Phill Groff shows some of the popular concealed carry weapons at Trop gun shop. (Richard Hertzler/Staff)
Between 2005 and 2014, more than 123,000 handguns were purchased in Lancaster County. In the same period, nearly 60,000 concealed-carry permits were issued. Both figures mirror national trends.
So is the county — and the country —safer as a result?
The answer is, nobody knows for sure. But everyone has an opinion.
According to LNP records, Lancaster County gun owners used their weapons to shoot assailants or would-be assailants on at least six occasions in the past decade. All six incidents were later deemed justifiable self-defense by law enforcement.
In four of the cases, the alleged assailants died after being shot.
In the most recent case, James Leonards, then 22, shot and killed half-brother Christopher Leonards during a physical altercation in Manor Township in February 2013. Police ruled James Leonards acted in self-defense.
Three of the fatal incidents involved store clerks who used a gun to thwart a robbery. In the other two cases, clerks fired at a robber but missed.
“Americans with concealed handguns save lives every day,” argues John R. Lott Jr., president of the pro-gun Crime Prevention Research Center. In an op-ed published in The Philadelphia Inquirer last month, Lott argued that rising rates of concealed-gun carrying led to falling murder rates across the country.
Others disagree with that assertion, pointing out that any number of factors may be involved in the decline. Those factors range from an aging population to an improving economy, removal of lead from gas and paint (and the concurrent reduction in brain damage caused by lead exposure) and even legalized abortion.
A 2004 report by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences asserted that “with the current evidence it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates.”