Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life

By , on May 18, 2013

Firearms, Opinion


This post was sparked by an article concerning a study of countries for attributes of freedom. The study concluded that the ease of owning a gun does not correlate with freedom. Based on the false premise of the study, this finding is easy to believe. Countries like England, Canada and Australia have very few citizen rights with respect to firearms, and most commentators repeat the old rhetoric that these countries remain free.

There is no indicator for freedom better than exercise by citizens of their right to bear arms. Perhaps freedom of speech is a close proxy, but it is harder to measure due to various degrees of that freedom.  Firearms are a strong indicator of restrained government. The right to own handguns and carry them about correlates well with the American notion of freedom. So are we doing well in the United States with the best measure of freedom? A simple yes is not possible for all of us. Here are some facts to ponder:

Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 35 state laws are “shall issue” with respect to handguns, and five states (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Vermont and Wyoming) allow concealed carry without a permit. Approximately 210 million people live in these 40 states, or two thirds of the population.

The “may issue” states are roughly Alabama,  California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The other jurisdiction in this group is the District of Columbia.  Three states of this group issue permits to qualified persons: Alabama, Connecticut and Delaware. I cannot verify that this will remain so with Connecticut’s new law. The reason this list is called rough are numerous. Illinois has no concealed carry law. To satisfy an order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the legislature is working on a law that will likely be a restrictive “may issue” law. There are some states and jurisdictions where a citizen cannot acquire a permit to carry in public regardless of character, wealth or any other attribute – permits for the average citizen to carry a weapon in public will not issue. They are New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, New York City and Washington, D.C.

It is fair to say some portions of the United States are free. Other jurisdictions, fortunately a minority, are paternalistic and allow very little power to remain with their citizens. To say those citizens are meaningfully free is something I fail to understand.

P.S. Alabama will soon become a “shall issue” state. That leaves only 9 states and the District of Columbia with laws that restrict the fundamental right to bear arms excessively. (5/25/2014)

P.P.S. The governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, has a “shall issue” bill on his desk now. He is reluctant to sign it. We will see what happens, but I am sure the pressure on him from both extremes is incredible. Of course, he needs to sign this and make this well negotiated and strong bill a law. The extremists in the legislature negotiated in good faith at developing a bill that requires training for permit holders; is “shall issue,” but with a safety valve allowing the police to stop issuance; and provides a due process hearing for those subject to non-issuance. Illinois law could be close to a model bill for states, especially those with “may issue” laws.

P.P.P.S. The governor of Illinois partially vetoed the bill, but the legislature overruled his veto! Illinois is now a shall-issue state, making the total 42. Progress.

 

 



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