As you are no doubt aware, myself, other members of the Maine Open
Carry Association and a great number of concerned citizens have spoken
in opposition to Resolve 3-10/11 during the course of its progress
through the Public Safety Committee. I feel I have no choice at this
juncture but to appeal to you directly regarding an ongoing pattern of
behavior on the part of Councilor Skolnik which shows that he is not
acting in the interest of public safety, as is his responsibility, but
rather from an ideology which has become so entrenched that he will
not allow it to be challenged in any way.
I ask that you take into consideration my background and qualification
to speak on this matter. I am a disabled US Army veteran of Operation
Iraqi Freedom with extensive military training. I am a certified
weapon safety instructor. When I speak on the topic of firearms, I
speak with the authority of having worked with them daily for close to
a decade. I also speak from the very unique perspective of a combat
veteran who has experienced first-hand the life-changing ramifications
of the use of deadly force. I am, notably, NOT a member of the
National Rifle Association, nor will I ever be.
I am also a member of the James Randi Educational Foundation and both
a skeptic and a working scientist in training at the University of
Southern Maine. I believe that any testable hypothesis must make
predictions and be falsifiable. It is with regard to this basic test
of the scientific method that Councilor Skolnik is failing his
constituents by pushing this resolution.
Myself and Mr. Belanger have made available to Councilor Skolnik, in
meetings at city hall, many of the hard statistics which demonstrate
that in the United States, depriving law abiding citizens of the right
to bear tools of self defense always results in an increase of
victimhood. Firearm ownership, per capita, has increased nationally by
about 1% per year in the last 15 years. We now have 9 guns for every
10 people in the United States. During this same period, violent crime
has decreased significantly on a national level, but remained highest
in areas with comprehensive gun bans such as Chicago and Washington,
D.C. This data presents, at its simplest, a direct refutation to the
idea that more guns equate to more crime. It also strongly implies
that more guns, in fact, lead to less crime, which I intend to explore
in greater detail.
In 1987, the State of Florida enacted shall-issue concealed carry
legislation, much to the chagrin of gun control advocates who stated
that the prevalence of firearms would lead to "fender-benders turning
into shootouts.” At the time of this writing, Florida has the highest
per-capita issuance of CCW permits of any state. A “shall-issue” state
must issue a permit if there is no legal reason not to, while a “may
issue” state may refuse on any number of grounds, or even decline to
provide justification. Maine is also a “shall issue” state, in
accordance with our long tradition of firearm rights.
What happened in Florida was a remarkable drop in violent crime.
Furthermore, Florida CCW holders have proven to be the most
law-abiding segment of the state population, with only 1.08 per
100,000 licensed concealed carriers having their permit revoked for
firearm-related offenses in a given year. If the entire nation met
this standard, that would result in 3,240 firearm-related revocations
per year. Note that a "firearm-related offense" covers many behaviors,
from carrying unlawfully in a designated "gun-free zone", to
brandishing, negligent discharges, and ultimately continuing through
homicide. As the US had over 17,000 gun-related homicides in 2007 (the
most recent year on record) it is clearly not the law-abiding citizens
who are committing even a significant fraction of these crimes. The
brute fact of the matter is that law abiding citizens who choose to
arm themselves remain law-abiding citizens once they have done so in
over 99.99% of cases.
This information has been made readily available to Councilor Skolnik
on more that one occasion. We have also made available to him reports
from the FBI uniform crime statistics showing that guns are used
defensively in the prevention of a crime as many as two million times
per year. The terminology of "defensive use" in this context does not
necessarily require firing the weapon, but also covers the spectrum of
passive deterrence (high issuance of CCW permits and the practice of
open-carry deters criminals before they act), verbal deterrence ("I
have a gun"), and active deterrence ("stop or I will shoot").
Ultimately the defensive kinetic use of a firearm in the prevention of
a crime accounts for about 162,000 shootings a year, or just over 12%.
The deterrent, non-lethal effect of an armed population constitutes
the other 88%.
Councilor Skolnik's response to this information has been to assert
that he "doesn't want people waving guns around at the civic center"
(12 October Public Safety Committee meeting) before asserting
(counter-intuitively) that such verbiage was in no way inflammatory.
Yesterday, on WLOB radio, he said there was no evidence that an armed
citizen had ever defended themselves in an active shooter scenario (in
glaring contrast to the reality that a number of citizens did exactly
that at the University of Texas in 1966, one of whom even accompanied
police forces into the tower). He is openly oblivious to the fact that
law-abiding citizens do not carry their weapons into "gun-free zones"
such as Virginia Tech and are therefore incapable of using them in
self defense when someone violates these invisible boundaries and
starts executing his classmates. Councilor Skolnik would create more
of these "victim zones" through this misguided resolution. In a very
real sense he has allowed his fear and hatred of guns to subsume his
analytical thinking on the topic. The hypothesis that prohibiting
carry will reduce crime has been shown to be false, and in fact the
reverse is supported by all the evidence.
Almost 40% of convicted felons interviewed (again, from the FBI
uniform crime statistics) stated that they had been scared off,
detained, or wounded by a potential victim who was armed. 80% stated
they knew someone for whom this was the case. These statistics alone
speak volumes about the efficacy of firearms as a crime deterrent.
There also remains perhaps the most relevant issue in this whole
debate, the Constitution of the State of Maine, Article 1, Section 16,
"Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall
never be questioned."
I raise this issue now because I am an advocate for "evidence-based
politics" and my position is based first and foremost on factual and
statistical grounds. Recourse to the primacy of the state constitution
is, to me, a secondary objection but it remains an abject reality that
this article and section clearly prohibit any legislation which would
be based on the proposed resolution. The boundary imposed on the
legislature by this one sentence is clear and unambiguous, more so
even than the text of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution.
Councilor Daniel Skolnik is ignoring factual reality, willfully and to
the detriment of the public safety, in contravention of the state
constitution, and I ask that you oppose this measure and succeed where
he is failing.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Co-Founder, The Maine Open Carry Association