Sound Off: Concealed Handgun Licenses

1859_Jan-Feb-2016_Penny-Okamoto_Karen-Eland

written by Penny Okamoto


On October 1 of last year, a lone gunman with six guns killed nine people and injured as many at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. This was just one mass shooting of the 353 in 2015 that left 420 dead, more than 1,300 wounded and America searching for answers. We caught up with Penny Okamoto at Ceasefire Oregon, a nonprofit against gun violence. The director of the Oregon NRA did not return multiple emails to participate in this discussion.


Some people believe that gun owners with concealed handgun licenses (CHL) can somehow put an end to our unending nightmare of gun violence. The truth, however, is that Oregon CHL training requirements are shockingly weak. A CHL applicant need not touch a gun, let alone show an ability to shoot the broad side of a barn to receive a CHL. Some CHL holders have sought more training, but that is not required by law.

It’s important to remember that a CHL allows a gun owner the ability to carry a loaded, hidden gun in Oregon public schools (yes, K through 12) or into the Oregon Capitol building to testify about a gun bill.

Some states, including Texas, require concealed carry applicants to undergo live-fire shooting exercises and demonstrate shooting competency. In fact, a live fire training component is required by law in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

In addition, Delaware requires concealed carry holders to learn techniques about conflict resolution, how to avoid criminal attack and how to manage a violent confrontation.

While the vast majority of gun owners are responsible, a CHL is not a guarantee of lawful behavior. According to the Violence Policy Center, in 2007 alone, 743 people were shot to death by someone legally permitted to carry a concealed gun. In addition, twenty-nine mass shootings were committed by CHL holders and seventeen law enforcement officers were killed by CHL holders.

So much for the theory that all CHL holders are “the best of the best.”

Even trained, armed police officers or security did not stop the Columbine shooting, the Navy Yard shooting or either of the Fort Hood shootings. At the Umpqua Community College shooting, an armed CHL holder knew from his military training that intervention could have injured more people, and he might have been killed by police on the scene. An armed CHL holder at the Tucson shooting almost shot the heroes who stopped the killer. A CHL holder at the Clackamas Town Center claims to have seen the shooter but the police report states that the presence of the armed CHL holder had no effect on the shooting.

Applicant requirements and training should be much more stringent and demanding if people are to continue to carry loaded, hidden guns into kindergarten classes. CHL in Oregon puts the public at risk by allowing untrained gun owners to carry loaded guns into sensitive places such as public schools.

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