The 50 states that make up our country have quite different rules on guns. From the rabidly pro-gun lobby areas of the Deep South, Texas, the Rocky Mountains and other mostly rural states to urban areas where gun control laws are more severe, rules on permits, concealed carry laws and the ease of purchasing a firearm vary tremendously.
Though school shootings, murders in movie theaters and the recent horrific church massacre in South Carolina continue to spark much debate around the country, no end to this culturally complex and national conversation is in sight. East Coast liberals like myself believe the strict availability of firearms leads to more gun violence, while National Rifle Association (NRA) members invariably invoke their rights under the 2nd Amendment to defend the availability of firearms. Gun rights advocates further argue that more lawful citizens being armed equals improved safety and that carrying a gun also increases personal protection against becoming the victim of a crime.
Leaving aside the merits of each side in the debate, however, some state laws on firearms are truly head-scratching. All the proposals and laws described below fit into this “what were they thinking?” category and are anathema to overall public safety. Gun rights advocates constantly point to control laws on the books that they disagree with. Here, it’s the turn of the rational, not single-issue obsessed to speak out. Not only are these laws below surprising, but they are dangerous as well and, in some cases, just plain dumb.
GUNS FOR VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE
On the eve of his official campaign announcement, New Jersey Gov. and presidential hopeful Chris Christie wants to make it easier for state victims of domestic violence to obtain firearms for protection. There are two main problems with that reasoning: one is the premise that more guns mean better protection, and another is that responding to a violent episode by arming yourself could lead to more violence, particularly if the weapon should fall into the hands of the abuser. Gun rights advocates believe abused individuals have been made to wait too long for permits, and this announcement is simply pandering to that group on a meat and potatoes Republican issue.
ARMING THE BLIND
In Iowa and several other states, visually impaired individuals are eligible for gun permits. Some states require applicants to pass a vision test, but the Iowa law passed in 2013 does not. Following its passage, one county reported issuing permits to three people who don’t legally drive and were unable to read the application forms or did so with great difficulty because of visual impairments.
Protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act reserve equal rights and access for all in this country, but maybe common sense should prevail here. If a person is legally blind and can’t drive a car, should they be allowed to carry a deadly weapon?
Thanks to a law passed last summer, people licensed to carry a firearm in Georgia are allowed to stay strapped in so-called “gun-free zones” like government buildings that do not have security checks. The legislation also granted permission to permit holders to bring their six shooters through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at airports. State lawmakers must have thought that guns in bars, nightclubs and classrooms were a great idea.
MAJORING IN ARMS
Three states — Colorado, Idaho and Utah — allow students, along with any nut who wandered onto the campus, to carry firearms onto university grounds. So along with all the pressures college students face — grades, social situations, finding a major that will lead to gainful employment — the person sitting next to you during the political science lecture given by a no doubt egghead liberal professor might be packing. That’s just wonderful.
GUNS IN TRUNKS
Several states allow employees to bring their guns to work, provided the firearm is left in the car, and preferably — by the name of the legislation — in the trunk of the vehicle.
STAND YOUR GROUND LAWS
Made infamous through the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012, the Florida law and others similar allow the use of deadly force when a person reasonably feels they are at risk of great bodily harm in a confrontation. Could this vaguely written rule possibly be more broad or invite violence? Clearly it could and already has.
Some gun rights advocates have responded to school shootings by suggesting that teachers be armed to prevent a recurrence of bloodshed. Following the Sandy Hook, Conn., school massacre in 2012, Colorado began allowing armed educators.
The legality of carrying a concealed firearm varies greatly across the country. If one of the major premises of the gun rights lobby is that we are safer as an armed society, then why should people hide their heat? Maybe it’s because this is a false premise and in reality, everyone being armed doesn’t create more safety.
The right to open carry would mean a return to the idealized Wild West, and uses that mythology and fiction of the period as justification.
ALLOW ANYONE TO CONCEAL CARRY A WEAPON
This law would mean no permit required to carry a firearm. Gun rights nuts advocating for this action believe concealed carry should be allowed with no permit, because after all, aren’t we all safer when nobody knows who is armed? False. Criminals who are about to commit violent crimes are not in the mindset of considering if the person they might attack could be armed. If it were that simple, a perpetrator would probably be able to reconsider doing the crime in the first place.
NULLIFY FEDERAL GUN LAWS
The totally out-there proposal made this year in the Montana legislature by Tea Party members would have discontinued all federal gun control measures in the state. Good thing it was vetoed by the governor who — in addition to realizing it made no sense — knew it would be declared unconstitutional.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.