The right to own and carry a firearm is one of the most contentious in this nation, a battleground visited as often as that of free speech, abortion and the separation of church and state.
Your right to keep (own) a firearm is enshrined in the Second Amendment of U.S. Constitution, which states that, “
This brief passage was most recently challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, in McDonald v. Chicago, where gun owners argued the city’s ban on handgun ownership violated the Second Amendment. Gun owners prevailed, with the Court citing its favorable ruling two years prior in Heller v. District of Columbia ““ that owning a handgun is a fundamental right protected by Due Process that cannot be infringed upon by the States.
Now, what about the right to carry them around?
States may not be able to interfere with your ability to own a gun (unless you are a convicted felon), but they can regulate your ability to carry one. All states enforce carry and conceal/carry laws that vary slightly from state to state, but all generally require you to obtain a permit before you can carry your firearm on your person (carrying a weapon in your car within accessible reach is another legal matter which also varies among states).
And, the process is nothing to sneeze at. To carry a concealed weapon in Ohio, for example (which is similar to several other states), you have to fill out a four-page application that requires:
- All of your residences since you were 18 years of age
- An attached photo
- A response to a laundry list of possible criminal or negligent offenses, including some that would not qualify as felonies
- A guarantee that you have never been previously denied such a permit in the state
- Affirmation that you are or have never been judged mentally incompetent
- Affirmation that you are not drug/alcohol dependant.
Needless to say, States do have some say about who can exercise the right to carry a firearm.
States are also afforded the right to grant establishments and institutions located in the state the ability to enforce their own regulations regarding firearms. You’ve probably seen the signs outside your local supermarket, school, university campus entrance, park, library or other establishment.
Considering these conditions and limitations, and given somewhat restricted eligibility to legally carry a firearm, what are the benefits to exercising this privilege?
Criminals Don’t Need a Permit
The most recent data provided by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that firearms were used in more than 385,000 crimes involving murder, robbery and aggravated assault (2007). There is no information pertaining to whether the perpetrator was using a firearm he or she was permitted to carry, but it is a safe assumption that it is unlikely.
Put another way, criminals intent on using a firearm to commit a crime are not going to fret over the fact that they’re not permitted to carry it. They usually would prefer to not be associated with the weapon at all after it’s been used in a crime.
This might seem like a silly point to make, but it emphasizes the unscrupulous nature of the average gun-wielding criminal and that if you can legally avail yourself of a defense against such a person ““ it is in your interest to do so.
Bad Things Do Happen
People often have a tendency to trust in the safety of their surroundings, and generally believe that nothing bad will ever happen to them. It is a product of positive thinking, and in and of itself is not a bad thing.
Unfortunately, it can leave a person unprepared for a disaster.
The tragedy that occurred in Tucson, Arizona, that left six people dead and 13 injured is a disturbing reminder that gun violence is not some kind of thing that happens to “other people.” The suspect, Jared Loughner, legally purchased the gun he allegedly used to open fire on a crowd of people in a Safeway grocery store.
It is impossible to second-guess the nature of the Arizona shooting, but other arguably similar incidents have turned out differently. In 2005, a woman in an Albuquerque, New Mexico, Wal-Mart was attacked by her ex-husband with a knife. A fellow shopper, legally armed for just such an occasion under New Mexico’s conceal/carry law, shot and killed her assailant.
A Powerful Defense
A study conducted in 2005 by criminologist and researcher Gary Kleck revealed that approximately 2.5 million Americans use guns for self-defense each year, and was found to be comparable to a Department of Justice survey on the same topic.
Moreover, studies indicate that claims that guns in the home make for a more dangerous environment are greatly skewed. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence presents one study that states a person living in a home with a gun is three times more likely to be murdered.
These facts, however, do not take into account several variables, such as how many times a would-be assailant has been deterred by a gun owner who never discharged the weapon. In fact, reports similar to the Brady statistics do not measure any engagement where someone does not end up dead, and so also neglects instances where perpetrators were wounded, or were fired at but not hit.
This error in reportage is because these incidents often don’t end up in police or Federal Bureau of Investigation reports; a common source for “gun statistic” information.
Preparedness and Responsibility
Amid all of the anti-gun activist clamoring, whether it be about the dangers of black market sales, unregistered and untracked imports, easy access or simple overabundance, one complaint always rises to the top when it comes to conceal/carry laws: personal responsibility and judgment.
People who “don’t believe in guns” are usually uncomfortable around them, and it’s up to the person who carries a gun to do so responsibly and with purpose. Before you decide to seek out a permit to carry a concealed weapon, consider why it may be useful for you to do so. Perhaps you:
- Live in a bad neighborhood
- Carry your gun from home to the range (or elsewhere) often, and want to abide by the letter of the law
- Live in a rural/wild area where scaring off the occasional cougar or bear is not uncommon
- Want to feel prepared ““ for anything.
These are arguably justifiable reasons for going about town armed and loaded. If you want to carry a gun around because you think it’s cool, or because you believe a cop shouldn’t be the only one to have a gun on the street, there’s probably a fair chance you’re going to get somebody hurt ““ mostly likely yourself.
Carrying a firearm is a huge responsibility, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Remember, a lot of people have had to fight keep this Constitutional right. Scholars still debate the purpose of this right; whether it was granted out of respect for self-preservation alone (self-defense), or also for self-preservation in the face of tyranny.
Either way, it is a right afforded to few others and should be treated with the greatest respect.