Just a few hours passed between the announcement that Missouri would become the 11th state not requiring a government permit to carry a concealed firearm and the unfurling of the usual nonsense. Missouri is now the “Shoot Me State,” squealed The New York Times. Its reforms represent “a risk to public safety!” claimed Everytown. “It’s like abolishing meat inspection,” complained Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show.” The common gist: In overturning the governor’s veto and deregulating the state’s concealed-carry process, Missouri’s legislators had struck a blow against sense.
That there was no evidence presented in favor of this proposition should not, in truth, surprise. Since 1987, gun-control activists have been promising precisely the same thing: That any loosening of the gun laws will yield a return to the Wild West. “Blood in the streets!” they have cried. “The O.K. Corral!” they have predicted. “Is anyone safe?” they have asked.
Nothing has been able to prevent these prognostications. Not the halving of the “gun violence” rate during exactly the same period in which concealed carry has flourished. Not the extraordinary drop in the overall crime rate. Not the marked success that the liberalization of the gun laws has brought. Nothing.Could it be, perhaps, that the Times and its fellow travelers know nothing of gun owners beyond the stereotypes they have absorbed?
In 2013, after 49 of the 50 states had introduced concealed carry, the then-governor of Illinois warned that if his state were to become the 50th, Americans would start shooting each other in the supermarkets. “If you’re going and you bump into someone accidentally,” Pat Quinn explained, “well, they can pull out a loaded, concealed handgun to assuage their anger. So I think it’s important we defeat this bill.”
What, you may be wondering, could provoke an ostensibly intelligent man to say something so extraordinarily dim—especially after literally every other state in the union had shown that such fears were unfounded? What, we might inquire, could cause The New York Times’ editorial board—that self-appointed arbiter of all that is good and light—to engage in such a self-debasing freakout? Why, it seems reasonable to ask, is the debate over carry not heavily populated by remorseful characters such as Ron Silver, the Florida legislator who conceded that his staunch opposition to “shall-issue” carry had been misguided and overwrought?
The simple answer: Intransigence. Bloody-mindedness. A lack of imagination. Scream as the usual suspects may, the simple fact remains that concealed-carry permitting regimes do nothing much but inconvenience the good. Indeed, as Robert VerBruggen has noted, if “permitless” carry has had any effect on crime, “it doesn’t reliably show up in the data” either way.
And yet, although it followed a diverse collection of states in removing its requirements, Missouri has been treated as an outlier. Why?
Could it be, perhaps, that the Times and its fellow travelers know nothing of gun owners beyond the stereotypes they have absorbed? Could it be that emotion, not reason, is driving the pushback? Could it be that intuition and condescension are poor regulators of rights?
Could it be that intuition and condescension are poor regulators of rights?In truth, there is not a state in America in which criminals obey the carry rules, nor a county in the country where concealed carriers are less law-abiding than the population at large. Unless one somehow believes that gun ownership turns normal people into raging monsters, it is difficult to fathom what the problem is here.
Unless, that is, the objection to constitutional carry has less to do with “carry” and more to do with “constitutional.” Unless, in other words, the reflexiveness of the reaction betrays a rejection of the Second Amendment itself.
If this is the case—if, that is, The New York Times wishes to advocate full and unsullied repeal—it should do so honestly, without hedging its bets. Likewise, if the folks over at Everytown believe that nobody should carry a gun upon his or her person, they should have the courage of their convictions and say so without euphemism. And if they do not—if they are earnest in their concern—well … then it’s time to hit the books. As we are constantly told, constitutional rights must not be limited or delayed absent a clear and compelling reason. And no such reason exists here.
This being so, we might turn the question on its head. Rather than asking why Missouri has seen fit to bypass its permitting system (which will still exist), we should ask why so many other states have not done so. In what other realm would government seek to punish the busy, the fastidious, and the poor for no obvious gain? What other right would be limited to satisfy the irrational? In what other circumstance would the cutting of deadwood prompt howls of righteous indignation?
The data is in, and the hypotheses have been smashed into the smallest pieces. Thirty years on, liberalized concealed carry has yielded none of the horrible consequences still on parade. At long last, it is time for its opponents to let it go.