Sunday, February 16, 2003
It's more distrust of government than actual hate. I do get irritated with any institution that is supposed to protect the public but ends up harming the public, but it is more of a distrust & dislike of what the institution has become than actual hate.
Take concealed carry laws for instance:
Permits are just that: Permits. They are permissions slips that say you may do something & without them you may not do something. To some a permit is no big deal. To me & a few others, it is. For various ideological & philosophical & moral reasons, permits are the same as saying you cannot carry. The conditions you have to submit yourself to don't seem that bad on the surface, but there are some who view them as insulting.
A permit does not nor has it ever prevented a person from carrying. What the permit system does is make every time a person carries a weapon a potential for conflict with the law. Some officers who don't seem to fathom how serious rights are to people are the most direct threat that a person will face. It isn't that anyone wants conflict, & I doubt the officers would either, but some people carry when they feel the need.
Now the source of the problem is the state law that violates my rights. The blame can be directly laid on a lawmaker. Specifically laws governing the manner of carry were instituted during reconstruction as a way to keep black people from having guns. So in a way the lawmakers of the 1870's & 1880's are responsible for this, but then again so are all the lawmakers who went along with a system rooted in racism designed to impair an individuals rights. & again, so are all the people who enforced those laws with or without thinking, just as all the people who submitted themselves to those laws share an equal part of the blame.
But cops are in the toughest spot of all excepting that of the citizen. They have to decide whether or not to enforce a law: whether they are duty bound to enforce a law or whether their conscience prevents them from doing so. The legislator writes a law or simply votes on it, and then he's done. Cops have to implement it. The people have to live with it, or change it.
Say a cop catches someone with a pistol & no permit. Say they comply fully with the cop. Most cops would first confiscate the weapon & then try to get the person to offer some sort of explanation. If the person told the cop, in concise detail why the laws requiring a carry permit exceeded the authority of any state, then most cops would probably politely dismiss them as a person who’s a little off balance & take them to the station. The cop would confiscate their pistol & deprive them of freedom solely because they were carrying an object for which they did not have the right permission slip for. This is without any other mitigating circumstances. By force or threat of force the cop would have them comply with the states' will regardless of the rights that we all have. Instead of taking someone with violent intent off the streets, the cop would be taking away someone who just wants to live a peaceable life & be left alone by the government. Can you understand how some may view that as a greater injustice than carrying a piece of metal w/o permission?
But it is the cop who either risks his job for the sake of conscience or violates a persons' rights for the sake of following orders. Ubfortunately for us, I suspect the latter is more common than the former.
Arresting someone for the mere possession of a weapon is a textbook example of prior restraint.
Now we all have heard that no right is absolute, that one may not yell fire in a crowded theater, right? Well it's like this:
Yelling fire in a crowded theater when there is no danger is not the exercise of a right, but the abuse of one. It can cause damage as a direct consequence. A person may break their leg running out of the building or someone may get trampled. But I don't think anyone would argue that talking about ones' religion to a friend in a public square would be an abuse of that right, even though in talks of religion there is the chance of a heated debate escalating into a fight, perhaps even a holy war. In both cases the speech itself is not dangerous; it's the actions that are caused by the speech which may cause harm.
Now prior restraint is the idea of restricting something not because it directly causes harm but because it has the potential to set in motion things which cause harm. It assumes that the worse outcome is guaranteed & seeks to prevent the action which causes the action which causes the harm.
If we were to apply prior restraint to the first amendments' free speech guarantee, then it would be permissible to gag a person the second he walked into a theater simply because he may yell fire if left unrestrained. Not because he showed any indications of wanting to yell fire, but simply because he has the ability.
Prior restraint is flawed in that it pre-punishes for an action that is only possible. No one blames you for breaking their leg or getting trampled because you are able to yell fire in that crowded theater of renown, but prior restraint punishes you for being able to yell fire.
So under the correct way of viewing free speech, a person is not gagged when he walks into a theater. He is not restrained in any way & it is forbidden to restrain him. He is free to say or not say what he pleases. It is his choice whether to restrain himself from yelling fire or to give in to that temptation. But even as he draws the very breath that he would use to yell fire, his speech is protected & cannot be lawfully restrained.
Once a person yells fire then they are to be appropriately punished, but not one second before fire comes out of his mouth. He is presumed to be innocent & capable of restraining himself when appropriate until he gives cause to be restrained, & that is in principle one of the cornerstones of the English jurisprudence on which our system of laws is based: Innocent until proven guilty.
Now concealed carry of a weapon is no different than the free speech example, except that most people would never question the ability of a state to use prior restraint concerning guns, whereas if it were attempted upon free speech, the people would not stand for it.
Requiring a permit before you may carry says to society that an individual is incapable of being trusted with certain things until the state gives its approval. It says the individual must have state approval & meet certain criteria because of the potential that an individual left unchecked would do great harm. It says because there's a chance you will abuse your right then you must be closely supervised & restricted in that right. It is no different than requiring gags on anyone who would walk into a crowded theater unless they passed a state test & received a permit to be ungagged. & again it is no different than punishing someone who refused to submit to a permit or wear a gag simply because he may see an actual fire & have to sound the alarm for his sake & the rest of the theater patrons. It is no different than saying that you must remained gagged & if you do see a fire then you must seek out someone with a permit to remain ungagged or seek out a state official to sound the alarm of fire.
The carrying of a weapon w/o a permit however is not like yelling fire in a crowded theater for no reason. It does harm to no one & causes no harm to ones' self. If a person used that concealed arm to rob a man, or shoot an innocent person, then that would be comparable to yelling fire, as they both cause direct harm. Carrying a weapon in & of itself to paraphrase Jefferson neither picks your pocket nor breaks your leg.
Having laws against the misuse of weapons are within a state or a community's powers. It should be illegal to pistol-whip someone, or to use a firearm as a form of threat or coercion, just as it should be illegal to discharge a firearm in a crowded street. But the mere carrying of a firearm, even concealed, is no more a danger to the public than carrying a pencil & paper. Both may be abused, but merely possessing them on your person does not cause the abuse. & the more people who are free to carry, truly free to carry, the less bold criminals will be. So carrying concealed should not require a permit, as it is a right. Just as much as carrying openly or merely possessing in your home.
To restrict who may carry based upon a permit system is a form of discrimination. But instead of the criteria being race, the criteria are that of morals, & ideology & philosophy. It discriminates against those who will not submit to the conditions in order to exercise a right, as well as those who are fooled into thinking that they must submit to those conditions in order to exercise a right.
& as a practical matter, have you ever heard of a person who did not rob the liquor store he had been planning to rob because he couldn't get his permit renewed? Or a hit man who took a few months off because he forgot to apply for his permit?
A permit system places a burden solely on those who are not the source of violent crime. It not only involves short term burdens, but in the long run it conditions people to accept whatever limits a state may choose to set. The greatest short term danger of all is worth a brief mention, though I won't go into it in depth: firearm owner registration
Again, carrying concealed is no different than carrying openly. & both means of carry are no different than the freedom of speech. It is equally wrong to use prior restraint in one case or the other. The benefits, both theoretical & practical, are far outweighed by the detriments.
That's a glimpse into the prior restraint argument & how it applies to CCW, & why cops should stop arresting people whose only crime is carrying a weapon without a permit, & why D.A.'s should not press charges for "illegal possesion", & why judges should dismiss these kind of charges. Lest we forget, it is also why we should vote against anyone who would propose or support these kinds of laws.