Screen, Scran, Screwn
by L. Neil Smith
I've made no secret of the fact that I oppose this trendy
rush toward a universal concealed-carry permit system.
It's a strategic error in the good old-fashioned style of the
NRA (not to mention an exceedingly dangerous precedent) to let
government, at whatever level, issue you a license to do something
that's already the natural, fundamental, inalienable
human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right of every man,
woman, and responsible child: to obtain, own, and carry, openly
or concealed, any weapon -- handgun, shotgun, rifle, machinegun,
anything -- any time, anywhere, without asking anyone's
There, I said it and I feel better.
Having been often accused of negativity in the past, however,
I do feel obliged to suggest an alternative that will accomplish
the same objective with none of the terrible political
side-effects, and at the same time, take into account something
few of us have ever addressed: the individual right NOT to keep
and bear arms.
Let's face facts: what we're seeking here is legal immunity
for something many of us have been doing all along anyway, acting
on a belief that "It's better to be tried by 12 than carried by
six". But what of those -- and there are lots of them, possibly
even more than there are of us -- who actually believe (for
whatever reason) that it's better to be carried by six? What
about those who've been wandering around unarmed without official
sanction and have no such immunity as we have to look forward to?
In short, what of the plight of the gunless?
Now I can hear you out there saying, "But there is no right
not to own and carry weapons -- show me in the Constitution where
it says there is!" And I have to admit, you've got me. But I
can't see anything wrong with making it a privilege.
The sensible thing, it seems to me, is to assume that everyone
is armed. (Cops would certainly live longer if they did and be a
hell of lot more polite in the bargain.) After all, the wording
and intention of the Second Amendment is plain, even though the
rights it guarantees have a history of being viciously and illegally
suppressed. However, if an individual can show sufficient reason why
he or she shouldn't own and carry weapons, who are we, in all
humanity, to stop him or her -- provided certain commonsense
precautions are taken for the good of society as a whole.
Is he mentally,or morally handicapped, given to sudden, uncontrollable
episodes of pacifism, a demented belief that he has a right to initiate
force against others, or to delegate it to somebody else? Does he suffer
a paranoid fantasy that groups exist as something other than an aggregate
of the individuals who comprise them, and even have rights in and of
themselves? I'd say that qualifies him, right there. For fifty bucks
(oh hell, make it a hundred and fifty) he can have my
permission for two years not to own and carry weapons, and put
in for renewals by mail.
Visa, MasterCard, or American Express cheerfully accepted.
Can he show sufficient need? Does he feel an urge -- say, whenever
someone says he'd like to be alone, goes into his own house and locks
the door -- to cordon the building off, surround it with sinister
windowless vans and overly well-fed men dressed in fetishistic black,
and remonstrate with him over a bullhorn, while getting ready to fill
the place with bullet holes and burn it to the ground? Bingo!
Another permit not to own and carry weapons -- no further
Burglars, muggers, rapists, and politicians, of course, will
always be given first priority, and we can even provide something
like food stamps for those who can't afford to buy official
permission to disregard the highest law of the land.
Now don't tell me this law is unenforceable, we all know
better. For instance, we can start using metal detectors
properly: when it doesn't go beep and the subject can't produce
appropriate paperwork, he'll be cavity-searched right there in
public to find out what he's carrying instead of a gun. We can
take Judge Abner Mikva's advice, offered so long ago, and install
such devices in every doorway, rather than just in airports and
courtrooms, to insure compliance. The Fourth Amendment protects
people from unreasonable searches for something (at least it used
to before Gingrich and Company got ahold of it) but it doesn't
say anything about searching them for nothing!
Come to think of it, I wonder if dogs can be trained to sniff
out the absence of a weapon ...
Given the past performance of the government in this area, many of
America's non-gun-owners may be a trifle suspicious at first. After all,
a single pen-stroke by a treacherous legislature could easily alter the
phrase, " ... the sheriff must issue a permit not to own
and carry weapons ... " to, " ... the sheriff may issue a permit
not to own and carry weapons ... " and we all know where that
leads. It could instantly undo all our good intentions and hard work.
We'll simply have to assure them all that we have absolutely
nothing like that in mind.
Not just now, anyway.
They should trust us.
The way we (who ought to know by now that the past participle
of "screen" -- as in "background check" -- always turns out to be
"screwn") have learned to trust them.
Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the
author -- provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and
appropriate credit given.
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