Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Columbus NE Concealed Carry

Update: more postings at original article
In an article regarding Nebraska's new concealed carry law and the city of Columbus deciding to "opt out" as it were, several commenters waxed ignorant regarding concealed carry, firearms laws, the NRA, and gun issues in general.

Two in particular just begged for my wisdom, the first by Concerned, and a later one by roca, who listed "educator" as the occupation.

Now, I have no idea if my answers to them will make it past the StatePaper reviewers and actually get posted on the site. But that's part of why I have my own blog, right? Of course, right!!

So, here in all their original glory, are my answers to Concerned and roca:

"Someday, people will realize the NRA is only interested in the profit that can be made, not in public safety, child safety, or even the right of a hunter to own a gun.
Concerned"

Dear Concerned,

There is almost no profit to be made in selling guns. The market is extremely competitive. And since the NRA doesn't sell guns and is a non-profit organization, it doesn't have a profit motive. However, it does have an interest in preserving the freedoms endowed by our Creator and codified by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

There is nothing dangerous about allowing trained law-abiding citizens to carry weapons concealed. Your visceral opposition to it is based on fear, which is based on either a lack of information or an overabundance of misinformation. Unfortunately, the anti-gun lobby and their allies in the traditional media have filled print, radio, and television with misinformation about firearms and self-protection issues.

One of those canards is the concept of "gun safety features". Your example of having a counter on a gun is absurd, and one I have never heard before. All guns have counters. Are they externally displayed? No, of course not. Cameras have external counters because opening it to look at the number of exposures left ruins the film. Most semi-automatics have a "chamber loaded" indicator with the magazine easily inspected to determine number of remaining rounds, and all modern revolvers can be opened to visually inspect which rounds have been fired.

There are several so-called safety features that have been proposed. The most famous is perhaps the "smart gun" which will only operate for its intended user. Technology to create such a feature does not exist, but that doesn't limit the anti-gunners from trying to get the requirement codified into law. The main problem with it, even if it were possible to create, is that it cannot be guaranteed to work properly 100% of the time. When you need a firearm for self defense, you cannot have the risk that some sophisticated technology designed to prevent unauthorized use will also prevent your use.

Another feature recently pushed is called "microstamping." This technology is completely unproven. It is based on the popular CSI television series and assumes that since they can so easily match casings and bullets to particular guns, think how much easier it would be if the gun was designed to intentionally "microstamp" its identifying information on the casings. The problem with it is multifold. First, CSI story lines aside, it is rare that casings are matched to a random collection of cases fired by the same or different guns. Second, because such markings would have to be applied without adversely affecting the gun's operation, they can't be very large. Third, the barrels, firing pins, and extractors, all identified as the means for applying the microstamps, are easily replaced by necessity...barrels wear out, firing pins and extractors break. Fourth, even without replacing such items, a criminal could easily file or buff off the identifying marks...making it illegal to do so doesn't stop them from their other criminal acts, so there's no reason to believe it would stop them from this one. Fifth, marked cases could not be used as evidence, even if they did match a particular gun, because there is no way to prove that the criminal didn't collect the marked cases some other location and leave them at the scene of the crime...there is no chain of custody.

Perhaps before you again rant about what the NRA is interested in, you might want to actually read their materials. The foremost gun safety program available anywhere is sponsored by the NRA. The NRA teaches gun safety in every class, regardless of other content, and even has a special gun safety only class for elementary school children called "Eddie Eagle". The course is taught only by active police officers, usually in school assemblies, and teaches children that if you see a gun, you "Stop, Don't Touch, Leave the Area, and Tell and Adult." Tens of thousands of school children have been taught this firearms equivalent of "Stop, Drop, and Roll", and many of those children have done exactly what they were taught when they found an unattended gun.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Second Amendment to the Constitution does not only protect the right of a hunter to own a gun. It protects the rights of all citizens to own arms - weapons - for defense of themselves, their families, their neighbors, and their country...especially against a government that gets out of control and tries to take away those rights. When the right to keep and bear arms is wrongly limited to hunting or other "sporting uses," the citizens have begun to lose a right that was deemed so inalienable by the Founding Fathers that they included it in the Bill of Rights. That inclusion did not grant the right; it only codified the right which had already been granted. And, frankly, the first place I'm aware of where such a right, perhaps even a responsibility, to keep and bear arms was codified, was in Luke 22:35-38 where Jesus changed his previous instruction to go without purse, bag, or sandals, and instead told the Disciples they should sell a cloak to buy a sword if nobody had one. As it happened, no cloaks were sold that evening because two swords were found among the eleven disciples, which Jesus said was enough.

So if you're in a group of people where fewer than two of eleven are armed, perhaps it's time for a garage sale...

"It seems to me it would be better to let people carry weapons openly rather than concealed weapons. I think it would be better knowing a person has a gun than not knowing that a person has a hidden weapon. jw
educator"

It's not overly surprising that an "educator" would ask this question. The NEA has been viciously anti-gun for a long time, long before school shootings ever happened, and has preached their anti-gun message as though all their arguments were fact for years. (For the record, almost nothing anti-gun groups state categorically is fact.) I ask you to step out of your own shoes and into those of the "bad guy" when determining what is better for the "good guys." I put myself in the latter category, but have spent plenty of time with the former while visiting prisons and jails. Does that make me an expert on the criminal mind? Hardly. That caveat in place, let's proceed...

Situation: "Bad Guy" decides to prey on "Good Guy". Being criminal but not having a death with, "Bad Guy" carefully selects the victim "Good Guy" to minimize his own risk.

Option 1: Jurisdiction bans concealed carry. "Bad Guy" looks at potential victims and sees one carrying a firearm and does not see a firearm on the other. "Bad Guy" knows most people are law abiding citizens, and that criminals like him are a distinct minority. Odds are that both potential victims are law-abiding citizens. Therefore, the chances of the potential victim who does not have a gun visible probably has no effective defense against attack.

Option 2: Jurisdiction permits concealed carry. "Bad Guy" looks for potential victims and sees none carrying a firearm. However, he heard on the news last week that another criminal was shot by a potential victim. He also checked the statistics (okay, maybe a little stretch) and discovered that several thousand people have applied for and received concealed carry licenses. But "Bad Guy" doesn't live (as I do) in Ohio, so no newspapers print lists of concealed carry licensees. There's no way for him to know in advance who is not or is licensed and potentially carrying a weapon. "Bad Guy" now needs to choose between two people who both look vulnerable, but might not be.

Which of these two options do you think protect the greatest number of people? If you set aside the emotional bias and fear of guns that has crept into society in the last have of the 20th century, the conclusion should be pretty obvious. Open carry protects the individual carrying the weapon by reducing the likelihood of attack and by providing an effective means of defense. Concealed carry protects everyone, the license holder by providing an effective means of defense and the non-license holder by creating uncertainty in the mind of a criminal contemplating an attack.

Unfortunately, the city of Columbus has chosen option 1.

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