Sunday, March 8, 2009

Scott Lewis vs. Paul Helmke

Scott Lewis of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus debates Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign. Both made good points, I thought. Helmke said putting more guns on college campuses will just add to the violence, which, having some knowledge of the frat house and college dorm atmosphere, I find hard to dasagree with. Lewis countered that with fact that in Colorado and Utah there has been concealed carry on college campuses with not one single problem.

Jamie Colby, the Fox Newsperson, asked Scott Lewis about the fact that the Northern Illinois shooter had had a permit. Lewis seemed to be quibbling when he pointed out that he didn't have a concealed carry permit only the type required to purchase the gun legally.

Helmke made a nice clarification, without accusing anyone of lying. On the SCCC web site apparrently it says concealed carry permit holders are five times less likely to commit violent crimes. Most States, Helmke pointed out, won't release the information of who has a concealed carry permit so it's not possible to come up with any statistics to prove that they're not committing the same crimes as everybody else.

Here's the video. Please feel free to comment.


  1. Mike,

    Helmke confuses two issues. One is the release of just exactly which person has a concealed carry permit and the other is the number of permit holders who commit crimes.

    Those are not mutually exclusive.

    Texas records, BY LAW, how many concealed carry holders commit crime and are convicted. It is under 0.3%, do you doubt the state of Texas? Are you accusing the state of Texas of lying because they won't release the names of the people who have licenses?

  2. The claim that people with carry licenses are at least 5 times less likely to commit crimes is specific. It doesn't include the people who only register their guns, or people who only have a license to possess (the Illinois Firearms Owner ID card referred to in this story). The inclusion of these people is fairly typical--When the facts don't support their arguments, they refute something we didn't even claim.

    When concealed carry licenses are public records, anti-gun organizations almost inevitably publish the entire list of license holders. This list typically includes a couple of abused women who were hiding from their stalkers. The publication of the list generally results in a law to restrict the publication, and because of first amendment issues this requires closing access to the records rather than a ban on publication. Many of these states with closed records publish statistics on license revocations.

    Ohio has found a good compromise--The list is still accessible, but there is a ban on copying or recording the data while accessing it. This is enough to check individual incidents, but effectively prevents publishing the entire list.

    Helmke is using a situation that has been created by anti-gun newspapers to claim "we don't know"--Despite the fact that every statistic that we do know points overwhelmingly to license holders being significantly more law abiding. We aren't claiming perfection, but we can honestly claim a record equal or superior to law enforcement.

  3. Michigan also collects statistics on permits issued, denied, and revoked, including for what reasons they may have been revoked. committing a crime while carrying is plenty enough reason to have your permit pulled.

    these stats are even public information. check them out.

  4. On an interview on FoxNews, Paul claimed that Obama "only voted to keep 18 year olds from having Concealed Carry permits, he wanted to keep it at 21" (3:00 min in).

    Well, that would have been pretty standard except for the fact that Illinois DOESN'T HAVE CONCEALED CARRY!!!* He even voted against people w/ restraining orders from being able to get them (he claimed a slippery-slope) and has stated he wants a federal law banning it. As one of only two states that doesn't have CCW, one would think Paul should be able to remember that. It also sort of negates Pauls claim that "Obama wants local controls to trump federal ones". It's true in part, but only if the 'control' is anti-gun.

    The vote that Helmke 'probably' meant is the one where Obama voted against dropping the age for the FOID card (needed for ownership or purchasing) from 21 to 18. The FOID in no way authorized CCW. As one of only two states that don't have CCW, one would think Paul should be able to remember that.

    So to paraphrase Tom King, was Helmke misinformed, confused, or lying?

  5. Brian Malte, State legislation and politics director for the BC, claimed that :

    While the Illinois FOID "permit to purchase" card does require a background check before issuance, it is the only background check required for the next 10 years until someone must renew his or her FOID card. This allows people to pass a criminal background check today but fall into a prohibited class tomorrow. In fact, the Illinois State Police have verified that more than 1,000 FOID card holders were able to purchase guns (although) they fell into a prohibited category after issuance of their FOID card.

    The problem? From the FOID act:

    Sec. 8.1. Circuit Clerk to notify Department of State Police.
    (a) The Circuit Clerk shall, in the form and manner required by the Supreme Court, notify the Department of State Police of all final dispositions of cases for which the Department has received information reported to it under Section 2.1 of the Criminal Identification Act.
    (b) Upon adjudication of any individual as a mental defective, as defined in Section 1.1, the court shall direct the circuit court clerk to immediately notify the Department of State Police, Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) department, and shall forward a copy of the court order to the Department.
    (Source: P.A. 95‑581, eff. 6‑1‑08.)

    So, by law, the ISP get regular updates on the legal disposition of FOID holders and it is their responsibility to revoke it. All Mr. Malte has shown is that the ISP is failing in their duty.

    So we have two options. Either the Brady Campaign Director for State Legislation is ignorant of actual state legislation or he deliberately lied in order to mislead the public. I know where I'ld put my money.

  6. Let me clarify a couple of things.

    First, the requirements to obtain an Illinois Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card pale in comparison to the requirements, in most states, to obtain a concealed handgun license (CHL). Possessing a FOID card basically means that you're not disqualified from buying a gun (you're of legal age and not a convicted felon). It's essentially the same background check that most states conduct instantly from the gun store; however, Illinois chooses to require FOID cards.

    Most states that issue concealed handgun licenses require some degree of training and testing, as well as extensive state and federal background checks, usually including fingerprints sent to both the state police and the FBI. In Texas, for example, those background checks often take 100 days or more to complete. So it certainly wasn't quibbling to differentiate between an Illinois FOID card, which is obtained through the mail and costs $10, and a concealed handgun license, which typically requires training, testing, and fingerprints, and which typically costs $100 or more for the licenses and at least as much for the training, fingerprints, etc.

    Suggesting that the gunman's possession of a FOID was essentially the same as if he'd possessed a CHL is like saying, "Sure, he wasn't licensed to fly a jet, but he had a driver's license, so what's the difference?"

    Secondly, Texas keeps VERY detailed records on crimes committed by concealed handgun license holders, and similar studies have been conducted in Florida, so it's not at all out of line or misleading to cite statistics relating to the rate at which concealed handgun license holders commit violent crimes.

    As for the arguments about frat houses (many, if not most, of which are not technically on college campuses and, therefore, wouldn't be affected by a change in concealed carry laws) and dorm rooms (which are typically occupied by individuals too young to obtain a concealed handgun licenses), you'll find answers to all of those arguments here (along with the full list of requirements to obtain a Texas concealed handgun license and verifiable data on crime rates among concealed handgun license holders):

    W. Scott Lewis
    Former National Media Coordinator for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC)

  7. Here is some related viewing/listening material:

  8. W. Scott Lewis, Thanks for commenting and for the links. I'm honored that you came here. It was very interesting what you said about the frat houses and the dorms.

    Do you have the same low opinion of Helmke as the other commenters do? They say he's unscrupulous and deceitful. Those are my words but I think they capture the general opinion of the man. What do you think?

  9. for that matter, many of us don't think much better of you, mike.

    personally, i think that guns are one particular issue where, for whatever reasons of your own, you debate in bad faith. just how consciously aware you may be of it, i haven't yet made up my mind on.

  10. Mike,

    It was very interesting what you said about the frat houses and the dorms.

    What is the objection to those of us that didn't live in the frat houses and dorms?

    I was 22 when I started college, 39 when I graduated. Lived off campus the entire time. Air Force vet.

    Numbers are a little out of date but interesting:
    # The proportion of college students 25 and older increased from 28% in 1970 to 44% in 1995.
    # Between 1985 and 1995, the number of college men rose 9%, while the number of women increased by 23%. The proportion of students attending college part-time grew from 32% in 1970 to 43% in 1995.

    From the Census Bureau (is that another agency you don't trust?)
    1.1 million --Number of veterans enrolled in college, as of the 2001-2002 school year.

    Are you saying that people like you, experienced Veterans, shouldn't be trusted to carry firearms?

  11. I have a low opinion of the Brady Campaign as a whole. Their push for gun control tends to take a "the end justifies the means" approach, relying heavily on half-truths (i.e., deliberately confusing the public on the difference between semiautomatic "assault weapons" and machine guns) and skewed statistics (i.e., pointing out that England, which has much stricter gun control than the U.S., has a lower homicide rate than the U.S. but neglecting to point out that England's homicide rate was even lower BEFORE strict gun control laws were implemented there).

    Of course, there are PLENTY of gun rights advocates who take the same approach (i.e., pointing to flimsy correlations between the spread of "shall-issue" concealed carry laws and America's declining crime rate over the past twenty years; skewing the facts when citing actual self-defense shootings; pointing to the low crime rates in Switzerland and other well-armed countries, without acknowledging the differences between those countries and the U.S.; etc). But I don't use those deceitful practices, and I have a very low tolerance for gun rights advocates who do.

    Having met Paul Helmke personally, I will say that he seems to genuinely believe in what he's doing. I certainly don't suspect him of having an ulterior motive. And in person he doesn't come across as the most unreasonable gun control advocate I've ever met. He's most definitely not the most unreasonable person at the Brady Campaign. He's not the one who said that members of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus should drop out of school if they don't like the fact that they can't carry guns on campus, and he's not the one who suggested (while offering absolutely no evidence to support the accusation) that SCCC is an elaborate conspiracy organized and funded by gun manufacturers (both of those statements were made the Brady Campaign's communications director Peter Hamm). So, while I certainly disagree with Mr. Helmke on most issues pertaining to gun control, I don't have the same disdain for him that I have for some of his coworkers.

    As to the previous issue of statistics on crimes committed by concealed handgun license holders, you might find this editorial interesting:

    If you'd like to see the sources of the statistics cited, they're listed in the "SCCC Handbook: Texas Edition" (

    --W. Scott Lewis

  12. Scott, Thanks so much for your comment. I especially appreciate your opinion on Helmke's sincerity. I don't know how much you've read the back comments on my blog, but the poor man has been maligned terribly. I know you've heard it all before.

    About the difference between semi- and fully-automatic weapons, do you think the Bradys purposely misled? Recently they posted two videos showing the difference between the two types of weapons. Didn't you think that was pretty clear?

    The problem, as I see it and as has been stated by innumerable pro-gun people, is if semi-automatic weapons like the one shown in the Brady video, are restricted, where do we draw the line? Aren't they too similar to the guns, both handguns and rifles, even hunting guns, that are traditionally "more acceptable?"

    Perhaps this is where the discussion goes into the "high capacity clips." Would that be a fair way of guaging the weapons? What do you think?

  13. Perhaps this is where the discussion goes into the "high capacity clips."

    No such thing Mike. The Brady's and their ilk think anything over 10 round capacity is "high capacity."

    I'll put it bluntly. That's a load of shit. Several of my Sig pistols come from the factory with 12, 13, or 15 round magazines. Those are not "high capacity" they are factory/standard capacity and 10 round mags would be REDUCED capacity.

    Besides, where do we get this ridiculous and arbitrary 10 round limit? What makes a 10 round mag acceptable but a 15 or 12 round not? Why not 5 or 8 round limits rather than 10?

    It's a ridiculous restriction that does nothing but hamper the reliability and effectiveness of my defensive weapons. (and of course my state cops, who carry the identical pistol I carry are always exempted from such mag limits)

  14. Mike W., Thanks for that common-sense clarification. Clip size is a bullshit argument, just like trying to differentiate between simple hunting rifles and so-called military type assault weapons, all of which are semi-automatic.

    So where does that leave us? Anything goes, total 2nd Amendment living?

    You may have told us before, but what's your best world, if you could have it like you want it?

  15. MikeB,

    Notice that you ask Mike W

    You may have told us before, but what's your best world, if you could have it like you want it?

    But you aren't willing to do the same.

    Calling you out here. What is your best world, if you could have it like you want?

  16. Bob - I'm pro-liberty and I trust my fellow Americans.

    I'll answer that question if Mike B. does.

  17. MikeW,

    I've noticed that lately in MikeB's writing.

    He seems to want to treat the world's population as they are little kids; to be told when and how to put up their toys, told when to go to bed, etc.

    There is the difference between the anti-freedom side and us.

    We simply want to be treated like adults and treat others like adults as the case may be.

    So MikeW....what is the answer to the question?

  18. My answer - Individual citizens should be able to own, without restrictions, any type of personal arm.

    Everyone should be free to buy the exact same weapons that the avg. solider can go to war with. That includes felons. Non-violent felons should not be stripped of rights. As for violent felons. If they're trusted to re-enter society as free men they should be able to buy guns. If not they need to stay locked up. Those adjudicated mentally ill should not be able to own firearms. I have no issue with the minimum age of purchase being 18.

    Open & concealed carry should be entirely unrestricted, no licenses, no restrictions on where we can carry.

    Punish people who commit crimes rather than placing innumerable a priori restrictions on everyone just because a handful of people commit crimes.

    In short, I trust my fellow Americans with freedoms.

  19. sorry "every type of personal arm" carried by the avg. infantry soldier."

    Makes sense, since the whole point of the Amendment was to ensure we were all as well armed as those in the military.

  20. My positions on "assault weapons" and "high capacity" magazines are laid out on this website:

    Gun control advocates who support restrictions on magazine size typically ignore the fact that it only takes about two to three seconds for an experienced shooter to change a magazine. So, it takes only about four to six seconds longer to fire 30 rounds from three 10-round magazines than from one 30-round magazine.

    If you look at the example of the Virginia Tech massacre, it's not realistic to think that a nine-minute, uncontested execution-style massacre in which at least 174 rounds were fired would have ended differently if the shooter had been carrying 10-round magazines instead of 15-round magazines. Even the Virginia Tech Review panel concluded that the capacity of the magazines used had nothing to do with the outcome and that the shooter could have probably done as much damage with revolvers.

    The interesting thing about the two videos posted by the Brady Campaign is that, if I recall correctly, the Brady Campaign played up the fact that it took only a few seconds longer to fire thirty rounds from the semiautomatic rifle than from the fully-automatic rifle; however, they didn't acknowledge that it took TWICE as long to fire thirty rounds from the semiautomatic rifle as from the fully-automatic rifle.

    Many lever-action and pump-action rifles and shotguns, as well as many revolvers, can be fired at a rate of fire comparable to a semiautomatic firearm. Of course, many of those weapons take longer to reload; however, some can be reloaded just as quickly as semiautomatic firearms.

    The Brady Campaign and their ilk will never be satisfied with banning "assault weapons" or semiautomatic weapons or "high capacity" magazines. They will continue to target whatever guns are available to the (law-abiding) public until there are no guns available to the (law-abiding) public.