It was a tough crossing. I couldn’t just wait for the light to turn green. I had to make certain that I was under cover so I wouldn’t be shot by all those concealed pistols around me. After all, Florida had become Dodge City in 1987, and no one would ever be safe again. If I stuck my head out, I’d be a target.
At least that’s what the Left wanted me to believe. And that’s what the Left wants us to believe if the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act that just passed the House becomes law.
The facts are, shall we say, slightly different from that picture. On two major counts. The first is historical. The “Wild West” wasn’t so wild. Careful examination of Aurora and Bodie, Nevada, two “Wild West” mining towns, paints a different picture.
These towns had a host of bars and brothels, with a fearsome homicide rate. Single, transient young males (today’s gang members?) shot each other after microaggressions (Chicago, anyone?). But other crime was virtually nil. Robbery was less than 1/15th of New York’s current rate. Burglary was 1%, and rape was unknown. One resident of Bodie did “not recall ever hearing of a respectable woman or girl in any manner insulted or even accosted by the hundreds of dissolute characters that were everywhere. In part this was due to the respect depravity pays to decency; in part to the knowledge that sudden death would follow any other course.”
Put bluntly, in the wildest part of the Wild West, private carry of firearms kept the peace, and no ordinary citizen had anything to fear.
Returning to my home state of Florida, thirty years of experience shows that “shall issue” concealed carry does indeed result in Dodge City. But it’s the Dodge City of reality. There is less than one criminal event per year related to concealed carry in a state of twenty-one million people. Most of those are misdemeanors. Concealed carry holders are convicted of crimes at one sixth the rate of sworn police officers. It’s simply not a safety issue, at least in the negative direction. And violent crime overall has steadily declined.
Florida does indeed have crime. The Orlando area, where I live, is home to several key tourist destinations. There used to be a lot of crime against tourists. When rental car bumper stickers and license plates were removed, much of that stopped. The bad guys couldn’t tell who was an unarmed tourist anymore.
This same dynamic has been shown numerous times. Burglars prefer to enter unoccupied homes, and when they do go into an occupied dwelling, they prefer an unarmed occupant, not one with a gun. It seems that they value their skins.
But there are still crimes. Within ten miles of my home Omar Mateen shot up the Pulse nightclub, killing forty-nine and wounding fifty-eight. Did I mention that it was a “gun free zone?” By Florida law, if alcohol is served and I go in, my gun stays out. He had a free field of fire. He knew his victims would be disarmed.
This event, the Sandy Hook massacre, and others suggest, but don’t prove that private carry of guns would reduce crime. But that question has been definitively answered by Professor Gary Kleck and others. Guns in private hands are highly effective in preventing both injury and property loss. Bad guys simply do not wish to die in order to steal your stuff. Millions of lives are protected annually by private citizens with guns. A month ago, a private citizen ended a massacre in Texas. Yesterday a woman with a gun protected a police officer. Other examples are legion.
Before we listen to the Lefty scream about… well… whatever… remember that what they are saying fits the answer Tommy Smothers gave when Dick asked him if he knew the Russians had a ballet company.
We do not need to refute the counterfactual arguments of those who call us “Neanderthal racist gun lovers.”[i] They have no facts on their side.
If we study the history of the Second Amendment, we find that a large part of the concern was ultimately about the individual’s inherent right to defend himself from the highwayman. This right of self-defense was a widely accepted natural right of the individual, not a right somehow granted by the state. If it did not exist, safe society could not exist. And the application to the larger question of the militia was an extension of this basic right.
This right extends throughout the entire United States. When some states attempted to limit the natural rights of citizens, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. Through it, the Supreme Court has now “incorporated” all of the rights in the Bill of Rights to every point in the country. But a handful of jurisdictions have refused to accept this fact.
Illinois, California, New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia are the most notable holdouts. They have made private ownership of firearms very difficult, and often have imposed severe restrictions on who may carry a gun. In 1977, I got a concealed carry permit from the Sheriff of San Bernardino County, California. In 1978, when I tried to renew it, I was told I didn’t have an adequate reason to exercise my Constitutional right, and my renewal was denied.
In 2013, Shaneen Allen of Pennsylvania was stopped by a traffic cop in Atlantic City. For the officer’s safety, she did what we’ve been taught to do, and informed him of her pistol’s presence. She faced a three year prison sentence. Only a pardon by the governor saved her. We could go on.
State concealed carry laws are a hodge-podge. But one thing is very clear. Concealed carry permit holders are the safest law-abiding citizens that exist. They are safer than the police. And they make the mean streets safer.
No state requires anyone to get its own state driver license while visiting. They all honor your home state license. But motor vehicle accidents cause over three times as many deaths (ca. 37,000) as all firearm homicides (ca. 11,000). When concealed carry holders are the safest of all citizens, and private gun use saves lives, why would states resist national reciprocity?
Their arguments are clearly without merit. If it’s illegal to bring a gun into a bar in Florida, the fact that you are from Kentucky doesn’t change that. But if I can carry in Florida, reciprocity will mean that I can also carry anywhere it’s already legal to carry in New Jersey. I just don’t have to get a New Jersey license. I’m already vetted. I passed the test, just like I passed my driving test.
The next time someone argues that it’s OK for New York to make a criminal out of me for exercising my natural right to self defense with the most useful implement for that task, I want to be able to tell that prosecutor that it’s also my Constitutional right to do so, and Congress has made it clear that he isn’t allowed to take it away from me.
And the next time someone tells you that national reciprocity will turn the whole country into Dodge City, simply say, “You’re right!”
[i] Arlene Eisen, Guns: In Whose Hands? A Portrait of Gunowners and Their Culture, 7 Inj. Prevention Network Newsl., Winter 1989-1990