Gunning for Missourians
by Paul Hein
by Paul Hein
The Missouri legislature, by a large majority, overrode our anti-life Governor's veto of a concealed-carry gun law. Many in the state appear bemused or downright alarmed at the possibility of Missourians being able to do what the Constitution has long guaranteed them the right to do, but their surprise is unwarranted. It's not as though the state were a ground-breaker in gun-carrying legislation. On the contrary, there are now only five states in the U.S. which do not have concealed-carry laws.
Some interesting problems have arisen already, even before the date that the law takes effect, on October 11, 2003. Legislators, being what they are, have grudgingly allowed the citizens to do what the legislator lacked the power to forbid them to do, but they have not acknowledged defeat gracefully. They have passed a law (surprise!) making it illegal to carry a gun into a stadium holding more than 5,000 people (4,999 would be OK, naturally), hospitals, places of worship, casinos, or bars, without the owner's consent. Any property owners could prohibit people from bringing guns onto their property. Graciously, the lawmakers have allowed registered gun-carriers to stash their weapons in their cars at places that prohibit guns. One must obtain state approval, of course, to carry a gun. It's not like you right to bear arms was absolute, after all!
Well, that's OK. Private property owners should have some rights, of course. Half of the workplace deaths in 2001 were homicides, and most of these were fatal shootings. Of course, those shootings were illegal, and it's doubtful that a law prohibiting guns on the premises would have prevented them, or will prevent them in the future. On the other hand, if people in the building are armed, a potential shooter might think twice before pulling his gun. The president of a local cab company says his firm won't refuse service to customers who are armed, but he says that his cabbies will not be allowed to arm themselves. The absurdity of that speaks for itself.
What if a property owner were to prohibit weapons on his property — even if they were carried by government officials? Well, the law does not address that specifically, but it hardly seems likely that the government will not exempt itself from the restrictions it places upon others. For instance, the new law will allow officials to carry weapons to their own meetings, although it gets complicated. While guns cannot be brought into "any meeting of the governing body of a unit of local government," except by a member of that body, the law permits government offices to pass their own regulations to ban guns in any "portion of a building owned, leased, or controlled by that unit of government." Has anyone considered that the government controls virtually every building in its jurisdiction? Even private homes come under its control with building permits, property taxes, etc. And so what if government officials could prohibit themselves from packing heat at their meetings? Did they need a law to tell them that?
So what has our legislature wrought? A mess. Missourians — indeed, all Americans — do not need any politicians' permission to do what the Constitution guarantees them the right to do. Obviously, the right to carry arms is just that — a right. Government and Constitutions do not confer rights, only guarantee them — at least in theory. Having grudgingly acknowledged that right, our congressmen have hemmed it in with various restrictions which will only complicate matters — such as the one about forbidding guns in stadiums of more than 5,000 people. It will now be necessary, I guess, to provide a legal definition of "stadium" and a way of determining the number of people within it at any given time. How much leeway, plus or minus, will be allowed?
Government is all about regulating and controlling. Indeed, those are synonyms for governing. As long as the windbags in the legislature can regulate and control us (that's what they do!) they don't care if we carry howitzers or machine guns. Indeed, they could undoubtedly "allow" us to do that, subject to their rules and requirements, of course. The one thing government cannot do is explain how it obtained jurisdiction over our lives in the first place. That seems to be a given. The only justification the rulers can provide for their control is that they'll punish us if we decide to ignore them. And even that only works because very few people, at any given time, decide to try it. What a shame!
October 18, 2003
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