Dire predictions were once again flowing from America’s Dairyland as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker prepared to sign a bill providing for some state-approved citizens to carry concealed firearms.
An Associated Press story in last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune breathlessly warned that “city officials and business owners around the state will only have four months to figure out how to comply with the law while also keeping citizens and customers safe” and that “law enforcement agencies will need to prepare for the possibility of more people carrying hidden guns in public.” The article does go on to include some of the arguments of supporters of the bill, but the clear intent of the article is to gin up fear and doubt among citizens, neighbors and business owners.
The blood-in-the-streets mantra, which has been repeated each time any state or municipality has introduced or passed concealed carry laws or expanded recognition of firearms rights, seems to finally be losing its steam though, as Wisconsin is the 49th state to enact some form of concealed carry, and the predictions of bedlam have never once come true.
Even the one law enforcement official the AP could find to comment against the new law, Grant County Sheriff Keith Govier, admitted that his peers in other states had told him that while they had expected additional problems when concealed carry laws were passed in their states, such problems had never materialized.
Still, Grovier expressed concern for the safety of officers making late night traffic stops or responding to domestic violence incidents where an “angry suspect has quick access to the gun,” but he then noted that most of the armed citizens they might encounter would be hunters or business owners who are unlikely to represent a threat.
In answer to proponents’ rational observation about the universal experience of the 48 other states in such matters, the AP story presented an outrageous and irrational suggestion that results in Wisconsin might be different based on unfounded regional stereotypes: “Some critics have suggested that Wisconsin’s situation is different because of its prominent alcohol culture.”
Prominent alcohol culture?
Were such a broad-brush slap in the face leveled at virtually any other group in any other argument, there would be demands of public apologies and mandated sensitivity training. No wonder the argument is unattributed. Did someone actually suggest that Wisconsinites are less sober and less responsible than the residents of every other state in the Union (except possibly Illinois, which is the only state which still mistrusts their citizens too much to permit concealed carry), or was this merely a contrivance of the author of this AP article?
The article suggests that this argument was actually put to Governor Walker, who dismissed the concern by citing the bill’s training requirements. Unfortunately, the governor has clearly fallen for previous propaganda erroneously suggesting that state-mandated training makes people who choose to carry concealed behave more responsibly than they would if they were not required to take a class. Again, the evidence from numerous other states shows the fallacy of this suggestion. The rates of firearms accidents and general firearms-related stupidity among permit holders is incredibly low across the board – noticeably lower than the rate even among sworn police officers – but there is no statistically discernable difference between permit holders in states requiring extensive training and those which have minimal or no training requirements at all. It should be no less insulting to Wisconsinites to suggest that they are less responsible than the citizens of other states than it is to suggest that they are less sober.
For the record, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Wisconsin consistently ranks right in the middle of the pack for per capita alcohol consumption, well behind category leaders like Nevada and those notorious partiers in New Hampshire who consume about 45 percent more alcohol per year than the folks in Wisconsin. Perhaps the author and his unnamed sources are not suggesting that Wisconsinites drink more, but that they are just “lightweights,” less capable of handling what they do drink. That suggestion might be even more offensive to the good people of Wisconsin.
Broad-brush insults aside, the issues surrounding gun control and the right to carry all boil down to a question of trust. Hoplophobes (those with an irrational fear of weapons) and proponents of “Big Brother” government do not believe that regular citizens can be trusted to handle firearms responsibly in spite of decades of evidence that proves them wrong.
As in most other questions about matters of personal liberty, the best answers can be found by personalizing the questions: Should some politician or government bureaucrat be allowed to make this choice for me? While our natural human instinct might incline us to want to make some decisions for others, when we apply the questions to ourselves the answer is almost always a resounding “No.”
While rare aberrations can result in tragedies, it is unreasonable to micromanage the many for mistrust of the few – especially when that micromanagement rarely has any effect at all on the actions of those few.
Over the coming years, the people of Wisconsin will add more proof to the fact that restricting the rights of citizens has little effect on crime, accidents and suicide, and that recognizing and respecting citizens’ rights enhances public safety and encourages individual responsibility.