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Do legally-armed citizens prevent crime?

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declared the Illinois ban against legally-armed citizens to be unconstitutional and I say ‘good on that’

The only place where it has historically been harder to get a concealed carry permit than my adopted hometown of San Francisco is any city or town in the great state of Illinois.

In San Francisco, it’s next to impossible. In Illinois, it’s truly impossible. That is, until now.

Yesterday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the statewide ban on civilians’ carrying concealed weapons in the state, mandating that lawmakers write a new law that legalizes concealed carry within 180 days. And I say “good on that.”

Mary Shepard, Sheepdog
In the court’s majority opinion, Judge Richard Posner wrote that the United States Supreme Court “has decided that the [Second] Amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside.”

The 7th Circuit decision addressed a couple of separate cases, but one in particular is telling.

Mary Shepard — an Illinois resident with no criminal record who is licensed to carry a concealed handgun in two other states — was prohibited by Illinois law from carrying a firearm at the time she and an 83-year-old coworker were viciously attacked by a six-foot-three-inch, 245-pound man with a violent past and a criminal record.

She was lucky to survive. Her injuries required extensive surgery and physical therapy.

Judge Posner said in the majority decision, “One doesn’t have to be a historian to realize that a right to keep and bear arms for personal self-defense in the eighteenth century could not rationally have been limited to the home... a Chicagoan is a good deal more likely to be attacked on a sidewalk than in his apartment on the 35th floor.”

When she was attacked on September 28th, 2009, Mary Shepard was working at the Anna (Ill.) First Baptist Church.

According to the NRA, firearms are used for personal protection more than two million times a year, and that “the presence of a firearm, without a shot being fired, prevents crime in many instances.”

I’d bet a waist-high stack of green money that this statement is as accurate and reliable as Jerry Miculek himself.

CCW Good Guys Wear Holsters
A good friend and fellow shooter once told me, “Good guys wear holsters — assholes don’t.”

He’s right.

As Police1 Columnist Ron Avery observed in his excellent column, Dealing with citizens legally carrying a concealed weapon, “Concealed carry folks and cops seem to go to the same tailor — generally speaking, most will not look like dirt bags... They don’t generally have the crotch of their pants at knee height or wear their baseball hat cocked at a ridiculous angle.”

CCW folks tend to buy top-quality, purpose-made, CCW apparel available from familiar companies like 5.11 Tactical, Blackhawk, and others. An expensive folding knife in one pocket and a Surefire flashlight in another may indicate the presence of a really nice Kydex holster on the strong-side hip.

CCW Good Guys Support Cops
While I suppose there are people who have obtained a CCW who don’t like cops, everybody I’ve met who self-identifies as a legally-armed citizen strongly supports law enforcement.

Said simply, legally-armed citizens tend to consider themselves to be “good guys.”

As part of my NRA Lifetime Membership, I receive America’s First Freedom magazine to my home every month, and probably my favorite regular feature is “Armed Citizen.” The monthly feature highlights incidents in which legally-armed citizens have protected the lives of themselves or others. I love it.

As Sir Robert Peel rightly said, “Police are the public and public are the police.”

This is particularly true when you’re struggling with a suspect and need a citizen’s assistance. There are myriad examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help a cop in trouble, but one such case merits mention here.

When Charles Ronald Conner, who had already fatally shot and killed David Michael House and Iris Valentini Calaci at the Peach House RV Park in Early, Texas, took aim on the first police officer arriving to the scene, Vic Stacy took action.

Stacy saw that the officer was pinned down behind his vehicle, taking fire from the homicidal gunman.

From about 150 feet away, Stacy steadied his .357 magnum, and fired at the suspect. In the video below, which has become an Internet sensation, Stacy describes his actions, and shuns being labeled a hero.

Touching the Third Rail
When I began working at Police1 four-and-a-half years ago, I was told outright that “gun control is one of those issues you’re better off never touching.”

While it’s true that writing on this topic is tantamount to starting a food fight in the company cafeteria, the subject is important and cannot be ignored.

Some cops don’t like armed citizens. I understand that fact and I respect their right to that opinion.

But the fact is, Illinois’ total ban against any/all legally-armed citizens is unconstitutional. If I were to add to that fact my opinion, I’d say it’s also irrational and illogical.

I’m entitled to my opinion, too.

Do legally-armed citizens prevent crime? I think so.

What do you think? Add your thoughts in the comments area below.

Doug Wyllie writes police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug was a co-founder of the Policing Matters podcast and a longtime co-host of the program.