Monday, December 05, 2005

Republican Trickseyness On The "Wild West" Bill

I call it the "Wild West" bill or even the "Scared Whitey" bill. The Wisconsin legislature prefers to call it the "Concealed Carry" bill and it's been making its way through the legislature since the Reagan administration.

This time around, though, the Republicans in the legislature have taken heed of the many objectors of this law and have begun crafting some amendments to make it more palatable. One of the leading groups opposing the legislation is that of police officers who feel that their lives might be in greater danger from such a law. A new amendment has been crafted to address this concern.

From The Janesville Gazette:

Police could check whether owners of cars they stop are carrying concealed weapons under a new provision Republicans tucked into a bill that would let Wisconsin residents carry hidden weapons.

Under the provision, officers also could face charges if they draw their own sidearm on motorists simply because they have a concealed carry permit.

Part of this amendment is actually a good idea; notifying a police officer that the person they've stopped has a concealed carry permit helps insure greater safety for both the officer and the driver. The latter part, which would punish the police officers for pulling their sidearm on a driver with a CC permit seems unfair either way. It's not a good idea to have a police officer pulling his weapon on what could be an innocent driver but it also requires the officer to trust, with his life, that the person he has pulled over is not going to use the concealed weapon they're carrying. Concealed carry supporters argue that a law-abiding citizen would have a permit and would be no danger to the officer. But it only takes one second of bad judgment for a law-abiding citizen to become a cop-killer. Plus, the possibility always exists that the knowledge that the driver may be armed could cause an inexperienced officer to mistake a threat where none exists.

What's tricksey about this Republican-sponsored amendment is that it undermines the intentions of the bill's Republican authors, most notably Representative Scott Gundersen.

The bill's creators have insisted the list of permit holders remain secret to ensure criminals don't prey on people who aren't carrying. Police groups say that would put officers in danger.

Normally the Republican party can be counted on for marching in monolithic lockstep, especially in Wisconsin, but this seems to show some dissent among the ranks.

Or does it? Not really, as a matter of fact. This toothless amendment is just a lame attempt to mollify the loudest lobbying bloc in opposition to the concealed carry bill. It does nothing to address the public opinion polls that show close to 3/4 of the Wisconsin residents oppose this legislation. In any case, the amendment is probably just a waste of time, as Governor Doyle has already indicated that he will veto any incarnation of the concealed carry law that reaches his desk.

This entire bill is ridiculous on its face and is designed to prey upon the irrational fears of rural and suburban white Wisconsinites. There are certainly no roving bands of Mad Max-style gangs pillaging the pristine countryside of Greater Cheeseland. Even if there were, a concealed gun isn't much of a deterrent. Assaults are about domination and control, neither of which are mitigated by carrying a gun under one's coat.

Further, even having a concealed weapon is no guarantee of safety anyway. As any police officer or self-defense expert will attest to, a weapon only escalates a fight. Real life is not like Tombstone; the good guys don't shoot it out with the bad guys and go home victorious to poker and Wild Turkey. A mugging or a rape can very easily become a murder once a weapon is involved. The very remote possibility of a concealed weapon actually protecting anyone is not worth the very real dangers of an armed populace.

However, I recognize that the feeling of powerlessness that accompanies imaginary muggings is something with which conservatives just cannot come to terms. It's the loss of stature and the feeling of helplessness that offends more than the actual crime. That's what the concealed carry law is really about: frontier justice. Safety is just the byword used to convince the reasonable folk that NRA-owned Republicans like Gundersen are looking out for the public good. Concealed carry is about being able to take instant vengeance, to assuage the bruised egos of those paranoid folks who truly believe that armed criminals are always after them.

Of course, the other issue that accompanies the concealed carry bill is the Second Amendment, over which Republicans are compulsively obsessed. Concealed carry is an attempt to broaden the powers of the Second Amendment by stripping more controls off of firearm ownership, which is why the NRA support this legislation so vehemently. It has nothing to do with safety. No law that involves more guns and more potential for gun use is ever about safety. It's about misguided paranoid fear and a belief that the Second Amendment grants limitless rights. If only Republicans cared so much for other Amendments (perhaps the First would be a good one).

Keeping guns for use in hunting and other sports should be supported under the Second Amendment. While I find it grotesquely odd that anyone would want to hang a dead animal carcass in their home, I certainly support their right to do so. Plus, all of the gun sportsman I know eat what they kill and are very responsible with their firearms. Concealed carry is just more ideological nonsense from the Republican party; an overt attempt to divide staunch conservatives away from the rest of civilized society. Such political maneuvering has a cost, however, and returning Wisconsin to the days of Wild West frontier justice is too high of one.

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