armed to the teeth

I frequently find myself scrolling through the posts on The Corner over at National Review Online, precisely because the views expressed there so frequently run completely counter to mine. It’s a good place to see smart people embrace philosophies with which I completely disagree, which forces me to rethink and clarify my positions to account for the arguments they make.

Last week, I came across this article by contributor Nancy French which defends Wisconsin’s recently-passed“concealed-carry” law, specifically with regards to those who have expressed concerns about the potential under this law that people will be able to carry concealed weapons into Lambeau Field to watch my beloved Packers. In the article, French contends that concealed-carry laws that require education and training to obtain a permit should be of no concern to anyone, as those likely to use their guns in a dangerous manner are not likely to go through the classes anyway. Therefore, you will only have law-abiding citizens legally carrying concealed weapons.

I don’t necessarily agree with this conclusion, instead believing that while a large majority of those who carry guns under this law will do so responsibly, a small minority of “bad apples” who get used to carrying around weapons under this law and eventually commit an act of gun violence in a moment of passion or permit-violating drunkenness (which though illegal seems far from impossible) is enough of an argument to raise doubts about this law. But more than that, I find myself taking issue with French’s setup for her post, in which she tells the story of an incident that prompted her to purchase a gun and undergo Tennessee’s concealed-carry training.

My friend and I were walking ahead of our not-yet-teen daughters at dusk in rural Tennessee, separated by a tenth of a mile so we could engage in our own private conversations. When the truck sped by, we rolled our eyes at its loud exhaust and lifted frame. But the truck, seeing only our daughters (since we’d already taken a turn) slammed on its brakes and stopped in the middle of the rural road. It’s a picturesque, peaceful road, the kind where my toddler squeals with delight at the sight of horses, cows, goats, deer, skunks, coyotes, and raccoons. It’s normally filled with slow-moving tractors and fast-moving trucks.

But that truck in particular stopped.

I pushed 9, then 1, then another 1 on my iPhone and began to run to the girls. It was probably nothing, but something didn’t feel right, and I knew that by the time the police came out to our rural road, whatever was going to happen would’ve happened. The truck backed up and kicked rocks up on the side of the road, then lurched forward as it struggled to completely turn around in the narrow country road.

By the time he reached them, I was there.

With a phone.

He drove slowly by, then sped away when he saw a 36-year-old Momma Grizzly in gym shorts.

But within weeks I was sitting in a gun carry permit class, wanting never again to be in the position of merely having an iPhone and a mean grimace to protect myself and kids.

Summary: because she once felt that her daughter was threatened and managed to avert that threat without resorting to violence, she took that as a sign that she should get a gun. How does that make sense?

I can only imagine what it feels like to have a teenage daughter to worry about, and the emotions going through her mind at that time. But using that anecdote to justify gun ownership makes no sense to me. How would that story be changed if she had been carrying a gun instead of a cell phone? Best case scenario: same outcome. Worst case scenario: someone gets killed. I wouldn’t consider that an improvement.

Reading French’s post made me think of the case of Cory Maye, a man released from prison recently after spending 10 years behind bars for shooting a police officer during a drug raid gone wrong. Police were going after the man living in the other half of his duplex, but had gotten a tip from an informant that there were large quantities of marijuana in both units. Acting on this intelligence (which turned out to be false, Maye had a negligible though non-zero amount in his unit), police entered SWAT-style and Maye fired upon them when they entered his 18-month old daughter’s room, killing one officer. The details of the raid (whether the police clearly identified themselves, whether Maye looked out the windows before going to his daughter’s room) are disputed, but the result is clear: a police officer dead and 10 years in prison for a man who claims to have been protecting his daughter.

French’s post made me wonder whether Maye is happy that he had a gun in his house that night 10 years ago. I don’t agree with the actions of the police that night, but it seems that the very same sentiment that French expresses in her post (getting a gun to protect her daughter) turned a police error into something far worse. Even if incidents like this are rare, are they worth it?

In closing, I’ll point to this study from the Terry Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Their findings? Increased gun ownership leads to increased homicide rates, with no findings of decreased incidence of other types of crimes. Still worth it?

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