The Grand Junction Shooting Proves We Need: Concealed Carry Now

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

The Grand Junction Shooting Proves We Need:

Concealed Carry Now

by Ari Armstrong, September 9, 1999

On Friday evening, September 3, Chad Anderson drove to a Grand Junction City Market grocery store and asked for his estranged wife Sarah, whom he had assaulted a month earlier. After leaving briefly and returning, Anderson dragged Sarah from the store by her hair while cursing her.

Hobert Franklin, Jr. attempted to stop Anderson inside the store. Anderson pulled a .22 Ruger revolver pistol from his pocket and shot Franklin in the chest, killing him. Once in the parking lot, Anderson shot Sarah twice, once in the body and once in the head, killing her. Meanwhile, David Gilcrease had herd about the emergency while inside the store and had exited to the parking lot to confront Anderson. Anderson shot and killed Gilcrease and then killed himself.

Five shots, three innocent deaths and a suicide. A horrible tragedy.

Would a "shall-issue" concealed carry law in Colorado have stopped it? While it's impossible to predict what the effects of a law might have been in a particular case, what's clear is that the rate of murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery declines in states that permit citizens to carry concealed handguns.

Colorado is one of a minority of states that either prohibits concealed carry by law-abiding citizens or limits the practice. In Colorado, county sheriffs may issue concealed carry permits at their discretion. Professor John Lott, Jr. of Yale University conducted a comprehensive statistical study of crime and compiled the results in his book, More Guns, Less Crime. In that book, Lott demonstrates that law-abiding citizens deter crime by carrying concealed handguns. A few anti-gun activists have attacked Lott's character and condemned his research, but in a September 3 Speakout column published by The Rocky Mountain News, Lott wrote,

The vast majority of researchers have been very supportive, and the best these three critiques [written by anti-gun activists] could do was to claim that concealed weapons might not reduce crime by as much as I found in my study. Not a single study has questioned my finding that the Brady law's waiting period actually increased rape and aggravated assault rates.

In his book, Lott goes further in analyzing the methodological errors of his critics.

Lott writes that if counties now without "shall-issue" concealed carry requirements "had been subject to state concealed-handgun laws and had thus been forced to issue handgun permits, murders in the United States would have declined by about 1,400... the number of rapes in states without nondiscretionary laws would have declined by 4,200, aggravated assaults by 60,000, and robberies by 12,000" (51, 54).

Further, Lott found that mass public shootings drastically decline because of concealed carry laws. "For those states from which data are available before and after the passage of such [nondiscretionary concealed handgun] laws, the mean per-capita death rate from mass shootings in those states plummets by 69 percent" (100).

So, while no one can say for sure whether a nondiscretionary concealed handgun law in Colorado would have prevented Anderson from murdering three innocent people on September 3, it's clear that such a law would have saved lives over-all by preventing many of those types of murders state-wide.

Of course, the anti-gun lobby uses every tragedy involving guns to push their political agenda to eventually ban guns altogether. "If Anderson hadn't been able to steal that .22, he couldn't have used it to murder three innocent people." But this line of argument ignores some important facts. Even if guns had been banned altogether, Anderson still could have purchased one on the black market or resorted to some other weapon like a knife or a crow-bar. And if guns had been banned, thousands of lives would have been lost because victims would have been defenseless in their homes against violent rapists and thugs.

The deterrent effect of concealed carry laws does not even depend on citizens using their guns for defense. Instead, many would-be criminals avoid getting into situations where they might be confronted by citizens bearing arms. Thus, potential crimes are avoided altogether. It's possible that if Chad Anderson had known he would have faced several concealed handgun carriers at City Market, he would never have gone there in the first place. If that had been the case, those who took the responsibility to carry handguns and train to use them safely and effectively would have prevented the terrible tragedy, and they would never even have known it.

That's why the sentiments of some are biased against guns. Murders make for dramatic television. But the crimes prevented by handgun ownership can only be studied through academic statistical research. The lives saved by gun ownership, however, are no less important simply because they go largely unnoticed by the media.



Further Discussion

I interviewed three people from the Grand Junction area in writing the present article. Their comments add depth to the pop-style article above. I talked to Police Sergeant Bob Russell, Mesa County Sheriff Riecke Claussen, and Linn Armstrong, who helps train around 40 people per month to shoot.

My dad Linn strongly criticized the state legislature for not passing a concealed carry law in Colorado. He said, "If this guy [Anderson] had known that one out of three people in the store was carrying a gun, he may not have showed up in the first place."

My dad, who was licensed by Claussen to carry concealed, said he's possibly prevented two crimes while carrying a concealed handgun. In neither case did he actually have to draw his weapon.

Once while driving from Denver to Grand Junction, my dad stopped at a Dairy Queen in the west end of Glenwood Springs. While inside, a carload of young men pulled up to the restaurant and a couple guys walked into the place, mulled around for a while, looked at the menu but didn't order anything. Linn told his two travel companions to wait in the car while he stayed in the restaurant and ate his ice cream. My dad is reasonably sure the other men were checking out the place with the intention of robbing it, but of course he can't be 100% positive of that. That's why the crimes prevented by armed citizens don't get media coverage -- those crimes never happen! At any rate, my dad stayed until the young men left.

Another time Linn was driving the other direction on I-70 when he stopped at the rest-stop at the top of the pass. A car of three young women pulled into the rest-stop, and, visibly shaken, explained to my dad that three men in a truck had been harassing the girls along the interstate. The truck also pulled into the rest-stop and parked. My dad pulled his car behind the truck, blocking it, allowing the women to leave in peace. "I wouldn't have stayed there with those three big guys if I hadn't been carrying a gun," he said. While the three men in the truck may not have intended any serious harm toward the women, their intentions were rendered moot by my dad's actions.

Russell said that an armed citizen at the City Market might not have been effective at stopping Anderson and might even have harmed other bystanders. This is true, and Russell is also correct that the outcome largely "depends on training." However, these comments do not take into account the deterrent effect of armed citizens. Curiously, Russell was unaware even that Florida has a state-wide concealed carry program, though he knew Texas has one.

Claussen also said that an armed citizen at the scene may or may not have been able to stop Anderson. However, he was much more receptive to the argument that criminals often avoid circumstances in which the risk of facing armed opposition is large. Claussen has issued concealed carry permits to over 200 Mesa County residents. (He noted that this is nowhere near the thousands issued in El Paso County.) Claussen simply hasn't seen a great interest in his county; "virtually all of the permit requests are approved," he said. He also added that, just because someone is licensed, doesn't mean they actually carry a gun on a regular basis.

Linn relayed some advice he picked up in a class taught in Grand Junction. He said the two men who were shot at the City Market unnecessarily put themselves in dangerous positions, something which seemed clear to me from the outset. (The line between heroism and stupidity can be a thin one.)

Someone with a concealed gun should have taken the following course. While standing at an angle to the assailant with one's left hand outstretched, while at a reasonable distance, shout, "Move away slowly with your hands in the air! Don't touch that weapon!" This last line is important even if one doesn't know whether the assailant actually has a weapon. The purpose of this verbal confrontation is to cause the assailant to realize the gravity of the situation and to stand down. Of course, if the assailant responds by pulling a weapon and seriously threatening one's life, one may legally draw and fire, only if others' lives are not thereby endangered.

Of course, Linn is the first to stress that carrying a concealed weapon is a serious responsibility that demands rigorous training in technical shooting, the law, and psychology. He helps coordinate firearms training classes for beginners and experts. He can be reached at (970) 464 - 5177.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com