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Shotgun News, August 1, 2004, p. 11

"Take Him To Detroit!"

Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker, the creative force behind Airplane!, Top Secret, and a number of other side-splittingly funny movies of the last two decades, wrote the script for the now forgotten 1977 release Kentucky Fried Movie. It was a series of skits, some very clever, some very crude, all extremely funny. The longest piece was a parody of kung fu movies, "A Fistful of Yen." Unlike many of the other segments, which were too topical to remain funny, I have seen "A Fistful of Yen" shown by itself--it stands on its own very well.

There is one very funny sequence where the evil warlord confronts a British spy, and an American spy. He replaces his prosthetic hand with a sword, slices off the British spy's head, then orders, "Take him out to be tortured." The American spy says, "There's nothing you can do to me to make me talk." The warlord responds with one sentence that turns the American into a whimpering beggar: "Take him to Detroit!"

For a great many years, Detroit, Michigan, has been a symbol of a rough, tough, completely lawless American city. Because Detroit is such a rough place, the citizens of Michigan who have wanted a non-discretionary permit law have always fought an uphill battle. In 1995, I testified before the Michigan House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in favor of such a law. I wasn't surprised that it failed; Detroit, with its large black population, was the unspoken roadblock.

This isn't news. When Michigan adopted its first concealed handgun permit law in 1911, it was very strangely worded. Every county was directed to create a permit board, and to issue to its residents alone, but you only needed a permit to carry in the county where Detroit is located. The 1925 Michigan handgun permit law seems to have been passed because a black doctor named Ossian Sweet had the nerve to move into a white community, and when a mob threatened Dr. Sweet's house and family, Dr. Sweet shot and killed one of the attackers. (The Detroit Police Department, of course, had stood by and done nothing for days.) Race has always been a fundamental part of gun control in America. All that has changed is that gun control advocates have become more subtle about their purposes.

Michigan, after great struggle, passed a non-discretionary concealed handgun permit law that took effect in 2001. And what happened as a result? A big load of nothing, it appears. The Daily Oakland Press recently reported on the first three years of the new law: "Three years ago, a heated debate was raging about Michigan's plan to make it easier to get concealed weapons permits. One side said more guns would make society safer from violent crime while the other said making concealed weapons permits easier to obtain was surely a recipe for disaster.

"Three years later, neither prediction has come true.

"Law enforcement officers and local officials say Michigan's streets are no safer -- or more dangerous -- than they were three years ago when the law went into effect. But there have been no major incidents involving people with the permits. No accidental discharges. No murders. No anarchy."

As the article goes on to explain, with more than 53,000 permits issued statewide, there have been very few problems. One driver with a permit apparently opened fire on another car in a "road rage" incident. The article also points to at least one successful defensive use by a Farmington Hills woman who fought off a robbery attempt.1

On my Civilian Self-Defense Blog, I keep track of all civilian gun defensive uses. In some cases, the newspaper articles don't tell us if the civilian had a permit, but some of these incidents involve civilians carrying guns on public streets, and it seems likely that they had permits. One involved a Detroit bar owner in May of 2004 who shot and killed a robber, apparently after the owner had left the bar.2 Another was a valet who shot and killed a robber who pointed a realistic pellet gun at him.3 Other reported incidents definitely involve permitholders, such as a Detroit woman who shot and killed a man in April of 2004 who attempted to force his way into her home as she was entering.4

What effect has all this had on those who were predicting disaster? Perhaps that incident in Farmington Hills had some influence on Farmington Hills Police Chief William Dwyer, who had been "an outspoken critic of the law prior to the incident," but is now "rethinking his stance." Dwyer is still concerned about widespread gun carrying, and still uncomfortable with the new law, but he is no longer opposed to it.

Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca described how the number of weapons violations, to the surprise of some, did not increase as a result of the new law. While still uncomfortable with gun carrying, Gorcyca admits, "People are, fortunately, acting responsibly."5

I was surprised and thrilled to see coverage this careful and balanced on the issue--but I am not surprised. This has been the experience around the country. Police chiefs and prosecutors who were initially opposed to non-discretionary permit laws have frequently done what officials in Michigan seem to be doing: admitting that their concerns were overblown.

If you live in one of the states that still hasn't made the change, and you know an elected official who worrys about what might happen, I have only one thing to say to you: "Take him to Detroit!"

Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer and historian. His last book was Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform (Praeger Press, 1999). His web site is

1 Korie Wilkins, "Our quiet rise in handguns," Daily Oakland Press, June 27, 2004, available at, last accessed June 28, 2004. An article about the Farmington Hills incident appears at "Woman stops robbery with own gun," WDIV-TV, March 19, 2004, available at, last accessed June 28, 2004.

2 "Police: Bar Owner Shoots, Kills Robber," WDIV-TV, May 6, 2004, available at, last accessed June 28, 2004.

3 "Detroit – 3 dead in 2 separate shooting incidents," Detroit Free Press, November 12, 2003, avialable, last accessed June 28, 2004.

4 "Woman kills attacker," Detroit Free Press, April 14, 2004, available at, last accessed June 28, 2004.

5 Korie Wilkins, "Our quiet rise in handguns."