A smart politician who wants to be reelected is reluctant to offend gun freaks because they are loud and organized. But here at Pith in the Wind we were kind of wondering if, in addition to protecting their own asses, lawmakers also might consider whether we really want to introduce guns into places where children play. Gun advocates insist society has nothing to fear from the law-abiding citizens going armed. But there are more than a few examples of handgun permit holders committing crimes. Helpfully, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has made a list:
In Tennessee, a permit-holder was recently charged with murdering someone in an argument over a parking space; another pleaded guilty to assault after allegedly threatening his wife; another was arrested for impersonating a police officer; another permit-holder, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Brandon Jones, pleaded guilty to taking his loaded gun into Nashville International Airport; another 99 Tennessee permit-holders were found to have felony convictions, DUI charges or orders of protection against them; as many as 200 were discovered to have disqualifying domestic violence records.
Around the country, there are many more cases of these crimes. See them here. The fact that permit holders commit crimes all the time is an inconvenient truth for gun advocates. That's why they're also pushing to close the names of the nearly 220,000 handgun permit holders to the public, so we can't know what they're doing. Anyone publishing the information would be committing a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $2,500. That bill comes up Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee.
Knoxville News-Sentinel editor Jack McElroy explains what this means:
So, let's say, there's another attack like the one last year on the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (I hope there isn't), and the News Sentinel learns that the shooter was a felon to whom the state had wrongly issued a handgun permit. Under this law, we couldn't tell the public that without facing prosecution. Or, flip it around. Say a would-be mass-killer was shot by an alert citizen who had a handgun and a legitimate permit. The News Sentinel couldn't publish that, either, without risking fines.
Asked about concerns that the bill might violate the First Amendment, Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, responded: "It's no concern of mine." I guess the right to bear arms trumps the right to free speech, especially if you're packing.
Update: One out of every four state legislators hold a state-issued permit to carry a loaded handgun. They include Sen. Ophelia Ford. That's reassuring. The list of pistol-packing legislators, courtesy of Tom Humphrey who got it from Rick Locker through Andy Sher.
Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, Oct. 30, 2007
Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, March 30, 2006
Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, March 17, 2006
Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport, Aug. 16, 2007
Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, Aug. 4, 2005
Thelma Harper, D-Nashville, Nov. 28, 2005
Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, Oct. 15, 2007
Jackson Johnson, R-Franklin, June 27, 2008
Mark Norris, R-Collierville, Oct. 29, 2007
Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, May 8, 2008
Paul Stanley, R-Germantown, June 24, 2008