S.B. 137 gets its hearing today in the Nevada Legislature, in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure sponsored by state Senate Republicans Goicoechea, Settelmeyer, and Cegavske, would revise and ease restrictions on concealed carry permits for firearms. Let’s assume, for the moment, that the arguments in favor of this legislation make the following points:
#1. We’d all be safer if we were all armed. We simply want rights for law abiding citizens who want to protect themselves. The self-protection argument runs into difficulty at the moment any dispute escalates into an armed confrontation [NYT], and the very small number of instances in which a potential victim of an assault or robbery “fought back” isn’t sufficient to extrapolate into any kind of broad generalization (much less substantiate causality) about the efficacy of arming for self defense. [ncjrs] The “law abiding” part is also problematic.
North Carolina liberalized its carry provisions only to find that 2,400 of its permit holders had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors over the previous five year period. Not surprisingly, a permit holder with a history of depression, alcoholism, and suicide attempts committed a murder in the course of a bar fight. [NYT] Of course, it’s not illegal to suffer from major depression, or illegal to be an alcoholic, which raises the question: How are permits to be allocated to “law abiding citizens?” And, more essentially, “Who’s law abiding?”
Is a person with a current restraining order “law abiding?” [NYT]
“In statehouses across the country, though, the N.R.A. and other gun-rights groups have beaten back legislation mandating the surrender of firearms in domestic violence situations. They argue that gun ownership, as a fundamental constitutional right, should not be stripped away for anything less serious than a felony conviction — and certainly not, as an N.R.A. lobbyist in Washington State put it to legislators, for the “mere issuance of court orders.” [NYT]
Is that “mere issuance” of court orders sufficient to determine a person’s status as “law abiding?” Or, does the imminent threat of domestic violence preclude a person’s inclusion in this category? (More on this a bit later.)
#2. If citizens had been carrying their own firearms __________ might have been avoided. This requires some imagination; imagination of the type commonly associated with adolescent males who fantasize about What I Would Have Done; which, in turn, almost invariably reverts into a scripted entertainment piece wherein ‘they’ come out guns blazing and rescue the Fair Maiden In Distress. The historical examples are less ethereal.
Joe Zamudio helped subdue the gunman in the shooting of former Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona, he was armed. However, when the details of his story are acknowledged the report doesn’t square with the fantasy scenario. Zamudio first mistook another person trying to disarm the shooter as the killer; and, secondly didn’t want to fire for fear of being mistaken himself as the perpetrator. Zamudio came within seconds of killing not only an innocent man, but a man trying to disarm and restrain the real killer. [Slate]
Consider the reality of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre. How much more difficult the situation could have been for law enforcement responding to the scene if several people in a darkened theater had opened fire? That more victims could have been caught in cross-fire is far more plausible than any illusion of heroics in ‘battle.’
#3. The mere presence of a firearm is enough to deter some violent crime. Criminals will think twice before committing a felony on an armed person. That depends. Not to put too much faith in combining the words ‘criminal’ and ‘intelligence,’ in the same sentence too often, but if a potential felon has already pulled out a weapon and clicked the safety off then how does a holstered pistol or revolver with the safety on deter the felonious one? Or, by the lights of the gun enthusiasts do we all go about armed with the firearms unholstered, and with the safeties off?
And, we return to the domestic violence scene and to some disturbing statistics from the Washington State 2012 report in which of all the 549 fatal domestic violence incidents since 1997 55% have involved firearms. Again, the question of the protection of law abiding citizen categorization arises: If we are not convinced that a person upon whom a restraining order has been issued is securely included in the law abiding category, then are we in jeopardy of creating more violence by easing the restrictions on concealed carry permits which might be issued to these people?
Until we have amassed and analyzed more data on the implications of categorizing people as “law abiding” gun owners who have personal histories of violence, mental illness, or domestic issues; SB 137 is a premature offering to the gun enthusiasts and the manufacturers of their firearms.
Until we have thoroughly deliberated the actual use of firearms in defense of persons or property, and appraised the real instances in comparison to situations in which the lack of a firearm helped to de-escalate a situation, SB 137 is simply another gesture of support for the gun manufacturers who want to sell as many of their products to as many people as they can scare into buying them.
This is NOT a bill which should emerge from the Nevada Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary.