There Is No "Allow"
By L. Neil Smith
Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise
Recently we've heard astonishing fallout from an impressive study of the achievements, so far, of a growing effort -- almost amounting to a movement -- to make it easier for ordinary folks to legally carry concealed weapons. In states where this effort has been successful, crime rates (in terms of violent confrontation) have fallen so dramatically even the media can no longer deny it.
Advocates of the right to own and carry weapons rendered cynical by years of watching media act as a fourth branch of government, rather than its adversaries as Jefferson intended, are inclined to wonder why the hairsprayheads have decided, unprecedentedly, to tell the truth. I suspect an answer lies in a troubling aspect of concealed carry I've attempted to warn gunfolk about previously.
When I entered the argument three and a half decades ago, the issue where both sides were concerned was registration and licensing. Antigunners wanted every firearm in the country listed in government directories, every user required to obtain written permission to exercise his Second Amendment rights -- rights to be converted into privileges, revocable upon the whim of politicians and bureaucrats.
Antigunners were unsuccessful until 1968, when, grotesquely stampeded by the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King (I don't recall any similar outrage on the part of the media over the shooting of George Wallace), government began enforcing the registration of weapons, new and used, at the point of retail sale, under Lyndon Johnson's Omnibus Crime Control Act.
Over the next quarter-century, we managed to "live with" this law, which, with the collaboration of a criminal justice system so putrescently corrupt it shines in the dark, blatantly violated the letter and intent of the Second Amendment. It helped that guns in private hands or traded among individuals didn't enter the retail stream and remained unregistered. It also helped that, thanks to Ronald Reagan, the outlaw BATF (what else do you call an out-of- control agency that coldbloodedly murders 81 individuals -- 22 of them kids -- and whose very existence is forbidden by the Constitution?) was prohibited from computerizing forms generated under the 1968 Gun Control Act. And there was still no provision for licensing owners.
Now, the danger of a national Sullivan Act has raised its stealthy head again, brought on by well-intended but misguided efforts to issue concealed carry permits. The danger is exacerbated by the fact that this extremely circumscribed return of a fundamental liberty has produced such remarkably beneficial results. It reminds us of the way, in the Soviet Union, that the 5% of farmland privately owned produced 80% of the crops. Even from our own side, we hear how crime is falling in states that generously allow 1% of the people to carry weapons. But there can be no "allow" where an unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right is concerned.
One more time, just to get it straight: there is no "allow". The word applies only to slaves, collared dogs, maybe children, and government. It does not apply to free adults. We've forgotten that, in America, unlike any other nation on Earth, "We the People" allow government to do things (too many, as we're belatedly starting to realize), not the other way around. That's the point of the 9th and 10th Amendments. Second-highest on the list of things we don't allow is interference with our right to own and carry weapons.
It's undeniable that crime has decreased wherever the right to own and carry weapons, previously suppressed, has been converted into a privilege, granted or denied by the state. Overlooked, however, is the fact that, in 1994, Vermont was named (Crime State Rankings 1994) the safest state in America. It's the only state without laws of any kind forbidding -- or allowing -- concealed weapons. Hence the term, "Vermont Carry", which I coined years ago to describe the proper way to observe the Second Amendment.
Where licensing proponents tip their hand is that, in many states, in many versions of concealed carry legislation, failure to comply with their illegal requirements becomes -- without explanation or justification -- a felony rather than the misdemeanor it was before. In other instances, the applicant -- make that, "supplicant" -- must name the weapon he or she will be allowed to carry, along with its serial number. Thus we've come, the long way around, by our own clumsy doing, to the registration and licensing we once opposed.
An unalienable right is one that can't be taken away by anyone for any reason. All rights are individual rights; no group has rights beyond those possessed individually by its members. My dictionary says a civil right is one guaranteed (not "given" or "granted") to the individual by law. A Constitutional right is no right at all, but a limit on the power of government. A human right is one you possess inherently, by virtue of being alive; it's what we mean when we say "natural" right.
The right to own and carry weapons is all of these things, not one -- not even civil rights; that's why we busted big fat segregationist sheriffs in Smokey Bear hats and mirrored sunglasses in the 1960s -- subject to government approval.
Anti-gunners are striking back, suing to expose permits lists, violate privacy, endanger lives. The law is with them: permits are a matter of public record and must be disclosed. Elsewhere, we hear of discriminatory licensing based on income or race. In terms of potential abuses, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
The Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, SAFE (Second Amendment is For Everyone), and GOLF (Gun Owners' Liberation Front) were the first to demand nothing less than Vermont Carry -- repeal of any law having anything to do with how people carry weapons. We're gratified that SWARM (Safety for Women And Responsible Motherhood) and GOA (Gun Owners of America) have followed suit.
It's time for the National Rifle Association to join us in calling for a national non-system of Vermont Carry. No prerequisites, no records, no nothing.
Then watch the crime rate start to fall.
L. Neil Smith's award-winning first novel, The Probability Broach, which has long been out of print, will be republished by TOR Books this October. A complete list of his novels and collection of his essays and other data may be reached on the World Wide Web through http://www.lneilsmith.org//. Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the author, provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and appropriate credit given.
A Juror's Creed: As an American juror, I will exercise my 1000 year old duty to arrive at a verdict, not just on the basis of the facts of a particular case or instructions I am given, but through my ability to reason, my knowledge of the Bill of Rights, and my individual conscience.
-- L. Neil Smith
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