Facts About Firearm Policy Initiative

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MYTH: Since 2014, police have unintentionally shot only one concealed carry permit holder during a public attack

  • Researcher John Lott claims that since 2014, only one concealed handgun permit holder was fatally shot by a police officer during a public attack.
  • No reliable database exists cataloging incidents involving concealed permit holders. 
  • The media does not consistently mention if a shooter or victim is a concealed permit holder. 
  • However, several instances of police wrongfully shooting permit holders have been identified.

Lott’s Claim:

In his 2020 book Gun Control Myths, Lott claims, “Responding police officers also have never accidentally shot a permit holder who was legally carrying and had just intervened in one of these attacks.” 

Later he states: “There has been one case of a police officer fatally shooting a concealed handgun permit holder. The attack occurred at the Galleria Mall in Hoover, Alabama on Nov. 23, 2018.” Lott explains that the permit holder was shot by police while running toward a victim with his gun drawn, but “was not involved in stopping the attack.”

In a January 2021 opinion piece in Newsweek, Lott writes, “Advocates of gun-free zones claim that permit holders will accidentally shoot bystanders, or that arriving police will shoot permit holders. But in recent years, concealed carry permit holders have stopped dozens of what otherwise would have been mass public shootings in malls, churches, schools, universities and busy downtown areas. These cases virtually never get national news coverage. Not once have these permit holders ever shot a bystander. And police virtually always arrive well after the attack has ended, so there isn’t confusion about who the target ought to be.”

The Facts: 

Since 2016, law enforcement officers have wrongfully shot a concealed carry permit holder multiple times during public attacks. These shootings nullify Lott’s statements.

Examples include:

  • On November 1, 2018, security guard Jemel Roberson stopped an active shooter inside of a Chicago bar and held the suspect on the ground at gunpoint. When law enforcement arrived, a white police officer fatally shot Roberson, a 26-year-old Black organist at a Chicago church. Police Chief Dan Delaney said, “Jemel Roberson was a brave man who was doing his best to end an active shooter situation at Manny’s Blue Room.” According to the Chicago Tribune, law enforcement said Roberson had a valid firearm owner’s identification card and was licensed by the state to work armed security.
  • On June 29, 2018, Jason Washington, 45, attempted to break up a fight at an on-campus bar and restaurant at Portland State University. Washington’s gun fell out of his holster while breaking up the fight. When he reached to pick up the gun, two police officers fatally shot him nine times. The university paid a one million dollar settlement with Washington’s family and mandated additional officer training.
  • On June 14, 2019, Greenville County Deputy Kevin Azzara responded to an alarm call at a home in Simpsonville, SC. Azzara approached the house and saw the homeowner and concealed weapons permit holder Dick Tench holding a firearm. The officer fired at Tench through the front door window, striking him with two bullets and grazing him with two more. 
  • The fatal shooting of Philando Castile is commonly cited as an example of the additional risks faced by Black permit holders. On July 7, 2016, two Minnesota police officers pulled over 32-year-old Black motorist Philando Castile with his partner and daughter in the car. Castile informed the officers that he had a firearm and was licensed to carry, but officer Jeronimo Yanez fired seven shots at Castile when he reached for his ID. Castile died at the scene.
  • On December 4, 2020, Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Meade fatally shot Black concealed carry permit holder Casey Goodson Jr. in Columbus, Ohio. Sheriff Meade was finishing a U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force operation that was targeting someone else when Meade said he saw a man with a gun. According to Meade, there was ”a verbal exchange” and Meade fatally shot Goodson. Goodson’s family says Goodson was carrying sandwiches for his family into his home when Meade shot him in the back. 

The dangers of permit holders carrying extends beyond police officers unintentionally shooting a person who was not actually a threat. The 2016 shooting of Dallas police officers is an important example of how the presence of civilians open carrying firearms can complicate the efforts of law enforcement to stop a mass shooter. On July 17, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson fatally shot five police officers, injured nine additional officers, and wounded two civilians during a protest in Dallas, Texas. The attack ended when police attached a bomb to a bomb disposal robot. The bomb detonated, killing Johnson. According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, the presence of approximately 30 people carrying AR-15-style rifles made identifying the gunman more difficult. “We’re trying as best we can as a law enforcement community to make it work so that citizens can express their 2nd Amendment rights,” Brown said. “But it’s increasingly challenging when people have AR-15s slung over their shoulder and they’re in a crowd,” he said. “We don’t know who the good guy is versus the bad guy when everyone starts shooting.”

In April 2018, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) released a letter of opposition to the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would have made it easier for people to carry concealed weapons in the United States. The letter was signed by 473 law enforcement agencies from 39 states who believed the right-to-carry law would “hamper law enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence.”

In a press release, then-Boston Police Chief William Evans said, “As law enforcement officers across the US, we oppose this dangerous threat to our officers and to public safety.” Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said, “Given the recent series of mass shootings, the last thing we need to do is make it easier for people to carry concealed weapons across state lines. This law makes no sense if our goal is to reduce deaths from gun violence.”


John Lott, Gun Control Myths, 2020
Cate Cauguiran and Michelle Gallardo, “Illinois police officer shoots bouncer at nightclub after he takes down shooter, witnesses say,” ABC 11, November 11, 2018
Zak Koeske, “Midlothian police officer who fatally shot security guard Jemel Roberson placed on administrative leave, officials say,” Chicago Tribune, November 13, 2018
Katu Staff, “Witness to deadly PSU officer-involved shooting: ‘Good guy ended up getting shot’,” KATU 2 ABC, June 29, 2018
Daniel Gross, “Greenville County deputy won’t be charged for shooting Simpsonville homeowner,” Greenville News, October 2, 2019
Jay Croft, “Philando Castile shooting: Dashcam video shows rapid event,” CNN, June 21, 2017  
Bill Hutchinson, “Mother of Casey Goodson Jr., a Black Ohio man killed by deputy, says at funeral: ‘We have to get justice,’” ABC News, December 23, 2020
Kevin Krause, “Open carry creates confusion during Dallas police ambush, but supporters say law works,” The Dallas Morning News, July 9, 2016
“Law Enforcement Leaders Express Opposition to the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” International Association of Chiefs of Police, April 19, 2018 
John Lott, “Don’t Let Anti-Gun Activists Weaponize the Capitol Hill Riot,” Newsweek, January 20, 2021

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