January 9, 2008
• More Legal Guns=Less Crime?
With more people carrying guns, self-defense killings on increase
By Christopher Conley (Contact)
From: The Memphis Online Commercial Appeal dot Com Saturday, January 5, 2008
The number of justifiable homicides in Memphis jumped from 11 in 2006 to 32 in 2007.
No one is sure why, but one man has a theory.
“The thugs have started running into people who can protect themselves,” said Tom Givens, owner and instructor at the firearms training school RangeMaster, 2611 S. Mendenhall in Memphis.
Cookie Dungan, 65, (left) rolls up her target after taking her turn in a handgun class at RangeMaster, a Memphis firearms training school.
Police detectives and prosecutors don’t think it’s that simple, and they acknowledge the spike could be a one-time occurrence.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it,” said police Lt. Joseph Scott. “There are more handgun carry permits, there is more education, but you can’t say that’s the reason.”
More people are getting carry permits and more people know their rights. As many as 35,000 people in Shelby County have carry permits, which means they have had some training on the laws governing self-defense.
The education, Givens says, is “trickling down” to friends and family members.
There were 19 fewer criminal homicides in 2007 compared to 2006. There were fewer gang killings as well, which are less likely to be viewed as justified, and there were fewer beating deaths, which, again, are rarely justifiable.
But there were more deadly shootings by law enforcement officers last year — four by Memphis police, including one by an officer assigned to a federal fugitive task force. There was also one by a Shelby County sheriff’s deputy and one by a University of Tennessee officer. All were found to be what internal affairs investigators term “good shoots.”
Tennessee law gives citizens the right to defend themselves if they have a reasonable and imminent fear of harm from a carjacker, rapist, burglar or other violent assailant. They can also employ deadly force to protect another person.
And while a diminishing number of states require citizens to try to avoid a confrontation before using deadly force, Tennessee does not have such a “retreat law.”
When someone claims self-defense, it is the burden of the prosecutors to refute that claim. Tie goes to the shooter.
“The state has to prove it was not justified. … We have the burden of proof,” said Asst. Dist. Atty. Tom Henderson, a member of the review team that determines whether killings are justified.
Even if the shooting is found to be justified, the shooter often suffers trauma. Even if the shooter is a police officer.
Henderson has seen one trend: “The more the public is afraid of crime, the less concerned they are with criminals being shot.” But he can’t say that has affected the totals for justifiable homicides.
When someone claims self-defense, detectives often have to dig to determine what happened.
They look at the forensic evidence to see if it matches up with the shooter’s story. What does the gunshot look like? Is it at the right angle, the right distance? Did anyone see a gun?
Recently, a killing that looked like a case of a citizen defending himself and his girlfriend from a burglar had an odd twist.
Investigators said Antionita Clay, 31, called boyfriend Christopher Jones and told him someone had broken into her home and might still be there.
Jones went to Clay’s Camelot Lane apartment and confronted Asa Marmon, 22, who had a stun gun. When Marmon lunged at Jones, Jones shot him.
Clay filed a burglary report and denied knowing Marmon, but investigators quickly learned that Clay and Marmon were involved sexually.
Clay told police she knew Jones had a handgun and she wanted Jones to scare Marmon.
Jones told police he thought he was confronting a burglar or rapist based on what Clay told him. Prosecutors decided Jones was justified in killing Marmon, but they still charged Clay on Dec. 28 with reckless homicide.
– Chris Conley: 529-2595
Homicide, but justified
Justifiable homicides in Memphis nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007.
2007 2006 2005
Total 164 161 153
Justifiable 32 11 12
Source: Memphis Police Department
Reader Posts and Comments
Posted by bnndNbck on January 5, 2008 at 12:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Bravo! When the police can’t protect me, I can protect myself.
Posted by lucky397 on January 5, 2008 at 1:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)
I have never understood cops that don’t want an educated, properly trained, authorized citizen to carry a firearm.
Thugs thrive on victims that can’t protect themselves, but when the playing field is level the whole game changes. When law abiding citizens can protect themselves, crime WILL drop. It has been proven again and again. We’re just lucky that the politicians have finally figured that out.
Now if those hold-out states will just figure it out we’ll all be better off.
Posted by ronaldojs on January 5, 2008 at 2:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Most cops you see and hear about who are opposed to CCW are bureaucrats\politicians appointed to their post by politicians. They will usually get the appointment based on their views being in line with the boss.
For instance, while anti gun Rudi Guiliani was mayor of NYC, his political appointments to high leadership positions in the police dept would have to be anti gun. Then they can grab headlines the Brady bunch can use: “Breaking: NYC Police Director opposes a citizens right to carry firearms, calls for stricter gun control”.
When you talk to the average cop on the street, they mostly support and encourage citizens to take responsibility for their own safety. There are a exceptions of course, cops can be liberal too.
Posted by ljsh1027 on January 5, 2008 at 5:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)
I can go along with citizens having guns if the
proper training is also taken. Anyone who does not know anything about guns should let the educated person defend. We know the thugs learned from usage, they just shoot and run. Most of the people who want to defend themselves will do so with some sort of defense education. Lets make it mandatory to have some education for usage when a gun is purchased.
Posted by tjwillmsn on January 5, 2008 at 8:07 a.m. (Suggest removal)
I oppose legally mandating education for every firearm purchase.
Most people, at least if they are using their mind, will have learned how to use the firearm before they need to use it, either in self-defense or hunting.
Many a person learned, either from camps or from parents (in my case) how to use, and the consequences of said use. So why make them take a course when they already know how to use it?
If you are talking about taking a course for open or concealed carry, the law already stipulates such before a license is issued. This includes practice, and also the legal ramifications of such.
Maybe you should advocate more practice for those who might have to use it, that way if and or when they have to use this tool, they will have to confidence to use it properly?
Posted by techjas on January 5, 2008 at 8:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)
If you’re going to carry a handgun, be sure to know the law stating under what circumstances you can use it. The responsibility of having a handgun is more than knowing from which end the bullet(s) leave the gun.
Posted by Ben on January 5, 2008 at 8:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)
We need a “Castle Law” like Florida has. This protects a homeowner from civil liability if he/she has to shoot a thug on their property in self defense.
Just think of the money the taxpayers save when a thug is legally eliminated. An added bonus is that this thug will not hurt anyone ever again either.
Posted by grgric4967 on January 5, 2008 at 9:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Criminals beware! If you attempt to hurt hard working people you risk being shot! This is the only deterent! They are obviously not afraid of jail!
Posted by Poohbear on January 5, 2008 at 9:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Ref the above posts: Folks, I think we’re on the right track…
Posted by JustWatching on January 5, 2008 at 9:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)
I carry, I go to the range. I am a Viet Nam vet.
Warning to the bad guys: I have the guts to shoot.
Posted by Mary_Prankster on January 5, 2008 at 9:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)
tjwillmsn — we don’t have to have education for every firearm purchase– if we can pass a simple 1-minute background check we can buy as many guns as we want to keep at home or at work.
We just have to take and pass a class in order to carry a handgun when we are not at home or not at our place of business.
It is kind of like farmers– they can drive all over the farm with no license, but they need to pass a test to get a license to drive on the public roads.
Posted by Mary_Prankster on January 5, 2008 at 9:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Sheep, wolves, and sheep dogs—
If you have a permit to carry, please carry your weapon and use it legally as you were trained to use it.
Crooks are like wolves and most people are just sheep– they are clueless and easy to slaughter.
Permit holders are like sheep dogs- they protect the flock from the wolves.
When we have enough sheep dogs, the wolves/crooks will go hungry.
Posted by doctordancer on January 5, 2008 at 9:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)
You sound like my kind of girl.
Posted by Mary_Prankster on January 5, 2008 at 10 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Goodness gracious, doctordancer, is that a revolver in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?
Posted by bblue on January 5, 2008 at 10:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)
i agree with ben. if they come on your property u should be able to kill them and not worry about being sued. kill enough of the scum bags and maybe some will get the message and just stop because they will be afraid of getting killed. they sure wont stop raping, robbing, and stealing because they were brought up not to do it.
Posted by crstuart3118 on January 5, 2008 at 10:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Posted by tjwillmsn on January 5, 2008 at 8:07 a.m.
“I oppose legally mandating education for every firearm purchase.”
I haven’t shot a gun (rifle) in close to 30 years. I’ve discuss getting hand guns with my wife for security. Niether one of us would consider having guns without a safety training class, in addition to some range training. While I wouldn’t want a new class for every gun purchase, I don’t see where requiring a proof of a saftey class would be a problem. After all we already have to go through background checks and need hunting permits.
Posted by Not_Chicken_Little on January 5, 2008 at 11:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Just remember when your life is threatened and seconds count, the police are only minutes away…
Thanks to all the people who are putting the criminals on notice – try to rob me, try to break into my home – you WILL be shot!
Posted by msgbailey on January 5, 2008 at 11:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Thank God for those that have a permit to carry a handgun. That is that many more criminals that will not commit those crimes again. If they were tried in the courts, they will be out in 12/18 doing the same thing again. Thank you God
Posted by yellowdogmichael on January 5, 2008 at 12:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)
I am a trained citizen. I practice at the range regularly. I carry my gun always. I am armed, and I am not afraid to shoot.
And, by the way… For those who think only conservatives carry guns, I am also a very, very liberal democrat. You never know who might be armed and ready!
Posted by Mr_Kite on January 5, 2008 at 12:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)
tjwillmsn said: “I oppose legally mandating education for every firearm purchase.”
In Tennessee there is no such requirement, anyone without a criminal record, restraining order against them or history of mental illness can buy a pistol by filling out the paperwork and providing proper ID.
In order to legally carry it for protection however, what is required is passing a course that teaches a prospective hand gun carry permit applicant the proper handling of the firearm and when and how he is allowed to actually use and carry it. Then, after this training you must pass a background check that goes all the way through the FBI with complete sets of fingerprints from both hands. I know, I have a permit. I think this is a great approach and because we have it the shootings we have are generally justified. People who use a gun without this training and information are more likely to create problems rather than solve them. They are more likely to enter an area where weapons are prohibited ignorantly with a firearm on them because they don’t know the rules. They are more likely to have the weapon taken away from them by a perpetrator and used against themselves. They are more likely to harm themselves or others because they do not handle the weapon properly. They are more likely to hurt an innocent bystander or do other unnecessary damage by shooting wildly. The controls imposed on getting the permit are very good. The rules about retaining it are kind of a game though (in TN) because if you fail to renew before expiration, you must repeat the entire process, take a course, undergo the checks again, pay the initial higher fee… The state will not notify you that your permit is about to expire and so sort of sets a trap to let this happen… If you want and need your permit, you must be responsible enough to maintain it without their assistance.
I wish everyone qualified would take the time and expense to obtain a permit. It is a great education in itself.
I rarely carry, mostly if I am having to go to bad areas of town, out shopping or doing business at odd times. I am not afraid to walk around unarmed most of the time, but I wear an expensive watch, always carry some cash and occasionally wear other very expensive jewelry. I feel safer doing this with a weapon on me, especially if I am out and about.
Thank God, I have never had to hurt anyone and if I ever have to pull the weapon out I hope (and usually) just having it is enough to deter, I and most others with a permit feel the same. We are not out to hurt or intimidate anyone without a good reason, just to feel safe and protect ourselves.
Posted by bnndNbck on January 5, 2008 at 12:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)
This is one issue that should unite us all. All segments of society are affected by violent crime and all segments of society have the right to defend themselves and should have the right to defend their property. You just can’t count on the police all of the time.
Posted by ronaldojs on January 5, 2008 at 1:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)
There is protection from civil action:
Posted by mdirector2 on January 5, 2008 at 1:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)
I hope many more people get their weapons and the license to carry tham. Then maybe we can get rid of some more of these worthless, lazy, pieces of garbage that steal, rob, rape, etc.
Posted by farstars on January 5, 2008 at 2:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)
This is so wrong !
If I was walking around someone’s home stealing stuff and terrorizing people I wouldn’t want to be shot.
Posted by loctennis on January 5, 2008 at 2:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)
My step-father took a bullet from me when i was 12…trust me i’ve learned to shoot & do it well over great distances. I am now licensed for a few years & my mother is too. Its a gr8 thing to educate the oublic about the right to bear arms & protect themselves. “Thugs” pray on victims that usually are older &/or women. My mother sometimes keeps her gun visible to people so they see she can handle it. Anyway, good article & not all minorities are thugs. Look at the comment by this minority!
Posted by denniskaren on January 5, 2008 at 2:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)
We both carry, if someone tries to carjack me he will regret it.
Posted by ronaldojs on January 5, 2008 at 2:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)
My permit class at Rangemaster had a good percentage of black folks. My favorite instructor there is black. There were a couple older black ladies in that class, and I was glad to see they were there. Unfortunately, they probably live in the worst areas and will probably need the ability more than some of the rest of us.
The best way to spot a criminal is not the color of their skin, but their demeanor and body language.
Posted by dxs on January 5, 2008 at 3:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)
They threw around some statistics, just not the one to justify the headline. How many justifiable shootings were by CCP holders?
Posted by mduke1 on January 5, 2008 at 4:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)
How typical of the Commercial Appeal to title and start an article about one subject (justifiable homicide) and to change it to a twisted love story resulting in a reckless homicide charge. Mr Conley could have offered a better service to his readers and better support for his article by providing more factual accounts of armed citizens successfully defending themselves and their families. This simple bit of research could have been accomplished by opening the January 2008 edition of America’s 1st Freedom magazine wherein
Mr Conley could find six such examples of armed citizens defending themselves.
Posted by easygoer00 on January 5, 2008 at 5:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Hey you tough guys will be in great shape if you get the crooks to read the paper. All you are doing now is bragging to a bunch of ppl who read the paper daily about how tough you are.
But it does feel good,I bet. I’m all for ppl having guns.
Posted by JeremyR on January 5, 2008 at 6:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Times are changing. Tradesmen now must complete regular classes to remain certified in many trades. For that reason I believe that firearms training should be mandatory. Every one should have to take a firearms class. I said EVERYONE and thats just what I mean. We have drivers ed in high school. The hunter safety should be done as well.
If you oppose shooting, fine, don’t. But you should get trained in the hows, whens and whys. Bad days happen. Some day you may be in a store when a robbery takes place. What would you do if the guy next to you was an off duty, and the perp won the round? If you had the chance would you know what to do with the pistol on the floor?
Regular refresher training is important as well. An occasional trip to the range keeps the skills sharp. If you give a hoot for your own skin, stay sharp.
Posted by spamidohate on January 5, 2008 at 6:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)
I am at odds with your comment about not having mandatory training. The training provides the legal aspect of carrying a weapon. There is more than just learning how to aim and shoot.
I think a mandatory class on the “fallout from when you shoot someone” is a good thing and should be mandatory.
Ultimately, knowledge is good thing and may save a life or two.
Posted by rjcail on January 5, 2008 at 7:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)
I actually think that there should be more training (there isn’t any required in MS) and recurring certification for a carry-permit. I’ve had a carry permit and commssion for many years, and anytime I went through a public class (and a few law enforcement classes) there were people there that just shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon. If you can’t hit a paper target at 7 yards in a range, you should just take the gun back and get a refund.
This is just like driving…you should be required to demonstrate your ability to handle the weapon safely and accuratly on a recurring basis.
And yes…I’m a VERY conservative politically…but would fully support this restriction on carry-permits.
Posted by CodeJunkie on January 5, 2008 at 7:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Anyone ever heard of Kennesaw, GA? If thugs had an idea the person they’re getting ready to rob is armed they’d think twice. It’s simple and I have a hard time understanding why you liberals can’t get it!!
Posted by wagonburner on January 5, 2008 at 7:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)
I have a video of a rabbit chasing a rattle snake up a tree! I have seen small cats fight off big dogs. I have laughted at birds swooping down and steeling hair right off a cats back! When people fight back, the thugs often loose.
Training is always good, though not always needed. I do not think it should be required. If someone is buying a gun for home defence only, they should learn to handle it. If they are going to carry it, by law they are already required to get a permit.
I learned something a very long time ago, I have always held dear. Its better to have 12 men trying you for carring a gun, than to have 6 men carring you because you did not!
Posted by 38104 on January 5, 2008 at 9:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)
It seems that the number of citizens (residents of Shelby County)legally permitted to carry firearms is approximately 35 times the number of MPD officers, on- or off- duty.
And the number is rising daily.
Those are pretty good odds.
I I were a carjacker or some other thug, I don’t think I’d risk it.
These days, you never know who has what.
Posted by bahkah on January 5, 2008 at 10:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)
With all due respect, if the ‘detectives’ can’t figure out the causes and effects here, then Memphis really is lost.
An old maxim is that criminals commit at least 10 crimes per capture. So, on-the-scene CCW Holders/victims are doing their part to save lives and property and to reduce area crime. It doesn’t take COMSTAT to game/spin those stats.
Posted by tjwillmsn on January 6, 2008 at 6:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)
I said I oppose mandatory training for “each and every firearm purchase.” I was responding to someone further upthread.
Sheesh, you guys need to read better.
I have no problem with people getting training and much needed practice – Heck, some of Memphis Finest need more training (see article where MPD officer shot himself in the foot while being charged by a pit bull)
If people want additional training, I am quite sure Rangemaster will be happy to accomodate them. What I am opposed to is legal madates for it. A wise person will learn how to use the tools at their disposal, not go off half-cocked.
Further, tho, if you choose personally to get refresher courses to update your knowledge, that’s great and swell. But having a legal mandate aside from the CCW license starts to slide down a slippery slope of government justification of being able to use said tool.
Posted by Allie on January 6, 2008 at 3:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Tjwillmsn, the law isn’t there for the sake of “wise people.” Laws are for the unwise people. If everyone in the whole world was wise, we wouldn’t need any laws at all!
If you took a moment to think about some of the people you’ve met, I’d be willing to bet you’d prefer some of Memphis’s citizens to be forced to take a class before carrying a gun in places where you or your children might be close to whatever they take it in mind to shoot at. It also demonstrates that the gun owner is conscientious enough to show up and act right for long enough to pass the class.
Anyway I’m in favor of more people carrying guns for self-defense. My friend and teacher was carjacked and murdered several years ago. Her husband still regrets that she never got around to getting her carry permit.
Posted by bigmemphistn on January 6, 2008 at 11:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Yep, leave it to the Commercial Appeal to print such a dumb article, pointing out a new trend, yet offering no explanation.
In all of five minutes, I figured it out. Granted someone else pointed out this website, but it nevertheless contains the answer: in 2007, the self-defense laws were changed and it made it easier for someone with a permit and no criminal record to blast away in self-defense. Thus, there were more succesful justifiable homicide defenses in 2007.
Posted by bigmemphistn on January 6, 2008 at 11:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)
In light of such a good article, I must say to all: well done in 2007, and let’s make 2008 even better.
If you’re reading this and do not have a firearm and/or permit, go out and get you some. It may save your life one day, and I would hope that your life is at the top of your priority list.
I have several guns: a Browning Gold Series 12 gauge and a Gloc handgun being my favorites. Of course, I have a permit, so I usually have my Gloc on my person. Rarely ever do I venture out into the streets of M Town unarmed.
This is a war we can win. We may be losing the battles, but the war is far from over. We must unite, and we must revolt!
Posted by MaxPowers on January 7, 2008 at 6:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)
Wow, the responses to this article are some of the most well written the comment section has ever seen. Clearly, this is a well educated bunch.
I would feel comfortable with any of you carrying a firearm near me. However, I fear being around the total idiots with guns: the people you see on shows like Cops and Jerry Springer. Those who get drunk and mad, and wave them around wildly.
What we need is an IQ test for gun ownership.
Posted by frank_silbermann on January 7, 2008 at 7:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)
“Henderson has seen one trend: ‘The more the public is afraid of crime, the less concerned they are with criminals being shot.'”
Yes, concern for criminals being shot is a luxury to be enjoyed by people for whom street crime is a freak occurrence. It was like that in the 1950s — we could go anywhere we pleased, day or night, without fear.
For those who don’t want robbers and rapists to be shot, the burden should be upon them to keep robbers and rapists safely away from us.
Posted by fdxjettech on January 7, 2008 at 10:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)
While I agree about education being a good idea for any gun owner, I think it would be a bad idea to tie a class requirement to the ability to legally purchase a firearm. This would give the anti-gun crowd just one more avenue to explore for denying us our constitutional right to bear arms. Stop the education classes and you dont need to ban firearms. Education good….mandatory ?…no.
Posted by someguy on January 7, 2008 at 12:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Disclaimer: Have my permit, carry every day and have taken two different courses of instruction (already signed up for level III class.)
I’m all for not just education, but continued education… Being statutorily qualified doesn’t mean that you’re ready in the real world.
That said, I am against MANDATORY classes, unless they’re going to be free (which is a whole different can of worms – nothing’s really free, is it?) It comes down to disenfranchising a segment of the population from their God-given (and constitutionally protected) right.
I frankly feel the same way about the TN Permit class – I have no problem with the requirement, but I don’t recall having to pay to take my Drivers’ test… I am realistic enough to see that the gov’t isn’t going to willingly give up a revenue stream, though, and I certainly don’t begrudge private companies from charging.
Bottom line: Practice often, shoot straight, seek out quality instruction as often as you can afford it, and don’t ever become complacent with your environment OR your level of knowledge. Thinking you’ve mastered it all is a sure sign you haven’t.
Posted by bab57 on January 7, 2008 at 12:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)
a gun is a lethal weapon, just like a car. if you have to have training and pass a test to drive a car, why wouldn’t you need to do the same to own a weapon? it’s not a knick-knack. if you’re buying it, you have to assume at some point you will use it. it makes sense to require people to learn how. what’s the downside here?
Posted by chall on January 7, 2008 at 3:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Mandatory education for buying a gun?
What part of “shall not be infringed” do some of you not understand?
Interpreting the Second Amendment is not a policy assessment.
That discussion took place 230 years ago.
Don’t tell me that I need to be educated to exercise a Constitutional right.
I have my Tn Handgun Carry Permit, I am a NRA-certified Range Safety Office, and I practice quite a bit, but that is my choice.
The right to keep and bear arms is, like it says, a right. It’s not a privilege.
Nor is the right to free speech or the right to be free from warrantless searches.
Education as to Constitutional rights is great, but it is not a pre-condition to their exercise.
Posted by ronaldojs on January 7, 2008 at 10:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Undestand chall, most people who post here think we live in a democracy. “Constitutional liberty” if a foreign concept and lost on the average citizen.
That is how they are beating us, the dumbing down of America, and it started with the NEA taking over the education system.