Soon after the Supreme Court struck down the handgun ban in the home legislation in Washington D.C., Georgia passed a law allowing Georgians with handgun permits to carry concealed weapons on public transportation, in restaurants that serve alcohol, and in state parks. Gun owners must undergo a criminal background check. However, if a firearm is purchased in a "private sale," then no background check is conducted. According to the ATF, these private sales are a major source of firearms to those who cannot pass a background check and a major factor in the illegal trafficking of guns.

Georgia was recently declared the No. 1 source for guns used in crimes in other states. In addition, 80 percent of guns used in crimes in Georgia were legally purchased in Georgia. The ATF reported that half of all guns seized by police at crime scenes in Atlanta were purchased legally within 25 miles of the crime scene. Obviously, criminals are getting many their guns from corrupt dealers, private sales, and thefts of firearms out of cars and homes.

Gun right’s advocates in Georgia and in other states might want to take note of a study released by the New York City police department last May. The study, reported in the New York Times, included 11 years worth of annual firearms-discharge reports from 1996 through 2006.

The average number of bullets fired by each officer involved in a shooting remained about the same over the 11 years even with a switch to guns that hold more bullets — as did officers’ “hit ratio”, roughly 34 percent. When officers fired at dogs, about 55 percent of shots hit home. While officers hit their targets about a third of the time over all, far fewer bullets generally found their mark during gunfights. In 1999, only 13 percent of bullets fired during a gunfight were hits.

In Los Angeles, which has 9,699 officers, the police fired 283 rounds in 2006, hitting their target 77 times, for a hit ratio of 27 percent. In 2006, they fired 264 rounds, hitting 76 times, for a 29 percent hit ratio. So far in 2008, the hit ratio in Los Angeles is 31 percent, with 74 of 237 bullets fired by officers hitting the target.

One possible conclusion that could be drawn from these reports is that police officers in New York and Los Angeles, despite extensive training, are just lousy shots. A second conclusion might be that it is very difficult to hit a target with a handgun, even when the target isn’t returning fire.

There are approximately 300,000 gun permit holders in Georgia. Their new state law requires no handgun training. Perhaps Georgians are inherently better shots than trained police officers but I doubt it.

Paul Robinson, author of “Law Without Justice”, posits in a New York Times editorial that prototype weapons currently in development like light lasers designed to temporarily blind and microwave beams that instantly cause the skin feel as if it’s on fire may eventually make handguns obsolete like the musket.

In the meantime, if Georgians want to protect their homes, they’d be better off purchasing a shotgun.

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