Violence Policy Center or Vituperative Propaganda Center?
An article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press begins reasonably enough, discussing how applications for concealed carry permits in Tennessee have "skyrocketed over the last five years..." The article also describes general requirements for licensure and locations which restrict licensed carry according to Tennessee law.2
Sergeant Mark Haskins of the Chattanooga Police Department, who teaches a handgun training course, believes "most people are seeking to protect their property or themselves in case they come in contact with a criminal," and said "he can't remember many examples of arresting someone for a gun crime who held a carry permit.3
Now for the Rest of the Story
Unfortunately, the second half of the article is influenced by Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center:
"What many people don't know is that there were two armed guards at Columbine that engaged that shooter and were simply outgunned," said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center. "In Texas, we challenged their laws, and legislators produced one example of a permit holder stopping a crime, but we found that 5,314 people there were involved in committing crimes after receiving their permit." 4
Ms. Rand earned $136,881 in 2005 in total compensation, about 17.7% of VPC's total revenue. Her salary increased each year since 2003 to keep track of inflation while VPC's total revenue decreased5 What better way to restore flagging interest--and financial support--than claiming to discover heretofore unknown facts, proving one's worth as investigator-extraordinaire? 53.7%.
An article from CNN noted that when Columbine reopened:
The students will be met by armed guards at the entrances on Monday, and more guards will patrol the hallways. But those security measures are only temporary, designed mainly to facilitate first-day-back traffic.6 [Emphasis added]
USA Today noted that after Columbine reopened, students encountered "armed guards at the school's entrance, dogs sniffing the grounds for explosive devices and dozens of police officers patrolling the neighborhood..." Perhaps the reason armed guards were temporary is because the school district "heard shortly after the tragedy and from lots of people - students, staff, parents - that they didn't want their school to be turned into a fortress..."7
Multiple web searches yielded no media reports of "two armed guards" in Columbine on the day of the shooting. This, in conjunction with the school system's use of armed guards as a temporary security measure to ease the reopening process, indicates that regular armed security as a matter of policy did not exist.
Rand claims that 5,314 Texas concealed carry licensees "were involved in committing crimes after receiving their permit." VPC's own report, License to Kill IV: More Guns, More Crime, notes that 5,314 Texas licensees were arrested between 1996 and 2001.8 Ms. Rand's attitude is contrary to our legal system where a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. For example, after a defensive shooting, the RTC licensee might be arrested on suspicion of murder, but subsequent investigation determines it was justifiable homicide because it was done to defend against the commission of a violent felony, such as attempted murder, robbery, or rape. As explained by a member of the Texas Department of Public Safety:
Texas DPS may not suspend a CHL [Concealed Handgun License] until charges have been formerly filed. So even though an individual is arrested, if they are never indicted for a felony offense or the district/county attorney refuses the case, charges have not been officially filed.9
As far as only "one example of a permit holder stopping a crime," since the beginning of 2008 alone:
- One licensee stopped an assault where the attacker first tried to use his car to hit the defender's car, and then attacked with a baseball bat when they stopped at a traffic light.10
- Another licensee stopped two men who tried to rob him in the parking lot of a shopping mall.11
- A roofing contractor in Houston successfully stopped an armed robber who demanded his money and cell phone.12
Many more examples exist for anyone with an internet connection and the desire to verify citations to accredited news sources and police department news releases.13
Crying wolf may garner temporary notoriety, but only at the expense of reputation. These wild, unsubstantiated claims might be humorous, except that the intent behind it is to reduce personal liberty at the expense of truth.
About the Author
Howard Nemerov is a columnist for Texas State Rifle Association's TSRA Sportsman and "unofficial" investigative analyst for NRA News. His new book, Four Hundred Years of Gun Control: Why Isn't It Working, deconstructs the gun control agenda and empowers readers to be better emissaries for gun rights. He can be reached at HNemerov [at sign] Netvista.net.
 Howard Nemerov, Does Violence Policy Center Represent the People? Arms and the Law. http://armsandthelaw.com/archives/VPCandPeople.pdf
2 Adam Crisp, Chattanooga: More packing licensed heat, Chattanooga Times Free Press, June 23, 2008. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2008/jun/23/chattanooga-packing-licensed-heat/?local
5 Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, Guidestar. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2004/521/571/2004-521571442-01b82729-9.pdf
6 Columbine students prepare to take back their school, CNN, August 15, 1999. http://www.cnn.com/US/9908/15/columbine/
7 Four months later, Columbine re-opens, USA Today, August 17, 1999. http://www.usatoday.com/news/index/colo/colo177.htm
8 License to Kill IV: More Guns, More Crime, Violence Policy Center, June 2002, page 10. http://www.vpc.org/graphics/ltk4.pdf
9 Email from Systems Analyst, Regulatory Licensing Service, Texas Department of Public Safety, June 7, 2005 at 10:03 AM. (512) 424-2968 office.
10 Associated Press, San Antonio road rage killing deemed self-defense, Houston Chronicle, January 2, 2008. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5418326.html
11 23-year-old killed in alleged robbery, Houston Chronicle, February 8, 2008. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5527081.html
12 Robbery Suspect Fatally Shot at 7800 Grove Ridge, Houston Police Department, May 27, 2008. http://www.houstontx.gov/police/nr/2008/may/nr052708-6.htm
13 Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog, Clayton Cramer (selected for only Texas incidents). http://www.claytoncramer.com/gundefenseblog/labels/TX.html