Back in the 1990s, when middle-class America started being obsessed with personal security, the National Rifle Association began promoting the idea that everyone except the most deranged among us should own a gun because it was the best and most affordable way to protect ourselves against crime. Forget the fancy alarm system that usually doesn’t work, forget the 24-hour guard service that doesn’t remember to check the house when you’re away, forget moving into the gated community with the old man asleep in the guard house at the end of the drive. Just plop down a few hundred bucks, put a banger in your pocket and when the moment arrives, out it comes and the bad guy runs away.
The NRA backed up this carnival-barker approach to crime control with research allegedly proving that armed Americans prevented millions of crimes from occurring each year, with consequent savings that ran into the billions. And this research was then supported by more research which showed that wherever and whenever Americans were legally able to walk around with guns, violent crime and the costs of that crime went down. The gospel of concealed-carry quickly spread from state to state, with the number of ‘shall-issue’ CCW-states increasing from 7 states in 1986 to 36 states in 2006, while crime-fighting members of Congress like Larry Craig crafted bills to create a national concealed-carry license that, like the standard driver’s license, would be valid in all 50 states.
Once the CCW fever swept across from sea to shining sea, the NRA began making sure that we could carry those legal guns wherever we went, so the cry went up to eliminate what is known as gun-free zones, a campaign that mounted with increasing fierceness after the slaughter at Sandy Hook. After all, since Wayne LaPierre had been telling everyone that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, just make sure that there are good guys wandering around everywhere with guns. And to back up this new bromide, the NRA began fighting to give gun-toting Americans not just the right to carry a gun, but the right to carry that gun into schools, churches, bars, theaters and anyplace else where bad guys would then fear to tread.
Let’s stop for one paragraph and put all this nonsense into perspective. First, there is not a single, credible study which validates the idea that concealed-carry makes us safer from crime either in the street or in our homes. Second, there is not a single, credible study which validates the idea that using a gun to defend yourself against a criminal attack is any better than other ways of defending yourself, such as running away or calling the cops. Third, there is not a single, credible study which shows that armed citizens play any role in preventing multiple shootings from taking place. Fourth, the vaunted Heller 2nd-Amendment decision gives Americans the constitutional right to keep a gun in their homes, not to carry one around in the street for self-defense.
Of course it doesn’t really matter whether opinions align with facts; people believe what they want to believe. But it’s pretty hard to believe that when a two-year old can reach into Mom’s purse, somehow get his hand on a gun, somehow pull the trigger and somehow end up killing Mom, that this event demonstrates the value of carrying a concealed gun. This is exactly what happened yesterday in Hayden, ID, an event that the local cops called a “tragic accident” because Veronica Routledge, the owner of the weapon, held a valid CCW and therefore had every legal right to get shot to death by her own son.
Would someone from the NRA explain to me what the grieving Routledge family would be doing today if Wal-Mart had declared itself to be a gun-free zone? The next time that Shannon and Everytown make their case for keeping weapons out of public spaces, I’m not sure they’ll have great difficulty making their case. Like Walter Mosley says, “If you carry a gun, it’s going to go off sooner or later.”