The NY Times Takes a Look at CCW Permit Holders in North Carolina

December 28th, 2011

Here’s what they found:

More than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, excluding traffic-related crimes, over the five-year period, The Times found when it compared databases of recent criminal court cases and licensees. While the figure represents a small percentage of those with permits, more than 200 were convicted of felonies, including at least 10 who committed murder or manslaughter. All but two of the killers used a gun.

So does that mean 2,200 were convicted of misdemeanors (doing some simple math)? And what is the total number of permit holders? I’m curious how these people passed background checks. People with felonies, under federal law, are not allowed to have guns, let alone CCWs. Also some violent misdemeanors result in denial of the right.

Among them was Bobby Ray Bordeaux Jr., who had a concealed handgun permit despite a history of alcoholism, major depression and suicide attempts. In 2008, he shot two men with a .22-caliber revolver, killing one of them, during a fight outside a bar.

More than 200 permit holders were also convicted of gun- or weapon-related felonies or misdemeanors, including roughly 60 who committed weapon-related assaults.

In addition, nearly 900 permit holders were convicted of drunken driving, a potentially volatile circumstance given the link between drinking and violence.

Were these permits issued before the offenses that were improperly renewed without a new check? Not sure. Were these permits revoked, but still on the list?

The review also raises concerns about how well government officials police the permit process. In about half of the felony convictions, the authorities failed to revoke or suspend the holder’s permit, including for cases of murder, rape and kidnapping. The apparent oversights are especially worrisome in North Carolina, one of about 20 states where anyone with a valid concealed handgun permit can buy firearms without the federally mandated criminal background check. (Under federal law, felons lose the right to own guns.)

Ricky Wills, 59, kept his permit after recently spending several months behind bars for terrorizing his estranged wife and their daughter with a pair of guns and then shooting at their house while they, along with a sheriff’s deputy who had responded to a 911 call, were inside. “That’s crazy, absolutely crazy,” his wife, Debra Wills, said in an interview when told that her husband could most likely still buy a gun at any store in the state.

Mr. Wills’s permit was revoked this month, after The Times informed the local sheriff’s office.

Cracking down on people who should have their permits revoked would probably solve a lot of these issues.

But deeper, ultimately, I think this debate boils down to a question of social cost (surprised?). What are you afraid of more? A tiny percentage of the population who may improperly be able to obtain a CCW, or a government that can arbitrarily deny a large percentage of the population the right to carry a firearm for self-defense?

Update: I found answers to some of my questions here:

“In other words, 200 permit holders were convicted of felonies out of 240,000 permit holders, or 0.0833333334-percent of NC concealed carry permit population. I would love for the New York Times to do the research and see what percentage of the NYPD, Chicago PD, Los Angeles PD, or New Orleans PD is convicted of felonies in any given year.”

Update 2: More from Dave Kopel:

So what the Times managed to conceal from its readers is that after very thorough investigation, the Timesown data showed that of North Carolinians with a concealed carry permit, far less than 1% have ever been found to have violated the law in any way (e.g., driving under the influence), much less in any way that actually has something to do with their possession of a firearm in a public place.

In a 2009 article in the Connecticut Law Review, I collected data from Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. (The state data begin on page 564 of the article.) The data show that concealed carry licensees are much more law-abiding than the general population, and that the rate of gun misuse of any sort (let alone having something to do with violence in  public place) is less than one in one thousand.

Instapundit collects some other responses to the Times’ effort to foment hysteria and prejudice against the persons who exercise the constitutional right to carry firearms for lawful protection.