State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, recently offered an eye-popping statistic about Virgnians with concealed-carry permits for guns.
"How many people with a concealed-carry permit have committed a crime in Virginia? Do you know the answer to that?" Stanley asked during a July 9 interview on The John Fredericks Show, a conservative radio broadcast.
"The answer is zero," Stanley said. ,
Knowing that Virginia has issued hundreds of thousands of concealed-carry permits, we decided to fact-check Stanley’s claim.
Stanley, an ardent defender of gun rights, made the claim hours before the General Assembly held a special session July 9 to consider gun control measures proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam in response to a May 31 mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Civic Center that killed 12 and the gunman. Republicans adjourned the session in 90 minutes without considering any bills.
Northam didn’t propose restricting concealed-carry laws. Stanley brought up the subject to make a point that legal gun owners are a law-abiding group and shouldn’t be saddled with new gun control measures.
Virginia, with few exceptions, allows people 18 or older to openly carry firearms. But carrying a concealed weapon requires a circuit court permit.
To get a permit, a gun owner must be at least 21 and "demonstrate competence" with a handgun by meeting criteria for firearm training. The applicant also must pass a background check. Permits are issued for five years.
There were 642,396 Virginians with concealed-carry permits at the end of June, according to the Virginia State Police. The state police also keeps statistics on Virginia crime. But they don’t collect data on crimes by concealed-carry permit holders, according to Corinne Geller, public relations director for the state police.
We also asked Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, if he knew of any statistics about crimes committed by concelealed-carry permit holders arrested in Virginia. His didn’t.
There is a way, however, to drill closer to Stanley’s claim of "zero" by looking at another data set kept by the state police: the number of concealed-carry permits revoked each year.
State law lists a number of reasons for rescinding a concealed weapon permit. Some involve mental issues. Permits are also taken away from people dishonorably discharged from the military. But most of the reasons are for breaking laws. They include:
- •A felony conviction or pending felony charge
- •Selling or using illegal drugs, including marijuana
- •Drunk driving
- •Illegal discharge of a firearm
- •A stalking charge
- •Being subject to a protective or restraining order
- •Conviction of two misdemeanors over five years, if one of them is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Routine driving violations don’t count.
During the 2019 fiscal year - ending June 30 - state police records show 464 concealed carry permits were revoked. In fiscal 2018, 583 were rescinded. Since fiscal 2010, 7,330 permits were taken away - an average of 733 a year.
The state police, as we’ve noted, don’t record reasons for the revocations. But for Stanley’s claim to be true, none of the reasons for these thousands of revocations would involve crime.
Stanley told us he misspoke on radio and meant to say that none of the gunmen in Virginia mass shootings - including Virginia and Virginia Tech in 2007 - had concealed carry permits. "I didn’t mean that permit holders haven’t committed petty or serious crimes, but I guess I did," he said.
In Virginia and across the country, many gun supporters say that permit holders are far more law abiding than the general public. They point to Texas, which keeps the most comprehensive records among the 50 states that allow concealed-carry.
Almost 1.4 million Texans had permits at the end of 2018, according to records from the state’s Department of Public Safety. That’s 4.7 percent of the population, or 1 of 22 people.
In comparison, 41,180 people were convicted of felonies in Texas last year, but only 163 of them had concealed-carry permits. That’s .004 percent of felony convictions, or 1 of every 250.
Although statistics don’t exist to make a similar comparison in Virginia, it can be said that less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s concealed carriers had their permits revoked last fiscal year, or fewer than 1 of every 1,000.
Stanley said concealed-carry permit holders have committed "zero" crimes in Virginia.
The state police don’t keep such records. Van Cleave, one of the most knowledgeable defenders of guns in Virginia, says he’s unaware such statistics exist. Evidence from Texas, which keeps the most comprehensive data, shows its permit holders are far more law abiding than the general public. Even so, 163 Texas permit holders were convicted of felonies last year.
We credit Stanley for acknowledging he misspoke, but we have to rate his original radio statement. It was False.