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Editorial: W.Va.’s upsurge in pistol permits

Look at 10 adults around you. Chances are, one of them is licensed to carry a hidden pistol, making him or her ready to kill.

West Virginia has about 1.2 million adults — and they hold 126,515 pistol permits, according to research by the state Press Association. Kanawha County leads the ready-to-kill array with 11,775 permits. Cabell County (Huntington) is next with 6,072, followed by Wood (Parkersburg) with 5,512.

West Virginia gun-carrying apparently quadrupled recently. In 2009, only 11,160 of the five-year permits were issued, but the number jumped to 44,981 last year. If that yearly rate continues during the next four years, the cumulative total will pass 200,000. (To learn the number of active permits, yearly totals for five years must be counted.)

Offhand, we assume that law-abiding West Virginians who go to the bother of passing criminal background checks, passing mental screening, taking safety classes and paying $100 fees to obtain permits aren’t much danger to fellow citizens. The worst menace, we figure, comes from criminals, psychotics, wife-bashers and others who skulk around with unlicensed secret guns.

However, there’s a different worry: Homes that contain guns are much more likely to produce murders, suicides and accidental killing of children.

A new study by Everytown for Gun Safety found that 62 U.S. children under age 14 are killed by guns in their homes or family cars each year, and 660 are hospitalized with wounds. The study said children in gun-saturated America are 16 times more likely to be shot to death than in high-income foreign nations. What a curse on America. What a horrible tragedy for the U.S. families involved.

Dr. James Binder of the Cabin Creek clinic wrote an Aug. 3 commentary saying people who buy guns for “protection” actually put themselves into danger. “Women who live in a home with a gun are three times as likely to be murdered,” he wrote. “Home possession of a gun significantly increases the risk of suicide, homicide and accidental deaths. In fact, children are twice as likely to die from a firearm as cancer.”

Therefore, West Virginia’s big upsurge in pistol permits has an ugly shadow: The guns endanger the “protected” families. And remember, many homes contain guns, even though the owners don’t get permits to carry them in public.

But look on the bright side: Nine-tenths of West Virginia adults don’t have pistol permits. If that means their homes are safer, it’s a blessing.

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