Monday, April 30, 2007

Concealed Weapons Permits and Campus Safety

Michael Barone has a well-balanced commentary on the politics of gun control in the current issue of U.S. News and World Report. His remarks are especially interesting on the topic of concealed weapons permits and campus safety. Here's his introduction:

The murders two weeks ago at Virginia Tech naturally set off a cry in the usual quarters -- the New York Times, the London-based Economist -- for stricter gun control laws. Democratic officeholders didn't chime in, primarily because they believe they were hurt by the issue in 2000 and 2004, but most privately agree.

What most discussions of this issue tend to ignore is that we have two tracks of political debate and two sets of laws on gun control. At the federal level there has been a push for more gun control laws since John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and some modest restrictions have been passed. At the state level something entirely different has taken place. In 1987 Florida passed a law allowing citizens who could demonstrate that they were law-abiding and had sufficient training to obtain permits on demand to own and carry concealed weapons. In the succeeding 20 years many other states have passed such laws, so that today you can, if you meet the qualifications, carry concealed weapons in 40 states with 67 percent of the nation's population (including Vermont, with no gun restrictions at all).

When Florida passed its concealed-weapons law, I thought it was a terrible idea. People would start shooting each other over traffic altercations; parking lots would turn into shooting galleries. Not so, it turned out. Only a very, very few concealed-weapons permits have been revoked. There are only rare incidents in which people with concealed-weapons permits have used them unlawfully. Ordinary law-abiding people, it turns out, are pretty trustworthy.
Barone suggests that many of the policy-related fears of concealed weapons laws have proved unfounded, even in liberal states (his example is Michigan and Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm, who's one the Wall Street Journal's regular "whipping girls" on Michigan's allegedly disastrous fiscal policies). Here's what Barone says about about Virginia Tech:

Virginia has a concealed-weapons law. But Virginia Tech was, by the decree of its administrators, a "gun-free zone." Those with concealed-weapons permits were not allowed to take their guns on campus and were disciplined when they did. A bill was introduced in the House of Delegates to allow permit holders to carry guns on campus. When it was sidetracked, a Virginia Tech administrator hailed the action and said that students, professors, and visitors would now "feel safe" on campus. Tragically, they weren't safe. Virginia Tech's "gun-free zone" was not gun free. In contrast, killers on other campuses were stopped by faculty or bystanders who had concealed-weapons permits and brandished their guns to stop the killing.
Barone notes he favors sensible gun control reform, but read the whole thing for yourself. As Barone mentions in the introduction, The Economist's issue on the Virginia Tech tragedy made a big case for gun control. However, the Wall Street Journal's initial editorial about the tragedy warned against a gun-control overreaction, and noted that:

A better response than gun control would be to restore some of the cultural taboos that once served as restraints on antisocial behavior.
I'm not a big fan of gun control, but's the issue's coming to a head -- especially following the recent D.C. Circuit Court ruling nullifying Washington, D.C.'s, strict firearms ban. I'll be blogging more about the issues surrounding the Virginia Tech massacre in the weeks ahead.

Gary Kasparov's Call for a Global Magna Carta

I was intrigued by Gary Kasparov's brief article in the current issue of Foreign Policy. Kasparov is calling for a "global Magna Carta." This document would be combined with a new set of international organizations committed to the protection of transnational human rights and to the end of the moral relativism that has worked to keep the world's most brutal dictatorship in power, while simutaneously proping them up in leadership positions at the United Nations. Here's Kasparov's powerful opening paragraph:

The civilized world is in peril. Hezbollah, Iran, and North Korea continue to exist with minimal accountability for the danger they pose. Terrorists and dictators are welcomed to the arena of polite diplomacy, despite their total contempt, even hatred, for what Western civilization represents. Engagement and appeasement are failing as they always have. Today, a new framework is required to replace the old structures and agreements that dictate global diplomacy. I do not refer to reforming the United Nations. It is now so outdated that suggestions to reform it are themselves past their time. The United Nations was formed to freeze a crisis—the Cold War—not to solve crises. Our war today is a hot one, and it is not about territory, ideology, or commerce. It is about the value of human life. The world needs a new organization based on a global Magna Carta, a declaration of inalienable human rights that all member nations must recognize. Without guiding standards, we are being dragged down to the lowest common denominator. Communism was defeated not by moral relativism and long meetings but by an opposition possessing firm and unabashed moral leadership, combined with the increasing superiority of the West’s technology and standard of living.
Kasparov -- who was the world's chess champion for twenty years -- is now a Russian democracy activist who heads the United Civil Front. He made headlines a couple of weeks backs when he was arrested in Moscow's Pushkin Square for his role in a opposition rally protesting Kremlin policy.

Check out also Melanie Kirkpatrick's interview of Kasparov in the Wall Street Journal, from January 27, 2007. Also take a look at Wall Street Journal editorial on the implications of Kasparov's arrest for the right to dissent in Russia.