Liberalize Concealed Carry

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

Liberalize Concealed Carry

by Ari Armstrong, January 22, 2002

Liberalized concealed carry laws bring two main benefits. First, those in immediate danger of being attacked, such as women who are being stalked or threatened, can gain an effective means of self-defense. Second, regular citizens can prevent or deter many mass murders.

It is this second benefit that State Senator Ken Chlouber wishes to limit for Coloradans. He told the Rocky Mountain News January 17, "Today's law allows guns in kindergarten. The proposal that I'm making for [concealed carry] standards across the state prevents that."

True, today's concealed carry law allows some responsible adults to carry a concealed handgun to most locations. But the anti-gun lobby and its Republican apologists such as Chlouber do not want responsible citizens to protect children at schools. Instead, they promote policies that increase the risk of another Columbine-style murder spree. It is no coincidence that petty thugs who want to kill lots of people select targets where nobody is likely to be able to fight back.

True, the Colorado Constitution fails to protect the right to carry a concealed handgun:

The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons.

We can appreciate the document's strong support of open carry and the general right of self-defense. Many gun laws now enforced in Colorado flagrantly violate the clear protections offered by the Constitution. The Constitution's exception of concealed carry is an unjustified aberration. Fortunately, Colorado's Constitution does not place an outright ban on concealed carry. Thus, the matter is left to the legislature. Just because the Constitution (of Colorado) fails to protect the right to carry tools concealed for self-defense, doesn't mean the legislature must also fail to do so. Ideally, the legislature would simply repeal all the laws pertaining to concealed carry, which would make the practice legal.

Of course, laws that restrict gun ownership generally would still apply to the concealed carry of guns. Felons legally prohibited from owning guns are thereby also legally prohibited from carrying guns concealed. (Of course, if a felon is intent on committing new crimes, neither existing laws nor new restrictions on concealed carry will stop him or her from carrying a concealed weapon.)

What's the significance of having the ability to carry a gun concealed as well as on the hip? If you're carrying a gun on your hip, and somebody decides to commit a violent crime nearby, you will likely be the first target. When even a small percentage of the population carries concealed handguns, criminals never know which person might be able to shoot them, a fact which deters violent crime generally. In addition, it's difficult to wear a gun on the hip without ever concealing it. If you put on a jacket that covers the gun, you're now in questionable legal standing. Such a situation virtually ensures abuse by those in authority. Another consideration is practicality. Women tend to wear professional clothing that doesn't easily accommodate a gun. For instance, some women rarely wear belts that would support a holster and side-arm. However, women do tend to carry small bags that make it convenient to carry a tool for self-defense.

Both Bill Owens and Ken Chlouber have said they want a new concealed carry bill in order to further restrict the permit system now in place. Owens' spokesperson Dan Hopkins reminded the News that today's system "even allow[s] authorities to issue permits for people living outside their own jurisdictions."

Chlouber ads, "Today's law says any sheriff or chief of police may issue a permit to carry weapons concealed... They can issue those permits to anybody anywhere anytime at no charge with no investigation and no restrictions... A sheriff can walk outside his office... and start handing them out like popcorn."

I do not know of an example anywhere in Colorado that lives up to Chlouber's claims. However, his comments are still revealing. He assumes concealed carry is a privilege, not a right. He assumes self-defense should be restricted and fined and limited to PC zones.

But don't we have to compromise? That's what the NRA keeps telling us. Republicans have gotten so good at compromising away our right of self-defense that they now compromise even when it's of no conceivable value. Like Pavlov's dog, they have been conditioned to an automated response even when the benefits never arrive.

But political compromise -- which means we get something good but not as good as what we ultimately want -- can never justify selling out our principles. Chlouber's main error is not that he's running a bad bill, but that he has adopted the language of the anti-gun lobby in an attempt to justify his bill. That's a recipe for failure. Republicans seem scarcely able to look past the ends of their noses. It is only a matter of time before the anti-gun lobby quotes Chlouber in an attempt to justify more severe restrictions on general gun sales. "We don't want gun sellers handing out guns like popcorn, do we?"

Indeed, already it is difficult to tell the difference between the rhetoric of John Head, co-president of Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease, and Republican Ken Chlouber. Head told the News, "If [Chlouber's] law is passed, a Seven-Eleven clerk would have more discretion when selling cigarettes than a sheriff would have when issuing a concealed handgun permit."

It is true that Head's statement is even worse than Chlouber's. Head is intentionally misleading, because, while sheriffs would have little discretion in issuing permits, they would be forced by law to issue permits with severe restrictions. Of course, these restrictions would be much more severe than those that apply to the purchase of cigarettes. But the truth has never been any great obstacle to John Head's ambitions.

It is telling that Head draws an analogy between the "discretion" open to a private business person in doing business and the "discretion" of the authorities in doling out our rights. In a market, we are free to determine the conditions under which we sell goods or services. Head suggests that our rights are goods owned by politicians that we have to buy back, if they'll let us. Perhaps John Head's intellectual great-great grandson will argue that book permits should also be subject to the "discretion" of the authorities.

I am not arguing that Ken Chlouber has fallen to the same level as John Head. It is clear, however, that Chlouber has sacrificed principles in order to appease the John Heads and Bill Owenses of the world. It is this sort of compromise, a compromise of principle, that Ayn Rand rightly condemns: "In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit."

Fortunately, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners has pointed out the errors of Chlouber's bill. RMGO has also begun to promote a considerably better bill. For more information, please see [updated RMGO page].

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com