Debate Club

Guns, Carried Openly or Concealed, Threaten Our Safety

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No. Guns carried in public by private citizens—open or concealed—threaten public and private safety.

The example of Meleanie Hain tragically illustrates the folly of trusting one's personal safety to gun carrying. In 2008, Hain gained nationwide fame when she brought her loaded Glock pistol to her 5-year-old daughter's soccer game in Lebanon, Pa., scaring the other soccer moms, who complained to league officials and law enforcement. Hain had a permit to carry her pistol concealed, but chose to wear it openly. Soon after the game, her permit was revoked due to her actions. Hain had her permit reinstated by the courts and then sued the sheriff who had revoked it for a million dollars. She continued to carry openly—becoming a hero to open carry advocates.

[Read America's Gun Culture and Its Effect on the 2012 Election.]

Responding to the judge who returned her permit yet urged her to stop carrying a gun openly to soccer games, she replied, "I know he'll be disappointed...But a gun-free zone says it's an easy target." According to a Harrisburg Patriot News editorial, Hain apparently considered "her sidearm to serve as a deterrent for would-be terrorists or mass murderers or others who might bring their own weapons to harm her, the young soccer players or other fans."

This belief is common among those who carry handguns—open or concealed—in public, but has little resonance in the real world. At least 402 victims have been killed in 32 states since May 2007 in non-self-defense incidents involving private citizens legally allowed to carry concealed handguns, according to the Violence Policy Center's Concealed Carry Killers online resource. (These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg since most crime data regarding permit holders is secret. As a result, the VPC tally is taken primarily from news reports.) This includes 20 mass shootings, 11 dead law enforcement officers, and 31 murder-suicides.

[Check out U.S. News Debate Club: Are Stand Your Ground Laws a Good Idea?]

In October 2009, Hain was gunned down in her home by her husband who, after firing six shots into her with his handgun (hers was in a backpack hanging off a door), went upstairs and ended his own life with a shotgun blast. Neighbors said they heard the couple's children run from the house shouting "Daddy shot mommy!"

Meleanie Hain believed that a handgun—on her hip or in her home—guaranteed her personal safety. Her death belied both these pro-gun tenets. As her attorney stated after the shooting: "My first reaction was shock and sadness. The second was that it's the truest illustration of irony."

Josh Sugarmann

About Josh Sugarmann Founder and Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center

Tags
gun control and gun rights
Second Amendment

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