In response to one of the most important social issues ever decided by the Supreme Court, the pro-gun community has begun an all-out campaign to get themselves next in line to benefit from the idea that no state law can restrict what is a Constitutional right. In the case of gay marriage, the right in question was equality as defined by the 14th Amendment; in the case of guns it’s the 2nd Amendment right to ‘bear arms.’ And what the pro-gun gang claims is that the right to bear arms also includes the right to carry a concealed (or open) weapon outside the home; hence, the SCOTUS should affirm the constitutionality of concealed-carry reciprocity that would make CCW legal in every state.
The idea of national concealed-carry has been kicking around Congress ever since then-Senator Larry Craig took himself out of a men’s toilet in 1997 and introduced a national CCW bill. Every year the NRA finds another Congressional flunky to re-introduce this measure, and every year it gets closer to a vote. There was some vague talk this year that the bill might actually clear the Senate, but as long as you-know-who is the tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s nothing more than loose talk. Of course if Donald Trump became the 45th President…. Did I actually say that?
Anyway, ever since the SCOTUS declared private gun ownership to be a protected Constitutional right, the pro-gun folks have been banging away at the issue of national concealed-carry, and to a certain degree, they appear to have public opinion on their side. Gallup has been asking Americans whether they would back a ban on handguns since 1959, and that year 64% believed that handguns should be banned, this year 73% believe that handgun ownership is okay. According to Pew, for the first time a majority of Americans also believe that guns make us safer from crime and represent less, rather than more of a risk.
Even though there still appears to be overwhelming support for such things as universal background checks, the findings by Gallup and Pew don’t give much comfort to folks who advocate less access to guns, in particular access that would allow any law-abiding individual to stick a gun in his or her pocket and stroll down the street. I don’t care how many pro-gun zealots gang up on me about this one, but there is simply no credible evidence that keeping a gun in the home or in your waistband for self-defense makes you or anyone else safer from crime. And in case you’re still not sure what I mean by the previous sentence, it means no as in nothing at all. The NRA and its legions of media supporters can riff from today to next year about how good guys with guns protect us from bad guys with guns, but I’m sorry, what they are saying simply isn’t true.
The problem for those who want more common-sense gun policies is that those damn public opinion polls all seem to be going the other way. And like it or not, judicial decisions tend to follow and reflect social norms. It’s not surprising that the Court ruled in favor of gay marriage given that support for same-sex unions has more than doubled over the last twenty years. Which means that if public opinion keeps moving in favor of more, rather than less ‘gun rights,’ perhaps the NRA and the national CCW-movement will finally get what it wants.
But I’m not so sure that this will be the case. In fact, polling on issues related to guns shows a much different pattern than polling over civil rights. In the latter case, more Americans have steadily and consistently favored equality when it comes to gender and race. As to the former, the poll numbers tend to go up and down. The NRA can proclaim that it’s America’s oldest civil rights organization, but I didn’t notice Wayne-o applauding when Obergefell v. Hodges was announced.