Better Late Than Fascist

21 years ago, Florida passed its once-controversial concealed-carry bill. At that point, less than ten states had “shall-issue” laws (the Dakotas among them, if memory serves); Florida was the first big state to adopt one.

Florida state representative Ron Silver famously predicted that the state would turn into “Dodge City West”, with shootouts after fender-benders and blood gushing through the streets. Within a decade, seeing the untrammeled success of Florida’s carry law, Silver famously recanted. In so doing, he sparked a pattern that’s been repeated ever since:

  1. Carry law passes
  2. Chicken littles declare sky will fall
  3. Sky stays snugly above
  4. “It’ll fall! Soon!”
  5. No fall
  6. “Really!”
  7. Nothing.
  8. Silence.
  9. Nada
  10. Finally, after years of mostly nothing, and a few mildly-publicized cases of citizens defending themselves, a thin film of former detractors comes out and admits that concealed carry works just fine, and that they were wrong.

The Rochester Post-Bulletin may have been the first of Minnesota’s anti-gun orcs to break the thin lumpen gray line.

Sort of:

Five years after Minnesota loosened its rules concerning who can legally carry handguns, we must admit our surprise at the lack of problems that have resulted in Olmsted County and Minnesota as a whole.Handgun owners aren’t accidentally shooting themselves. Kids aren’t finding the pistol under Dad’s side of the bed and hurting each other. Vigilantes aren’t taking the law into their own hands. Police officers aren’t being shot as they approach cars during traffic stops.

I suppose it’d be graceless to say “I told you so”…

Clearly, the hoops applicants must go through, including background checks and handgun safety training, have been effective. People aren’t able to buy a gun on impulse and carry it with them the next day when they go to work or to their favorite watering hole. The right to legally carry a gun in public requires a fairly significant investment of time and money — 10 hours of training and a $100 fee — and that’s as it should be.

Actually, there’s no statistical link between safety and up-front financial investment. But let’s not digress just yet.

Hopefully, the above statements will be just as true five years from now, because in the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling, “right to carry” laws nationwide appear to be on extremely solid ground.

I’d be interested in the editor’s list of instances where “reinforcing the Constitutional rights of the law-abiding has had a bad effect”.

Get back to me on that?

But in southeastern Minnesota, we’re more interested in the number of people who actually feel the need to carry a gun in public. In the eight-county region, which includes Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha and Winona counties, 3,097 people received right-to-carry permits between April 2003 and Dec. 31, 2007.It would be easy to praise that relatively low number, which represents less than 1 percent of the area’s total population. From the “glass is half full” perspective, one could argue that based on this low number, most people in our corner of the world feel safe without pistols under their shirts.

We won’t go that route.

And while that might be a good thing – it was a dry hole – the editors unfortunately swerve into a little orthodoxy that sorta ruins the promise of their initial epiphany:

The fact is that before “right to carry” became a buzzword among gun activists, people in Minnesota had the right to keep a handgun in their homes — where, we’d argue, they are most likely to encounter a situation in which a handgun could be justifiably used in self-defense.

In public, however, we aren’t aware of a single documented instance during the past five years in which a permit-carrying handgun owner has used a gun for self-protection or to aid others who faced a deadly threat.

Then the editor is mistaken. I’ll refer you to Joel Rosenberg, David Gross and company for the details, but yes – there’ve been cases.

As to the first paragraph – “people could already keep guns in the home” – well, that’s well and good (and one of the reasons that “hot” burglaries, where the resident(s) are home during the crime, are 1/4 as common in the US as in Britain), but as usual it misses the point. Indeed, actually using the gun to thwart a crime, while an inherently morally excellent thing, isn’t the point.

“Giving criminals that sense that they could get their brains blown out for threatening a law-abiding citizen, anyplace, any time, without (much) warning” is.

The NRA and its supporters probably will claim that having more guns on the streets — in the hands of law-abiding, permit-holding citizens — has had a preventive effect. After all, violent crime did decline 7 percent last year in Rochester.

And, despite Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson’s statement that “I don’t think (the law) has had a significant impact on crime, frankly, one way or the other,” [Urban police chiefs are the last people to ask – Ed] we’ll at least admit the possibility that some would-be criminals might be thinking twice before attempting a home invasion or mugging. There’s no doubt that “right to carry” laws have increased the likelihood that a potential victim could respond with deadly force.

Whew. Well, grudging acceptance is still acceptance.

And ignorance is still ignorance:

But our concession comes with a condition: the NRA should admit that mandatory criminal background checks and handgun training do keep guns out of the hands of criminals and aren’t infringements on the public’s right to bear arms.

We won’t hold our breath.

Well, it’s a good thing you won’t, since the NRA – while advocating strict limits to prevent abuse of these background checks and the information gathered – has led the way on legislation that’s actually kept guns out of the lands of criminals.

As opposed to the law-abiding.

2 thoughts on “Better Late Than Fascist

  1. “mandatory criminal background checks and handgun training do keep guns out of the hands of criminals”

    I don’t know if I’m prepared to admit that “handgun training” will keep “guns out of the hands of criminals”. 😉

  2. That is a great quote. Too bad that the study on gun control laws done federally didn’t find any evidence that gun control does, in fact, do anything to keep guns out of criminal hands.

    Certainly a look at the crime blotters from Chicago, DC, or NYC doesn’t do much to persuade me of that.

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