The Supreme Court won’t hear oral arguments in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen until early November, but both Second Amendment and gun control activists are going to be busy trying to influence the court of public opinion in the coming months. Gun owners and Second Amendment supporters will be making the case that New York’s “may issue” carry laws are depriving citizens of their constitutionally protected rights, while gun control advocates will be arguing that the state’s interest in public safety allows it to subvert the rights of residents by requiring them to show a “justifiable need” to carry a firearm in self-defense.
Some anti-gun zealots are going even further, claiming that states that have “shall issue” laws on the books should be repealing them. The Center for American Progress is out with a new “study” claiming that Wisconsin’s concealed carry laws have led to a surge in shootings and homicides, and that repeal is the best solution.
In their original analysis of data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the authors outline a number of striking findings, including:
- Wisconsin’s gun homicide rate from 2012 to 2019 after the law was enacted was 33 percent higher than the rate from 2004 to 2011.
- The annual average of gun-related aggravated assaults from 2004 to 2011 was 1,700 but, from 2012 to 2019, increased by 56 percent to 2,600.
- Local police agencies in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, and Racine reported a combined annual value of stolen guns of $295,000 from 2007 to 2011; this value increased by 50 percent to $443,000 from 2012 to 2019.
While repealing the state’s CCW law entirely would be the most effective way to curb these trends, the authors also recommend several ways to mitigate the effects of the law. Among others, these include allowing police agencies to analyze their own data around concealed carry permits and making the data available for researchers; giving law enforcement agencies the discretion to deny permits; and passing universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders, measures that 80 percent of Wisconsinites support.
Correlation and causation are two separate issues, which the Center for American Progress conveniently ignores. Were there other factors at work that might have led to an increase in violence? The two worst years for homicides in the state since 2011 were 2015 and 2016, when the state’s murder rate climbed above 4.0 per 100,000. That was still lower than the U.S. average, by the way, but it also coincides with a 69% increase in homicides in Milwaukee, from 86 murders in 2014 to 145 in 2015. The city’s Homicide Review Commission didn’t blame the increase on concealed carry; in fact, the commission’s report notes that nearly 70% of homicide suspects in 2015 were prohibited by law from possessing a firearm, much less obtaining a license to carry.
In 2016, riots rocked Milwaukee after the police-involved shooting death of Sylville Smith, and the city’s homicide rate was once again at levels not seen since the 1990s. Over the next few years homicides declined to fewer than 100 per year, but in 2020 homicides soared again, and this year could outpace last year’s record setting 189 homicides.
In addition to failing to investigate other factors that might have led to an increase in shootings and homicides, the Center for American Progress fails to acknowledge that Wisconsin’s homicide rate was at its peak in 1991, a full 20 years before the state’s “shall issue” concealed carry law took effect. And nowhere in the CAP report do they mention the number of concealed carry licenses that were revoked because of violent crimes between 2011 and 2019, likely because the number is so small that it would make their claims laughable. In 2015, for instance, a total of 104 licenses were revoked after a felony conviction of any kind. That same year, more than 40,000 concealed carry licenses were approved.
This study is more junk than science, but expect to see more of the same from the gun control lobby as we inch closer towards the Supreme Court taking up the issue of our right to carry later this fall. Anti-gun activists are terrified that the Court will strike down New York’s discriminatory and subjective “may issue” laws, and they’ll do everything they can to ramp up fear of the more than 20-million Americans licensed to carry a firearm in the hopes of swaying the court of public opinion, if not the Supreme Court itself.