Guns in Public Places

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Allowing untrained people to carry a gun almost everywhere poses serious threats to public safety. We can save lives by preserving and strengthening state concealed carry permitting systems, and limiting firearms in places like schools, public parks, and bars.

Historically, most states either prohibited or severely limited the carrying of firearms in public. Over the past three decades, however, state laws have changed dramatically. In that time, many states have weakened their laws to let more people to carry guns in public places with fewer restrictions. In recent years, the gun lobby has mounted a nationwide campaign to allow people to carry firearms in large public spaces.

There are several approaches to addressing this issue, including tightening concealed carry permitting systems, restricting open carry, and limiting firearms in places like schools and bars, where they are especially likely to harm the public.

The Dangers to Law Enforcement and Communities

Carrying concealed weapons (“CCW”) in public creates unnecessary risks of intentional or accidental shootings. Members of the public who carry guns risk escalating everyday disagreements into public shootouts, especially in places where disputes frequently occur, such as in bars, at sporting events, or in traffic. Permissive concealed carry laws also violate the shared expectation that public places will be safe environments free from guns and gun violence.

Claims that permissive CCW laws lead to decreases in crime – by helping fight off criminals and sending the message to would-be attackers that any potential victim might be packing heat – are simply untrue. No credible statistical evidence exists to show that permissive CCW laws reduce crime. In fact, the evidence suggests that permissive CCW laws may actually increase the frequency of some types of crime, like assault. This research confirms the common sense conclusion that more guns create more opportunities for injury and death, not fewer.

Eliminating or weakening restrictions on carrying loaded guns in public places makes it much harder for law enforcement to identify prohibited people, like felons and dangerous domestic abusers, who are illegally carrying guns in public. Federally mandated concealed carry may prevent law enforcement officers from arresting or detaining a person they suspect of unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon, and some bills even include provisions to hold individual officers liable for these arrests. Law enforcement would be forced to confront large numbers of travelers with CCW permits with little or no knowledge of the relevant state firearms laws, thus making it difficult to verify that an individual with an out-of- state CCW permit is legally allowed to carry in public.

The Facts about Guns in Public Places