ERROL CASTENS: We’re not outing the good guys

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

It’s often a tactical mistake for a civilian to let bad guys know he might be armed, but for the sake of credibility, I’ll take that risk.
I’ve held a Mississippi firearms permit since 2005, when a crack addict with a history of armed violence threatened my life and those of people close to me.
Never had I remotely considered carrying a gun: I was a “nice” person, and “nice” people didn’t do that sort of thing.
But when your family’s safety is at risk, nice isn’t a substitute for good.
Outing myself as a pistol-packer to make a point is a personal choice; publicizing the identities of others is a different thing altogether.
A lot of folks got understandably upset this week when Supertalk Mississippi promoted the impression that the Daily Journal was about to out gun owners just as a paper in downstate New York had done.
Editor Lloyd Gray emphasizes that the Daily Journal will not publish any names, addresses or other personal information about firearms permit holders and has never intended to do so. (Read more about that in his column in Sunday’s paper.)
But that still leaves this problem: Lots of folks are disturbed by the idea that there are civilians going about their daily business while armed.
Those who don’t carry guns have precious little to fear from people who legally do. Reason and records prove that criminals don’t need a permit to carry a gun.
People who seek permits typically have squeaky-clean records: The application process includes fingerprinting, a significant fee and submitting to an FBI background check for felonies, domestic abuse or substance abuse.
Many of us, after getting those permits, also invest in training that emphasizes self-defense law and conflict avoidance as much as tactics.
And while no group is perfect, the several million firearms permit holders in the United States commit crimes at a rate that statistically is almost insignificant – much less than most groups you can name, including off-duty police officers.
Some people seek firearms permits simply because they realize violent crime, as remote as its odds may be on a given day, doesn’t usually give fair warning.
On the other hand, many permit applicants have reasons similar to mine, either having been victims of violent crime already or facing a credible threat from a specific person or group.
Some of the most desperate are women whose husbands, boyfriends or exes have threatened them and/or their children.
It’s those people whose safety would be most sabotaged by giving away their name, location or armed status.
I’m convinced it won’t happen here.
Contact Daily Journal Oxford reporter Errol Castens at errol.castens@journalinc.com.