You probably know most of the good things about living in Maine, but you may be unaware of one:

We have the lowest crime rate in the nation, according to the latest figures in the 2012 U.S. Census.

Vermont and New Hampshire are close, but Maine’s crime rate is still significantly lower. Mainers have about one-tenth of 1 percent chance of being involved in a violent crime (murder, rape, robbery or aggravated assault).

Another way to think about it: There were 24 murders in Maine in 2010, while there were 161 traffic fatalities. Mainers that year were nearly seven times more likely to die in a car crash.

Utah’s rate is twice as high and Kansas is four times as high. In South Carolina, with the highest violent crime rate in the U.S., a person is seven times more likely to be involved in a violent crime.

But here’s a strange thing about Maine: We have had a 46 percent increase in applications for concealed handgun permits over the last several years. In fact, the state’s system for checking backgrounds is now running three months behind schedule and the workers there cannot keep up.

Young people, women, grandmothers are yearning to pack a sidearm when they go to the corner store. This is about as practical as carrying an electric drill.

This is, of course, about more than simply protecting your home and family. Mainers are allowed to keep handguns and rifles at home without a permit. They are also allowed to carry them openly, although few people do.

The thousands of people buying guns and applying for concealed carry permits are afraid of what might happen to them OUTSIDE their homes.

Again, this makes little or no sense in a state with such a low crime rate. It makes even less sense when you realize the vast majority of violent crimes involve people who know each other.

Statistically, a person who buys a gun is much more likely to use it on a friend, relative or family member than anyone else.

So, why such a strong urge to carry a couple of pounds of steel on the hip, under the shoulder or stuffed in a purse?

Maybe it’s the recession. Perhaps people fear the unemployed are going to rob them when they go out. Oddly, the property crime rate has gone down in this recession.

More likely it is the news stories about drug-related crimes. Yet property crimes here are also the lowest in the U.S. and have declined significantly over the past 10 years.

But is this really a problem? So what if people walk around for 50 years carrying a gun they never use? Maine already has the second-highest rate of gun ownership and relatively few gun deaths.

But owning a gun is far less dangerous than toting one around every day, as we see in the spike of self-inflicted gun wounds each hunting season.

We should worry about two things:

First, some people carrying guns are itching to use them. Last week in Florida, one of those people apparently tracked down and shot to death a black teenager who was unarmed and apparently minding his own business.

Second, we need to be concerned about complacency. In separate incidents in western Washington state in recent weeks, two children were killed by unattended guns, including the child of a police officer. Another child was seriously wounded.

The last time that happened in our area was in 2009 when a Mexico boy shot himself with a derringer in his grandparents’ home.

Perhaps a nation hell-bent on carrying guns will become a safer place, but it’s hard to imagine it becoming any safer than Maine already is.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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