Guns Again: No License, Registration or Insurance Needed
Each of us must have a license to operate a car and a special one to operate a big truck. Doctors, lawyers, pilots, engineers, surveyors, dentists, real estate brokers and car salesmen must have licenses to ply their trades. CPAs must pass tests. Electricians must be certified. Plumbers must pass tests and get local licenses.
All of the above carry insurance, too. Hunters have been required to take safety training since the early 1960s.
Until this year, Wyoming had a minimally intrusive system for licensing people to carry concealed weapons. We were required to take some good, basic safety training and basic self-defense training. We had to pass a background check. We had to be willing to fill out a ton of paperwork, which would have discouraged the types of anti-authoritarian personalities who should not have carry permits. There was nothing wrong with this system. No one could legitimately complain. Compliance was a burden, but no more so than buying plates for my car or registering to vote.
Wait, don’t these gun-toting champions of our nation’s freedoms always talk about how liberty comes with some costs?
Some malcontents tried to sidestep this system by proposing in 2010 to allow any non-felon with functioning appendages, a belt or pocket and a heartbeat to carry concealed weapons. The Sage Grouse bravely beat back these initiatives: see Weird Anti-Obama Fallout: Guns; Gun Madness, Part Two; and Guns: Lots of Heat, Not Much Light. Like the little Dutch boy, he plugged the dike with a single wing, and it didn’t happen in 2010. But by golly it did happen this year.
Back to the 2011 session: the Legislature, in abject dereliction of any duty to think before jumping, held noses and closed eyes and voted to allow everyone and his dog to conceal weapons in their cars, jeans, coveralls and business suits, with almost no restrictions.
This capitulation to the NRA lobby simply passed the burden of drawing lines between open firing ranges and appropriate quiet zones for work and play to employers and government agencies. “Thanks a lot,” I am sure they are all saying.
OK, Bubba gets to pack iron when he comes to the shop. Never mind that a big old heater rubs a big sore on Bubba’s ass while running a scraper all day. Why the hell does Bubba need a .357 on his hip at work? Or grumpy malcontent Billy Joe carries his shiny big .44 magnum to the city council meeting. Why? To defend himself from being ignored by the mayor? Or to intimidate the communist local governments who are making people clean up their junkyards? Or to be prepared in case some other armed malcontent tries to jump him in the parking lot?
Allowing a militia to protect us against foreign armies or occupying governments probably does not mean that a bunch of angry people need to be packing iron at work, church, city hall, the courthouse or the sports bar.
Many in law enforcement opposed the legislation which has now eviscerated the concealed weapon carry permit system. Employers deplored the erosion of their rights to control what happens on their property. (Isn’t it interesting that ranchers uniformly demand that oil and gas employees are not allowed to carry firearms on their lands, yet their legislators legalize unpermitted carriage of concealed weapons by those very employees?)
What’s a city council to do? They are required, in today’s political climate, to give obeisance to the hallowed (mis)interpretations of the Second Amendment. But dang it, who wants to be worrying all through the meeting about some wacko lighting up the room over eminent domain or leash laws? In Gillette, the mayor and council are frustrated and confused. Wouldn’t it have been better if the Legislature, notwithstanding goading by the NRA and its ilk, had just said no?
My good friend Doug Dumbrill, a hunter, rancher, attorney, prosecutor and good writer has written a guest column on this matter. I can’t improve on his analysis. Doug points out that if he lived anywhere else, he would probably be regarded as a gun nut, but in Gillette his column drew a lot of fire.
Not everyone needs to carry a concealed weapon, but if one feels the need to do so, a background check and some safety training are not any sane person’s definition of an unreasonable regulation. Even if you have a gun in the home, some basic safety training should be required prior to purchase. Automobile drivers must pass a test. Most employers require backhoe and crane operators to demonstrate competence before they are given the keys. But guns — which allegedly don’t kill people any more than do cars and trucks — require no test, no training and no insurance to own, hide and operate.
And of course the consequences of unrestricted sale and ownership of firearms can be tragic. My first cousin and childhood best friend, Mary Della McIlhenny, has been dead for more than 30 years. Her birthday is (was) one week after mine; we were each born on a Sunday. Her husband, a sweet, devoted man, traveled a lot and worried about her safety. He bought a semi-automatic pistol from a gun store where he received no instructions about operation and safety. He brought it home to show Mary how to use it for defense. In the process, the gun discharged, shooting her in the forehead, leaving two young children without a mother. No one had explained to him how this gun worked; no safety training was required or even suggested. What an unimaginable horror. You cannot think about this without feeling bottomless sadness for this fine young man who fell victim to ill-advised suggestions about safety.
Instead of abolishing reasonable requirements, shouldn’t we instead require basic safety training and a background check for buyers of firearms?
Yes, there are outlaws who will evade these requirements, just as there are speeders on the highways. Some, maybe most, will be caught; some will not be. Is that a reason to abolish speed limits?