Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Concealed carry amendment is interesting

I figure if I want to comment on this proposed amendment, I should do it soon; it doesn't seem to have much chance of getting past a Democrat majority, and is more noteworthy for the coverage it's getting rather than the chances it would become law. Regardless of my opinions on gun control in general (which I won't state, so as not to distract from the point), I find this proposition interesting.

It is interesting, in one sense, because of one of the immediate objections quoted from a police officer in one of the initial news reports: "if this passes, we wouldn't be able to tell if someone is allowed to carry a firearm." Notwithstanding the fact that the officer would presumably do the same thing he would do currently (ie: ask to see the permit and check its validity), the statement itself serves to exemplify something which many people object to: authority figures (eg: law enforcement) consider it their de-facto right to control you (the normal people), and restrict your rights. Your rights are certainly restricted in some cases by specific laws, and for legitimate social reasons, but shouldn't the default (under the Constitution) be: you're allowed unless explicitly forbidden? Shouldn't the police officer be asking, "how can we tell who isn't allowed to be carrying?" That reason alone might be enough to justify this amendment in my mind, to sacrifice some public security to regain some freedom, and not fall into the trap Ben Franklin elocuted?

Another way it is interesting is with respect to the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Essentially, the argument would be that under the Constitution, what is granted in one state as a legal status must be honored in all other states. Of course, this is not held true for laws (only for court rulings and documents), hence the need for a federal law. If you could pass a law specifying this, though, presumably you could also do the same for gay marriage (a fact which, I'm sure, has not escaped the gay marriage opponents). I'm sure it would be tested in various courts if passed in either case, but it would be legally interesting to watch, and have strong implications for federal/state legal authority.

Finally, and almost as an after-thought, there's the argument in support of the amendment itself, that having more people armed deters crime. Here, both sides have legitimate points, and surprisingly rarely contradict each other. The Republicans argue that in states with more people carrying guns, general crime is reduced (which seems to be true), while Democrats argue that in such states crimes involving guns increase (also true), and serious crimes involving guns are more likely in states more permissive to gun ownership (also true). So really, it's a question of whether less crime in general is worth an increase in proportion of crime involving the use of a gun, which seems like a debatable trade-off to me; I'm not sure which side I'd be on, but neither position seems overwhelmingly better.

So, an interesting amendment, which I thought I'd comment on; that is all. :)


  1. Nick,

    I like how you always take the debate in different angles than the usual. There is of course a problem with the current conceal legislation in that each state has their own conceal permit standards and so, if you were to take your gun across state lines, in some cases you'd be breaking the law and in others you are not. When I drive out of state, I'm always wondering if it's legal or not to talk on my cell phone while I drive. I think some uniformity would make sense, though I don't want to see any of it while the Dems are running things.

  2. I really don't have an opinion on the gun question, but I don't think you should ever drive and talk on the cell phone. Remember the time when we weren't always available?

  3. if this passes, we wouldn't be able to tell if someone is allowed to carry a firearm
    How can they tell now if someone is allowed to drive a car? Use the same method. That's the practical answer. Your answer gets to the philosophical heart of the matter. In a free society, the question always should be stopping people from doing the few things proscribed by the law. The question of "how can we tell if someone is allowed to do X" reveals an attitude contrary to American principles.

    It's unclear whether we're safer with concealed carry. In the absence of overwhelming evidence, we should always err on the side of the government leaving people alone. Even if it's proven to be safer to forbid all guns, we have to allow guns at least to the extent to comply with the 2nd Amendment.