A bill passed by the West Virginia State Senate and moving into the House would repeal West Virginia’s long-standing requirement that a permit be required for carrying a concealed handgun in our State. How long-standing, you ask? The law being repealed dates to 1931. That year and our history is important because some people want us to think that all the common-sense gun safety rules in our country were invented by “liberals” or “progressives” trying to disarm the People of the United States and impose a tyranny upon us starting in, say 2008. Reality is, these laws passed before what modern Americans think of as “liberalism” was even invented.
Who actually fought to implement the permitting requirement in West Virginia, and many other states? None other thanthe NRA. Karl T. Fredrick, an Olympic marksman and NRA President in that era said before the United States Congress “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons, I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns.” Forty years later, in one of the most violent eras of modern American history, Ronald Reagan said “[t]here’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”
For nearly a century in this country, reasonable, common-sense rules about gun handling and safety have been the law. These conservative laws have repeatedly been held to be constitutional. The text of our Second Amendment itself makes specific reference to American militia being “well regulated,” foreclosing any notion that somehow, any rules whatsoever relating to the ownership of weapons are unconstitutional or un-American. Moreover, crime has been falling for just over twenty years in this country, a time period that began with the Brady bill, the assault weapons ban and election of a Democrat, Bill Clinton, to the White House in 1992.
So what is going on? Why would leadership seek to repeal a law we’ve had this long, without any real problems caused by it and while refusing common sense amendments that would keep weapons handled reasonably and safely and after proper instruction is given? Even an amendment to prevent out-of-state drug criminals from taking advantage of West Virginia’s repeal was rejected! Do West Virginia’s parents think it is wise for 18-year-old high school students to be carrying concealed firearms? If not, where is this bill coming from?
I hear repeatedly that 18-year-olds “serve in the military,” and therefore 18-year-olds should be able to carry concealed weapons in West Virginia. I received firearms training myself under the auspices of the U.S. Navy when I was an 18-year-old Midshipman and let me tell you, the safe handling training the Navy required was extensive. We all spent considerable time in a classroom and on the range with unloaded weapons long before live ammunition was issued. The Army and Air Force, as well as the Marines (Marine instructors actually conduct a lot of Navy firearms instruction, and conducted mine) implement similar requirements for both pistol and rifle training.
There’s a reason our military requires training and imposes careful discipline on the handling of deadly weapons: they use common sense. An ideology that demands that without training, licensure, or common sense, we should encourage young men to carry concealed weapons sends an engraved invitation to tragedy and death. This bill likewise hamstrings and endangers our law enforcement – officers will be all but compelled to behave as though every person they pull over or meet is carrying a concealed firearm. Injecting loaded guns into situations where common sense would dictate they not be present will cost us dearly. Americans recognize the value of safety measures such as licensure and universal background checks, supporting them at rates approaching 90%, but the hard-core right that controls the Republican Party won’t budge.
The bottom line is that deadly weapons must be treated with respect, care and common sense. West Virginia has done that for more than eighty years without anyone feeling as though we are being tyrannized. A tragedy, or multiple tragedies, will be the certain result when zeal about politics and ideology trump common sense when it comes to the handling of firearms. I own several firearms myself; I keep them safely stored, but readily available, like many other Americans who live in rural areas. I don’t mind the background checks I underwent to purchase them – that’s just good sense and keeps us all safe. I certainly don’t mind the idea that a person who owns weapons should be trained to handle them properly before they take them home. Do you?