When Jake Jacobs was charged with four counts of aggravated assault after firing a shot inside an east Wichita store in August, he joined a very select group:
A Kansan with a concealed-carry permit charged with a crime while using a firearm.
Of the 51,078 permits that have been issued by the state since the law took effect in 2007, 44 permit holders have been charged with a crime while using a firearm through late October, according to records provided by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.
That works out to one charge for every 1,161 permit holders, or 0.09 percent.
The numbers squeeze even tighter when you consider that of the 44 permit holders charged, 17 licenses have been revoked because they were convicted of a crime that disqualifies them from having a permit. Jacobs is among the 17 whose licenses are currently suspended, pending the outcome of their cases. The remaining 10 have had their licenses reinstated because either the charges were dismissed or they were convicted of lesser charges.
Jacobs became part of the statistics after being charged with four counts of aggravated assault on Aug. 15 as the result of a shooting incident two days earlier at the Burlington Coat Factory in the Eastgate Mall, at Kellogg and Rock Road.
Police allege Jacobs entered the store and fired one round from a .38 revolver from 6 to 8 feet away at a store security guard after the guard questioned him about a soda that he had taken from a store case and was drinking without paying for it. The gunman also pointed the gun at three others nearby, police say. No one was hurt.
Jacobs is set for a jury trial Dec. 17.
One of the arguments that supporters of concealed-carry permits like to make is that license holders are more law-abiding than the general population because they’ve undergone background checks by the state. There aren’t any crime statistics that correlate with all the parameters set for a person to qualify for a concealed permit, but the violent crime rate in Kansas in 2011 was one for every 198 people at least 21 years old, or 0.5 percent, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
“Just because someone has a concealed-carry license, there’s really no guarantee that person can’t snap at some point,” said Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, the National Rifle Association’s state affiliate. “There are bad apples in every basket.”
But she said it would be wrong to take those incidents and use them as reasons to curtail gun rights.
“You don’t punish the populace by restricting their liberties because somebody might do something wrong,” Stoneking said. “If we were going to do that, we’d take cars away so people won’t have the opportunity to drive drunk.”
Gun-rights backers point to exercising constitutional rights, personal safety and deterrent to crime as reasons to carry a concealed handgun.
“The main reason people get a license is because this is a broken world, and we don’t want to be defenseless,” said Dirk Sanders, a state-certified concealed-carry instructor from Rose Hill.
Critics of concealed carry take issue with claims that those with permits help reduce crime.
Michael Birzer, criminal justice professor and director of the school of community affairs at Wichita State University, said there aren’t any empirical studies that back up claims that the permits deter crime.
“It’s hogwash,” said Birzer, who spent nearly two decades with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.
That doesn’t keep people from thinking otherwise.
The D&M Barber Shop in Derby is one of a number of businesses in the area that have a sign posted that welcomes concealed-carry permit holders to come inside. The signs also include a message in red lettering that reads, “Criminals Beware!”
“Sure, it helps deter crime,” said Vu Nguyen, owner of the shop. “Every day people walk by, tap the sign and give it a thumbs-up. We have a lot of cops come in here. We don’t want bad guys here.”
Derby Police Chief Robert Lee, one of Nguyen’s customers, doubted if the sign would make someone think twice about holding up the shop.
“It may discourage some of the amateurs,” he said, “but we have banks robbed with guards inside. I’ve worked cases where we’ve had gun shops robbed where everyone inside has guns.”
Paul Cohlmia has the sign welcoming concealed-carry permit holders at his two Riverside Cafe locations in Wichita and the one in Derby.
“I’ve only had one person object to the sign,” he said recently while at the Riverside restaurant on West 13th Street near North High School. “She said she wouldn’t come back, but Riverside is more liberal. That wouldn’t happen at the Derby or Woodlawn (sites).”
John O’Grady was focused on his laptop as he sat at a back table at the restaurant.
“I come here because the food is good, it’s cheap, and the Internet is always up,” he said.
The sign out front welcoming concealed-carry permit holders isn’t part of the attraction.
“I’m OK with concealed carry if people keep a level head,” O’Grady said. “And I like the idea they have to go through some training.
“But what if someone walked in that door and tried to rob the cash register? Can they hit a shot from the back table without hitting the wrong person? That’s my concern.”
Increase in permits
Only two states – Wisconsin and Illinois – hadn’t adopted some form of concealed-carry laws when Kansas passed its in 2006. Wisconsin later passed a law, leaving Illinois as the only state without one. Concealed carry is also prohibited in the District of Columbia.
Florida became one of the first states to have a concealed-carry law when it passed one in 1987. The state has since issued more than 2 million permits, and nearly 1 million people still hold a permit.
Kansans can lose their permits for a variety of reasons and for different lengths of time.
Some have their licenses revoked because they move out of state. Others simply don’t renew their licenses. A DUI conviction draws a one-year revocation. Conviction of a felony where a firearm was not used will bring a revocation of five to 10 years.
Conviction of a felony while using a firearm brings a lifetime revocation. Aggravated battery is the leading cause for revocation in Kansas.
While Kansas has issued a little over 51,000 permits, 48,200 people hold one now, according to the attorney general’s office. There are 9,813 license holders in Sedgwick County.
Interest in obtaining a permit has spiked recently. More than 12,400 Kansans applied for a license between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, a 24 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, the attorney general’s office said.
Women have shown a high interest, with nearly 2,500 applying in 2012, a 57 percent increase over last year.
A special unit in the attorney general’s office does state and national background checks on applicants. The office is considering asking the 2013 Legislature to increase the number of investigators from two to three, spokesman Don Brown said.
Some of the main reasons an application is rejected are that the person has been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor domestic battery or drug charges. Applicants who have been committed to a mental institution or are under a court restraining order for harassing or stalking also are turned down.
Concealed carry is completely different from open carry, a topic now being debated by the Wichita City Council.
In July, the City Council passed an ordinance allowing residents to openly carry firearms. Residents can carry firearms in plain sight, without a permit or training, a change that was made to comply with state law.
The council is investigating options to regain local control of open carrying of firearms.
Daniel Vice, senior attorney for the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said it’s misleading to limit the list of revocations and suspensions of concealed-carry permits to only those who have committed a crime with a firearm.
“It understates the problem,” he said. “You don’t want a domestic abuser armed just because they haven’t shot anyone yet. If they are beating their wife, odds are they are going to shoot her eventually.”
Vice also takes issue with Kansas and other states that don’t make their lists of concealed-carry permit holders public. Kansas only allows the names of those who have had their licenses suspended or revoked to become public.
“Because of the secrecy law,” Vice said, “we can’t know if the state is even doing its job of revoking licenses of lawbreakers. If the gun lobby really believes what they’re saying, why would they hide the information?”
Sanders, the concealed-carry instructor from Rose Hill, said he has no problem with anyone knowing he carries a gun.
“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing that needs to be confidential about exercising a constitutional right,” he said. “There are others who feel differently. They tend to be new to this and maybe a little more apprehensive. There are others (who have carried for a while) who want to keep it low key, and keep it confidential.
“But the Brady bunch considers all of us who carry to be some kind of criminal or radical, which is statistically ridiculous.”
Sanders strongly urges permit holders to continue training with a handgun beyond the initial eight hours required to get a license. Wichita’s police academy requires 84 hours of firearms training over 23 weeks, Lt. Jeff Allen said.
Tony Palbicke, a criminal justice instructor at Washburn University, has 25 years’ experience as a police officer in the Chicago area – working in the one state that prohibits concealed carry.
“The problem is people aren’t trained,” he said. “It’s not just about how to handle the weapon. After the first hour of training, you can shoot straight. But they aren’t trained when to defend themselves.
“As a police officer, I’d vote no against concealed carry. It complicates the job and puts officers’ lives at risk. I like to put my trust in the cops.”
There has been anecdotal evidence that permit holders have prohibited crime from escalating, including an incident last month in Wichita.
Steve Yager, a 65-year-old permit holder, was about to open his Club Billiards in the Delano neighborhood on Oct. 1 when a young man approached him. The man said he had a gun and asked Yager for his billfold.
Yager pulled out his .38 revolver instead, and the would-be robber ran off.
Palbicke, however, said the community’s safety would be better served if people would concentrate on being good witnesses at the scene of a crime.
“Someone comes in to rob a bank, get on the floor,” he said. “Let them get away with the money and worry about it later.”