Although SB1070 has been hogging all of the local and national spotlight, the now infamous immigration bill is not the only reason July 29th will be a day for the history books. On Thursday, with the implementation of SB 1108, Arizona is set to become the third state after Vermont and Alaska to allow its residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit.
SB 1108, sponsored by Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 16. People can carry guns without a permit, but still will not be allowed to take a gun into a bar or restaurant without one, as most such establishments prohibit them anyway… Although Arizona will continue its gun permit process through the Department of Public Safety, having a concealed permit will be optional. There were 158,170 active permits issued as of July 11 — up 3,891 since April 4, according to DPS figures. Although people no longer are required to have permits if they are carrying a concealed weapon and are not required to take a gun safety course if they carry a gun, they still cannot carry a concealed gun across state lines, according to DPS spokesman Robert Bailey.
Predictably, the “wild west” stories have already started to appear, and comment threads have been set alight by people on both sides of the argument. Also predictably, both sides have continued to miss the mark. More below the fold:
Gun rights, and the University’s complete lack of respect for them, have been somewhat of a pet issue on the Lamp or a while now, and in our experience, virtually every debate follows the same, tired lines of bizarro argument. Opponents of loosening firearm restrictions point towards the tragedy of events like Virginia Tech and Columbine in order to illustrate the the magnitude of the crimes committed with guns, and proponents point to the same events and argue that they could have been prevented, or at least their harm greatly mitigated, if only the students were allowed to carry guns on campus in order to defend themselves from gun-toting crazies. Equally oblivious to the fact that they are all batting on equally sticky wickets, the discussion slowly degenerates into a disconnected smorgasbord of meaningless statistics, decrepit ad hominems, and mawkish rhetoric. Meanwhile, the small contingent of libertarians who arrived early and full of intent retreat to the back of the room and opt for slow inebriation interspersed with sudden and emasculatory gesticulations that, if I may channel IOZ, indicate vague discontent. So how ought the debate be framed? For this question, I defer to my colleague cum-curmudgeon-in-chief:
This has been said before, but needs (apparently) to be repeated: arguing for guns on campus from an efficacy/utilitarian standpoint is really, really stupid, and prone not to work. In fact, it hasn’t worked. Instead, supporters of civil liberties merely need to repeat, as many times as necessary, the following words:
Section 26. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain, or employ an armed body of men.
The burden of proof, in a free society, lies not with the individual desiring rights but with the state seeking to limit them (see section 2).
There it is. The presumption of liberty lies with the people, and if the government wants to curtail our rights, it must have a compelling societal reason to do so. And even with this latest bill and the end of state mandated training and safety courses, evidence for such a reason is scant to say the least. Vermont, for example, has not required permits since 1791 and it continues to be one of the safest states in the country. Alaska, a state whose CCW law came into effect in 2002, also gives us reason to believe that loosening firearm restrictions does not lead to an uptick in gun homicide rates.
Looking at the data (courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Statistics) from as far back as 1976, the only trend one could possibly discern is a slightly negative one, though the correlation coefficient would be so low (.2644) that it’s not worth including. The same applies if we only look at the data from 2002 onwards. It’s also worth noting that gun homicides saw their highest percentage level in 1981 (not in 2003, after the law was passed), a year when gun violence in the US as a whole was also unusually high.
Granted, the comparison is not without its flaws; Alaska and Vermont are, after all, Alaska and Vermont. But the fact remains that the information available simply provides no reason to believe that making permits and training voluntary will lead to an upsurge in gun violence. All of this is ultimately tangential to the main point, however. SB1108 is first and foremost a victory for the rule of law, and gun-advocate or not, one can take solace in the fact that the state has chosen to give liberty a chance. Whether or not the UofA decides to follow suit is a question for another post.