The more that sensational gun violence afflicts the nation, the more that the myth of the vigilant citizen packing a legally permitted concealed weapon, fully prepared to stop the next mass shooter in his tracks, is promoted.
This foolhardy notion of quick-draw resistance, however, is dramatically contradicted by a research project showing that, since 2007, at least 763 people have been killed in 579 shootings that did not involve self-defense. Tellingly, the vast majority of these concealed-carry, licensed shooters killed themselves or others rather than taking down a perpetrator.
The death toll includes 29 mass killings of three or more people by concealed carry shooters who took 139 lives; 17 police officers shot to death, and -- in the ultimate contradiction of concealed carry as a personal safety factor -- 223 suicides. Compared with the 579 non-self-defense, concealed-carry shootings, there were only 21 cases in which self-defense was determined to be a factor.
The tally by the Violence Policy Center, a gun safety group, is necessarily incomplete because the gun lobby has been so successful in persuading gullible state and national legislators that concealed carry is essential to public safety, thus blocking the extensive data collection that should be mandatory for an obvious and severe public health problem.
For that reason, the center has been forced to rely largely on news accounts and limited data in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
More complete research, unimpeded by the gun lobby, would undoubtedly uncover a higher death toll. But this truly vital information is kept largely from the public.
A Gallup poll this month found 56 percent of Americans said the nation would be safer if more people carried concealed weapons.
Clearly, concealed carry does not transform ordinary citizens into superheroes. Rather, it compounds the risks to innocent lives, particularly as state legislatures, bowing to the gun lobby, invite more citizens to venture out naively with firearms in more and more public places, including restaurants, churches and schools.
College campuses are the latest goal for the gun lobby -- a perverse marketing campaign after the gun massacre that took 10 lives this month at a community college in Oregon.
Recent concealed-carry excesses include legal shooters charged by the police with recklessly pegging a few wild shots at shoplifters and other nonviolent suspects they see fleeing on public streets.
This is dangerous vigilantism that endangers communities, the police warn, not the mythic self-defense being peddled as concealed carry.