George Sodini, the man who opened fire at a Pittsburgh LA Fitness health club on Tuesday killing three women and wounding nine others -- including the pregnant fitness instructor -- before turning a gun on himself, is at least the sixth person licensed to carry a concealed handgun to commit a mass shooting since May 2007, according to research by my organization, the Violence Policy Center (VPC).
The prior mass shootings are detailed in a July 2009 study the VPC issued documenting killings by concealed handgun permit holders resulting in criminal charges or the suicide of the shooter, Law Enforcement and Private Citizens Killed by Concealed Handgun Permit Holders: An Analysis of News Reports, May 2007 to April 2009 (a recent update to the study can be seen here).
In a little over two years, these six mass shootings by known concealed handgun permit holders have claimed 26 innocent lives. An additional 16 people were injured. In three of the incidents, including the most recent Pittsburgh shooting, the shooter took his own life. One of the incidents -- which also occurred in Pittsburgh--claimed the lives of three law enforcement officers. And these are just the mass shootings where the shooter had a concealed handgun permit that we know of from news reports.
Yes, news reports.
That's because, at the gun lobby's insistence, in most states information on who possesses a concealed carry permit is secret. In fact, in Pennsylvania it can be a crime to release the information.
So instead of stopping mass shootings, concealed handgun permit holders are committing them.
Rather than give pause, it's safe to predict that the gun lobby will find a way to dismiss Sodini or somehow even use the Pittsburgh shooting as an argument for giving more people concealed handgun permits -- because if there's one thing the activist core of the pro-gun movement is more attached to than its guns it's the blanket of rationalization they swaddle themselves in when their world view is challenged by reality.
It won't take long before someone argues, "If only one woman in that class had a handgun," ignoring the fact that such a statement is predicated on the argument that people need concealed carry permits to stop other people with concealed carry permits from killing them. This will soon be followed by tortured calculations intended to show that relative to their population concealed handgun permit holders don't commit that many mass shootings. Or kill that many cops.
And that's because beneath these false arguments lies a clear truth: concealed handgun permit holders want what they want. Period. And there's no number of mass shootings, dead policeman, or innocent victims that will ever change their minds.