The Coming of Concealed Carry

On occasion, I receive e-mails from a retired Milwaukee detective, who, at the end of each communication notes, “It takes the police approximately five minutes to respond to the average 9-1-1 call, while a .40 round travels 990 feet per second.”

The point being: when citizens need the police in a matter of seconds, in the majority of instances, law enforcement is just minutes away.

The ‘armed citizen’ is, to law enforcement working the streets, a doubled-edge sword.  After all, when dealing with situations that could potentially end their lives, police officers like to play the odds, which is why they typically place the first cuff on an arrestee’s right hand.  With 90 percent of Americans being right handed, securing the strong hand first is just good sense.

Mathematically, an officer may believe having more firearms on the street could increase the odds of additional encounters with irrational gun owners.

Flip the coin over, however, and it is the officers on the street—those who see the faces of death all too frequently—that recognize the poignancy of the retired detective’s axiom.

“Reality,” as Robert Ringer notes, “isn’t the way you wish things to be, or the way they appear to be, but the way they actually are.”

It is the reality of deterrence—the bad guys getting justifiably blasted during the commission of their violent crimes—that will ultimately affect the mentality of the thug element.

About a decade-and-a-half ago, if my memory serves me correctly, a dose of reality bit a would-be armed robber in the behind during a mid-day stick-up of a Taco Bell restaurant, less than a mile from the Milwaukee Police Department’s Training Academy.  Because Wisconsin law prohibits law-abiding citizens from carrying concealed firearms, the robber saw the restaurant’s cashier—a person making probably a few cents over minimum wage—as an easy target.  Little did he know that a man behind him, dressed casually in plain clothes for police in-service training, was a carrying his firearm concealed  The barrel of a Sig Sauer pointed, just inches from the robber’s head, brought an immediate, yet peaceful, resolution to the crime in progress.

Then there is the saga of the young, unarmed Asian girl working the counter of her family’s restaurant.  When robbers burst into the eatery and demanded cash, the young girl—frightened beyond words—simply froze, which resulted in her immediate execution. Even grizzled homicide detectives winced at this senseless death, as the young girl’s mother wept in their arms.

So, as the Wisconsin legislature debates the nuts-and-bolts of a bill that enables citizens to pack hidden heat, many police officers are more than a tad apprehensive of the one-half of the double-edged sword staring them in the face. These fears seem to center around gang members legally carrying concealed weapons and the police having no authority to disarm the criminal element.

Yet even the proposals allowing constitutional carry would prohibit persons under the age of 21 from carrying a concealed weapon.  How many gang members make it to their 21st birthday without a felony conviction?  Federal law, specifically the Lautenburg amendment, makes it a crime for individuals convicted of acts of domestic violence from simply possessing firearms. Moreover, a magistrate certainly has the ability to restrict those on bail from having access to weapons of any type.  

Consider a breakdown of the probable numbers of persons prohibited, or potentially prohibited, from carrying concealed firearms:

Wisconsin population:                                5.65 million

Persons under 21-years-of-age:              1.4 million

*Persons on Probation:                                    339,300

**Persons on Bail:                                               180,000   

#Persons convicted of felonies:                    239,000 

Persons prohibited from carrying:      ##2.158 million 

These numbers suggest that approximately 38.5 percent of Wisconsin residents would not meet the simple criteria to carry a concealed firearm under the auspices of constitutional carry.

As such, I am reasonably optimistic that an experienced officer—one with a solid working knowledge of the law—will possess the tools needed to protect him or herself and the public.

The devil, however, is in the final details of the bill.

*Based on the percentage of Americans on probation but adjusted for Wisconsin’s population.

**Premised on the assumption that 46 percent of arrests for 2009 crimes in Wisconsin were subsequently charged and the accused released on conditions of bail.

#Based on the percentage of Americans convicted of felonies but adjusted for Wisconsin’s population.

##Does not include individuals federally prohibited from possessing firearms due to domestic violence convictions and those prohibited due to mental illness.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

If your organization is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files presentation The Psychology of Homicide.  For more information, visit

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011

2 Responses

  1. Mike Massa

    Can anyone understand the mindset that believes a citizen who owns a home, a car, votes, pays taxes, goes to church, volunteers in the community and has never been arrested shouldn’t have a gun because it is “dangerous to the community” but letting 46,000 adjudicated felons out of prison is “sound public policy” We are truely living in Bizzaro World.

    June 18, 2011 at 5:56 am

  2. Diane Kennedy

    Mike, I couldn’t agree more. Besides there should be plenty of experience from the other 48 states that we can leverage. If the bad guys have guns, how much worse could it possibly be for law abiding citizens to have them?

    June 25, 2011 at 4:39 am

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