public policy?
The cost of education and training for licensure is a matter of fiscal impact that is not considered in the bill. The mechanism to accomplish background checks is not addressed satisfactorily, nor who will pay for these checks. Should this law not allow for retrieval of licensure from individuals who develop findings of mental instability or who may become involved in domestic incidents of threat or violence? Who would be responsible for reporting such changes in the status of the licensed individual? Do the people of the State of Wisconsin want to absorb the cost of still another government bureaucracy to administer this change of law?
The current legislation also does not address the issue of civil liability of gun owners if a bystander is injured by use of a concealed weapon or if an accident occurs. The liability of the gun owner if an unsafely stored firearm is taken and used in an act of violence must be reinforced. The concept of mandatory liability insurance for civil actions brought against gun owners is a necessary corollary to this legislation if it is to be passed, similar to the concept of mandatory automobile insurance coverage in this state.
Policies to regulate for safety of firearms were subject of national surveys. The authors of this work report broad public support even among gun owners for these safety strategies. (New England Journal of Medicine 339:813-818) Clearly the legislature owes the electorate a responsible review of this material before jumping to this personal protection legislation with its uncertain public heath consequences.
On July 8, 2011, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed Senate Bill 93 – known as the Concealed Carry bill – into law as 2011 WI Act 35. The new law took effect on November 1, 2011. WAFP has prepared a Q&A to help you answer what does Conceal Carry mean for Wisconsin Physicians?
The Principles for Reform of the U.S. Health Care System call for the following actions: