No Pause For Reflection By Gun Lobby Allies

In the midst of the furor surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin, there may have been a bit of a discussion among the chattering classes about the broader implications of policies encouraging citizens to assume the roles traditionally assigned to police officers enjoying a monopoly on the legitimate use of deadly force

But in state capitals around the country, the gun lobby’s drive to arm the population as heavily as possible hasn’t paused for any real debate. Here’s a quick summary from Stateline’s Maggie Clark:

The Kansas House passed a bill last month to allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry their weapons into any public building that doesn’t have “adequate security,” like metal detectors or security guards, and Oregon pro-gun legislators narrowly defeated a bill that would have banned guns on schools grounds, which included K-12 schools, community colleges and universities.

Virginia repealed its statute that blocked residents from buying more than one gun a month unless they got dispensation from the police, and Oklahoma legislators are likely to allow gun owners to visibly carry their now concealed weapons.

South Dakota lawmakers ventured the farthest in removing gun restrictions this session by voting to get rid of concealed-carry permit requirements and allow any state resident over age 18 with a valid drivers’ license to carry a concealed weapon without undergoing the background check now needed for a permit. Under the legislation, law enforcement officers in the field would have had to assess whether the gun owner had a criminal background or mental illness history that would preclude them from carrying the gun.

This last measure, at least, did go too far, and was vetoed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard after pleas from law enforcement officials. Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming, however, already allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit.

More generally, as Clark noted:

[L]egislation loosening gun restrictions is still gaining momentum, even in Washington. The national “right-to-carry” reciprocity act was just introduced in the U.S. Senate, which would allow any person with a valid concealed-carry permit to carry their handgun in any other state that issues permits. The National Rifle Association is heavily supporting the bill, which passed the House last year by a vote of 272-154.

Like the rash of new laws around the country restricting abortion rights, the let’s-arm-everybody drive is in no small part a consequence of the 2010 elections, which may have largely been fought on other issues, but nonetheless empowered ideologues with a much broader agenda than was typically advertised.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.