FBI director James Comey testified in front of a House panel on Wednesday to discuss the agency’s 2016 budget, but he ended up making a profound point about the issue of concealed carry.
At the end of the two-hour budget hearing, Texas U.S. Rep. John Culberson, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice, asked Comey about the nature of his interactions with legal concealed carry permit holders.
Before his stint as head of the FBI, Comey worked for more than two decades as a federal prosecutor.
“You mentioned earlier about criminals with guns, I doubt you’ve ever had a problem with a concealed carry permit holder who is licensed with a background check using their good judgment,” Culberson said at the end of Comey’s two-hour testimony. “Could you comment on that as a law enforcement officer?”
“I haven’t had situations where there has been problems with that,” Comey said.
“With a concealed carry permit holder?” Culberson asked.
“No, not that I can remember,” Comey said.
“That’s a law enforcement officer’s best backup, particularly if he’s a Texan,” Culberson said.
The Texas Republican asked Comey about concealed carry as a follow-up to a question posed by Pennsylvania Democrat Chaka Fattah, a staunch gun control advocate.
“What’s your thought about what we should be doing and thinking about as a nation vis a vis the question of firearms?” Fattah asked Comey.
Comey declined to give his thoughts on the availability of guns, but instead focused on his experience prosecuting gun-toting criminals.
“I’ve spent a lot of my life as a prosecutor trying to make sure that criminal were deathly afraid of getting caught with a gun,” Comey said. “If a criminal is caught — obviously committing a crime with a gun — or just possessing it, there are severe, severe consequences.”
Comey’s differentiation between legal concealed carry permit holders and criminal carriers is something that is lost on many pro-gun control activists and lawmakers.
Many, like Fattah, fear that an expansion of concealed carry will lead to more crime in the streets. But supporters of concealed carry argue that permit holders are typically law-abiding citizens and that more concealed carriers deters crime.
One former Maryland State Police official recently testified at a state senate hearing about his conversion on this very issue. Retired Capt. Jack McCauley, who also served as head of the state’s licensing division, said in that hearing that when he took over the job he worried more concealed carry licenses would lead to “more blood on the streets.” (RELATED: Former Maryland Concealed Carry Licensing Commander Talks About Being ‘Schooled’ By Gun Owners)
But he said that after he set out to research the issue, he spoke to pro-gun groups who promptly “schooled” him on the issue. He said he quickly realized his “fears weren’t justified” and that nearly all concealed carry permit holders are responsible gun owners.