Thursday, September 17, 2009

To what extent are carry liberalization bills signaling?

Over on the Desert Lamp, Evan Lisull speculates that many firearms bills, like this year's SB 1168, are signaling.

A question for readers (I hate the term "bleg"): Are there any data on how many people unlawfully carry concealed weapons in states without shall-issue permits? Or on how many were unlawfully storing in locked vehicles at Arizona's universities before the new liberalization went into effect. To what extent do the remaining carry restrictions actually restrict carry?

This isn't to say that there's no reason for repeal; when caught, those who flout the law face clear injustices. The case of Plaxico Burress--serving a mandatory minimum sentence for running afoul of New York concealed weapons law--seems as barbaric to an Arizonan as Saudi Arabian or Afghan justice does. (If nothing else, Burress deserves some legal sanctions for carrying in his waistband and for discharge--maybe reckless endangerment--but in penalizing carry by someone who isn't a prohibited possessor, beyond levying a fine for not having a permit, the state loses its moral authority just as it does when it criminalizes marijuana smoking. Surely there are cleaner cases still, but Burress is known because football players make the national news and average Joes do not.) But Lisull does have a point: many of the remaining restrictions--including, if one is truly careful about the mode of carry, the ban on carry at the state universities--largely restrict invisible behavior. To quote:
Even if it encourages a few more legal gun owners to not remove their firearm before they go to work, who would know the difference? In the end, the bill is mostly Hansonian signaling. Gun-rights supporters want to show that they love guns, and gun-control want to signal that they’re really, really concerned. The real effects of this bill do not merit the discussion that it’s received. As far as statistics go, it is a null effect – and generally, this country has a tradition of favoring liberty where the effect is nil.

A while ago, when the legislature was seriously considering ending the campus carry bans, I was contacted by Daily Wildcat reporters asking to be referred to students or professors who already carry. I couldn't think of any, which means either people are extremely quiet about it even to those who are overtly sympathetic, I socialize in the wrong circles, or very few flout the law. Does anyone know how close to nil the effect of liberalization, either by SB 1168's passage or by hypothetical legal campus carry, will be?

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