A few years ago, Minnesota passed a concealed carry law that was strongly supported by the pro-gun lobby and strongly opposed by the anti-gun lobby. As an aside, I’ll note that this was a stupid law, as in, a law engineered stupidly by people who did not know what they were doing, and here I refer to a newly elected crop of right wing legislators who did not know how to be legislators. The original bill was added to some other bill that needed to be passed, as a “rider.” I’m sure you know what a “rider” is but you may not know unless you are from the Northstar State that we can’t have riders here. They are illegal. A bill must not establish statute related to more than one thing in the State of Minnesota. So, a provision that says “it is illegal to crush baby kittens” and a provision that says “you can carry a concealed weapon if you fill out a certain form” can not be part of the same bill. Since the concealed carry bill was a rider, it was tossed out a few weeks after it passed as a matter of routine by the state courts.
That is a bit of a digression and a bit of a distraction, but it is fun to point out because it links ignorance and failure to think things through with the pro-gun lobby and a pro-gun bill. Shortly after the ill fated and illegal bill was chucked by the court system, the legislature consulted the rule books and re-passed the bill. Thereafter we’ve had a concealed carry law.
People who were in favor of this law had gone on and on about how people needed to carry weapons, concealed, because … well, because of all the usual reasons. Someone might pull out a gun in a public place and threaten someone and if we had a concealed carry law there would be someone there to stop them. Or, even better, the mere thought that the person you were about to mug or rob or rape or attack in some other way might be armed will make a potential perpetrator think twice and not do the bad thing. And anyways, the police never got there on time so people who lived in certain places, that were either far away or that were extra dangerous, needed to be able to carry around concealed handguns. And so on and so forth.
The anti concealed carry lobby argued that if the law passed, there would be more accidental gun violence because of all these people walking around with guns stuffed into their pants or coat pockets. They were concerned that more people would shoot each other on highways over traffic altercations or in bars over stupid arguments. They thought people would take the law into their own hands in ways that were dangerous and that a wild west mentality would grip the State and increase the level of deadly violence.
And who was right? Which of these things came true? Well, actually, neither. The nay-sayers can’t really point to changes in crime rates or behaviors that increased the danger of living in Minnesota that can be traced to the concealed carry bill. But, the concealed carry proponents can’t point to any evidence that the things they wanted this law to accomplish came true either.
This means, of course, that those that wanted this bill so badly were wrong; they had strong feelings that changing statue was necessary, and were rather insistent that they were right and altering the law of the land had to happen. But their arguments have not been borne out. The trouble and tribulations of altering our criminal code were a waste of time and energy and should not have happened, unless one believes that it is OK to make up usless laws.
Of course, this assumes that the stated reasons for passing a concealed carry law are the real reasons it was supported. And, I suspect that this is not the case. I suspect that people who sell guns wanted the law passed so they could sell more guns, and I suspect that people who like to own guns wanted the law passed so they could have more fun playing around with their toys. This nonsense about needing to carry these weapons around for the greater good or for protection is just that … nonsense.
The fact that the anti-gun lobby was wrong, and that the end of civilization as we know it did not actually occur, is instructive but it is hardly important. They were not the ones arguing for a change. They were the ones arguing against the change, and they were right in the main; the concealed carry law was not needed.
None of this reasoning (or lack thereof) applies to the other kind of gun-related law that has been pushed over the last few years, enacted in seventeen states, and recently passed by the legislature but vetoed by our governor in Minnesota. I refer, of course, to the laws that expand the “Castle Doctrine” sometimes referred to as “stand your ground laws.” This is the sort of law that caused the police of Sanford Florida to not arrest a self appointed vigilante who had stalked, run down, and summarily executed a young neighbor because he didn’t like the way he looked. Apparently, the police in Florida interpret their “stand your ground law” to mean that if you feel threatened by another person at the general, philosophical or social level … like the way I feel threatened by people who habitually get drunk and drive badly … you can just identify them, stalk them, and then summarily execute them, and the police will not bother you.
The truth is that this Florida law was enacted several years ago and nothing like this seems to have happened until now, or if it has, it has not been much in the news. The truth is that a “stand your ground” law has been enacted in several states and the fundamental nature of society has not changed, and we do not have daily shootings of people who looked funny at each other sanctioned by these laws.
But, the fact (to the extent that it is true) that the laws have not changed much is in no way related to the fact that the laws are wrong and must all be abrogated. Why? Because of the test case in Florida. Simply put, there is a law on the books in seventeen states of the USA that says you can follow someone down the street, catch up to them after a block or two of them walking away from you and doing nothing threatening to anyone, and kill them on the spot, having decided that you don’t like the way they look, and that’s OK.
And the thing is, it isn’t OK. It is not OK under any circumstances to have a set of rules in our society that allow this sort of barbaric and asinine behavior to be sanctioned in any way whatsoever. The legislators who introduced, supported, and voted for these laws are idiots. The voters who elected those legislators are morons. The courts that allow the utter and widespread violation of basic Constitutional rights are blind, and not as in “blind justice” but rather, as in “What? Are you blind drunk or something?”
And the reason that this is not OK is not related to the fact that there was or was not a problem to be solved, or that the laws did or did not solve any such problems (though in truth there wasn’t and they didn’t). These laws are not OK because they devalue, deconstruct, and denigrate the basic tenants of civilized society. We as individuals set aside our own desires, often born of strong emotions, to mete out personal justice, and hand those responsibilities over to a professionalized and managed force under our employ, integrated with a system of justice based on the rule of law. That is what we do. We don’t, in contrast, summarily execute people because they are wearing a hoodie. Laws that defy the civil social contract and support the personal implementation of vigilante justice reflect medieval values that we set aside centuries ago. “Stand your ground” laws resemble ancient codes from before, or at least the early days of, the initial evolution of our justice system. They represent the worst that society managed to create in ways of being. They are several steps backwards, and that is why they are not OK.
There is something wrong with a world in which there are more guns owned with the distinct intent of using them on other humans per capita over time rather than fewer, and there is something dreadfully wrong with a political movement to un-tether the use of these guns from the mores of civilization.