Friday, July 9, 2010

My gun, my rights

by Katherine Scardino

I live in the great State of Texas where the deer and the antelope play; where John Wayne defends the Alamo and guns are part of our culture. The small town where I grew up had guns in every pickup truck, in plain view. My father went "hunting” regularly with his “hunting dog” Carlo - and regularly brought back food for my mother to cook for our dinner. (Today, it would look like road kill, and I probably wouldn't even look at it, much less eat it!)

That's the history of guns in Texas. We had roses in our front yards and guns on our shoulders and hips. We can own almost any type of gun except a machine gun or a grenade launcher. In Texas, a loaded gun in the car has always been permissible if you are "traveling,” defined as driving from one county through another to a third county.

Of course, there's always been the other side of the barrel, the side that argues that an abundance of guns makes us less safe, placing all of us at greater risk. A lot of people believe that, but we didn't buy into that theory in Texas. Instead, the state passed new laws and began issuing concealed handgun licenses on January 1, 2006. Now, if you want to carry a gun in your car, you have to be licensed. This resulted in an interesting phenomenon: a class of people who have no criminal record and statistically no propensity for criminal activity carrying concealed weapons.

All of this gun stuff has a connection to the Constitution of the United States - the Second Amendment - which protects a right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. At the time, no one paid much attention to the Second Amendment, which states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Of course, the situation varies state to state even county to county and city to city. For instance, in Arkansas, laws require that traveling be a journey of at least 21 miles before it is permissible to have a loaded gun in your auto. In the Wild West of New Mexico, concealed handguns are illegal, but one can be worn in plain view on the hip in a holster.Chicago passed an ordinance decreeing that “no person shall...possess...any firearm unless such person is the holder of a valid registration certificate for such firearm.” The code also prohibits registration of most handguns, which had the result of banning handgun possession by almost all of Chicago's residents. At least, that's the conclusion the U.S. Supreme Court came to in a June 2010 decision styled McDonald v. City of Chicago, Illinois, after Mr. McDonald and three other petitioners became concerned that they would not be able to protect themselves and their families from the bad guys and sued the city.

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court declared that the “right to keep and bear arms,” as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, “applies equally to the federal government and the states.” The Second Amendment was appended to the Constitution to provide citizens with the means to protect themselves, and was meant to restrain overbearing legislatures at all levels of government bent upon interfering with the basic right to keep and bear arms, so states John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. In keeping with this country’s historical roots and traditions, the Supreme Court’s decision ensures that state governments cannot ride roughshod over this bedrock principle of liberty - a right which predates the establishment of the United States.

So, what does all this do for us? Well, it means that the government cannot prohibit us from “bearing arms.” Does this mean we will have more crime? Actually, statistically, it means just the opposite. Someone told me one time that the crooks are concerned with people who carry a concealed weapon - they do not know whether their intended victims are armed. Not that this would be the only reason, but studies have shown that crime decreased after the concealed weapon laws were passed in various states.

Admittedly, there are criminals who could care less what the gun laws. The man who shot more than 20 people to death in

Luby’s in Killeen, Texas would not have paid any attention to a “No Guns” sign posted at the door. I cannot recall one of the many murder cases I have handled where the killer gave a second thought to whether his victim was armed. Usually, homicides are crimes of passion - the gun laws be damned.

I used to have a concealed weapon license and had a small handgun in my car. I liked it. I had the gun with me when I drove around at night. I never used it. I am not even sure if I could get it out of my car quickly enough if I was accosted by the proverbial bad guy. But, I didn't renew my license when it expired. I don't know why. I have heard so many stories about women being kidnapped, murdered, raped by bad guys wandering around in shopping center parking lots. That is a woman’s worst nightmare. I should have gotten it renewed.


Jennifer said...

AMEN my Texas sister!

I am one of those Texas women who carries & has had to use her licensed handgun. I was attacked in the parking garage of my office building late at night. Fortunately, I never had to fire a shot, but I would have if necessary.
Criminals don't care if guns are against the law they will get them anyway.. that is why they are criminals.
When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.

Mary said...

Yes, you should have renewed.