It is easier than ever to carry a handgun in public, says the New York Times. Prodded by the gun lobby, most states require only a basic background check, and perhaps a safety class, to obtain a permit. Gun rights advocates want Congress to require states to honor other states' concealed weapons permits. The bedrock argument for this movement is that permit holders are law-abiding citizens who should be able to carry guns in public to protect themselves. To assess that claim, the Times examined the permit program in North Carolina, one of a dwindling number of states where the identities of permit holders remain public.
The review, encompassing the last five years, offers a rare, detailed look at how a liberalized concealed weapons law has played out in one state. While it does not provide answers, it does raise questions. More than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors over the five-year period. While the figure represents a small percentage of those with permits, more than 200 were convicted of felonies, including at least 10 who committed murder or manslaughter. All but two of the killers used a gun. In about half of the felony convictions, authorities failed to revoke or suspend the holder's permit, including for cases of murder, rape, and kidnapping.