By Rachel Brody |
Openly carrying a loaded weapon in public is best left to highly trained individuals like law enforcement professionals. Before we give a law enforcement officer the awesome responsibility of carrying a firearm, we require that officer to have extensive training. This process ensures that he or she can shoot straight and has the judgment to use that weapon responsibly.
If you want to use a firearm in your home, the risk is primarily to yourself and your family. Out in the community, however, there should be vigorous standards to protect the rest of us from any potential misuse of your weapon. George Zimmerman forever put to rest the idea that untrained individuals have the judgment to police their neighborhoods with guns.
Unfortunately, 28 states currently allow residents to openly carry loaded guns in public without any permitting, screening, or training requirement. Moreover, in those states, individuals can buy guns through private sales without undergoing a background check. That means that residents can carry guns on the street without law enforcement having any idea of whether they have a criminal record, mental health issues, history of domestic violence or substance abuse, etc., etc.
Nine additional states allow open carry via a "Shall-Issue" permitting system like the one Zimmerman went through to get his concealed carry permit in Florida. In these states, the background checks conducted on applicants are shallow and cursory. Training requirements are minimal, never exceeding a single day of training (if there is a training requirement at all). You might recall that Zimmerman assaulted a police officer and was the subject of a prior restraining order and still got his carry permit.
Open carry is not only dangerous to our communities but to the very foundation of our democracy. In a fascinating new article for the New Yorker, journalist Jill Lepore said something that strongly echoes my own beliefs about contemporary America. "When carrying a...weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted," Lepore noted, "there is little civilian life left."
According to the Roberts Supreme Court, the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to bear arms to protect "hearth and home." Carrying a loaded gun in public is therefore a privilege that can, and should be regulated by the state for the benefit of all Americans.
About Joshua Horwitz Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Dave Workman Senior Editor of TheGunMag.com
Ralph Shortey Republican State Senator in Oklahoma
Lindsay Nichols Staff Attorney with Legal Community Against Violence
Josh Sugarmann Founder and Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center