Friday, July 12, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #116 - Part 8

Guns: what you don't see can hurt you

Well, here’s a bit of news to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.  The Illinois legislature has just overriden Gov. Pat Quinn’s conditional veto, thus making the Land of Lincoln the 50th and final state to allow concealed carrying of firearms.

That’s right: Now, everywhere you go in this great nation, from sea to shining sea, the person muttering to themselves as they walk by you on the street, the person getting uncomfortably loud at the next table in the restaurant, the obnoxious fan at the ball game with a few too many beers in them, the driver leaning on their horn, the old guy shouting “hey you kids, get off my lawn,” they, any and everyone of them, could be packing heat.

Doesn’t that make you feel oh so safe?

In fairness to the legislators, they were, you’ll pardon the expression, under the gun: In one of those bizarre “guns are my master, must obey guns” rulings, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had declared the state’s ban on carrying a concealed weapon to be an unconstitutional infringement on the sacred 2nd Amendment. The court gave the state until July 9 to come up with a new law. Lawmakers feared that failure to act would mean that as of midnight there would have been no gun control of any kind in the state. Whether that was actually true or not - whether, for example, it would have obviated local ordinances - was arguable, but enough members of the state House and Senate were concerned enough to go along.

Rep. Brandon Harris called it “a historic, significant day for law-abiding gun owners” who “finally get to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” because apparently if you can’t carry a concealed weapon, the 2nd Amendment does not exist.

The law does have a list of places off-limits to guns, including schools, libraries, parks, and mass transit buses and trains. But here’s a question: If the guns are concealed, exactly how does anyone propose to enforce this short of, say, searching everyone who wants to get on a bus or go into a library?

Now, of course, one place they can get searched is at an airport. And more and more, people are trying to get on planes carrying loaded guns.

The TSA started keeping records of this in 2011. In 2012, TSA found 1,549 firearms on passengers attempting to go through screening, up 17% from 2011. Eighty-five percent of those guns were loaded. In the first six months of this year, they found 894 guns in carry-on bags, purses, pockets, even in a boot. That is a 30% increase over the same period last year. The TSA set a record in May for the most guns seized in one week: sixty-five in all, 45 of them loaded and 15 of those with bullets in the chamber, ready to be fired. That was 30% more than the previous record of 50 guns, which had been set just two weeks earlier.

The most common excuse? “I forgot it was there.” Either you are so addicted to carrying your gun, carrying it has become so vital to you, that you’re no longer aware of it or you are lying through your damn teeth, attempted to illegally carry a loaded weapon onto a plane.

I don’t find either of those alternatives reassuring.


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