This past week Kansas became the sixth state to align itself with something called the Constitutional Carry Movement which interprets the 2nd Amendment to mean that anyone can carry a concealed weapon without having to undergo any kind of licensing requirement at all. I can’t figure out exactly which Constitution is being referenced here, since the last time I looked at the 2008 Heller decision, it explicitly defined the 2nd Amendment as granting Americans the right to keep a gun in their homes. And while I’m no Constitutional scholar, I always thought that we understood the Constitution to mean what the Supreme Court said it meant, but I guess when it comes to guns, anyone’s opinion will trump a Supreme Court legal opinion every time.
On the other hand, the Constitution doesn’t necessarily trump the law of any given state, and if a particular state wants to grant its residents the right to carry around a gun without any licensing procedure at all, then whether such a law constitutes a constitutional endorsement of limitless CCW is rather moot. But what isn’t moot is the practical effect of such laws, both on folks who decide to go around armed, as well as other folks who don’t want to carry a weapon but happen to live in the same state.
I happen to live in a state in which the license to own and purchase a gun is also the same license that allows you to carry a handgun concealed. There are no special requirements for CCW in my state and everyone who applies for a gun license must take a mandatory safety course which, frankly, usually consists of an afternoon snooze. Since my state actually has a licensing process, it doesn’t qualify as a “constitutional carry” state, but the practical effect is about the same. And most states that require some kind of pre-licensing training to be granted CCW don’t impose any serious training burden on CCW candidates at all. My state, for example, doesn’t require any live fire exercise during the mandatory safety course; Florida requires that the CCW candidate actually pull the trigger once.
Along with the fact that most states grant CCW with minimal or no requirement for actually shooting a gun, most states define CCW licensing criteria only in legal terms. In other words, if you don’t fall into one of those ‘prohibited’ categories (felon, fugitive, dishonorable discharge, etc.), you can be legally blind or completely lack all muscle coordination and still be allowed to walk around with a gun. We require candidates for the police academy to pass a battery of physical tests before we let them, as police officers, carry guns, but we seem unwilling to exercise the same degree of caution or common sense when it comes to whether John or Jane Q. Public should be allowed to go around armed.
Last week I wrote about a silly, little public service announcement on gun safety that was recently aired by the NSSF. It got the gun folks all fired up because who was I to question the credentials of an experienced shooter (and don’t forget that she’s also a Mom) when it comes to talking about safety, kids and guns. I’m not questioning Ms. Golob’s experience as a competitive shooter, and if she wants to read off a script full of nice-sounding platitudes about kids, family, communication or anything else, that’s fine. But in more than 5 minutes of talk about guns I never once heard words like ‘dangerous,’ ‘lethal,’ or any other reference to the fact that guns, like it or not, are designed to inflict very serious harm.
Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t own them or shouldn’t enjoy them. But what it does mean is that giving every Tom, Dick, Harry and Francine the ability to carry such lethality around without the slightest proof that they have the mental and physical capacity to keep that lethality under control isn’t to my mind, constitutional carry. It’s crazy carry.
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