Monday, August 7, 2017

New Mexican: Shooting Straight Means Hitting The Right Target

The New Mexican editorial "Shooting Straight Matters in New Mexico" criticizing a Federal concealed carry license (CHL) reciprocity bill didn't do the subject justice. This topic is a red herring to New Mexico's gun violence problems.

New Mexico accepts CHL permits from 24 states. Of the contiguous states whose permits we accept, Texas has a live fire requirement while Arizona and Colorado do not; classroom instruction also varies.  But more to the point, our gun violence problem is home grown. Untrained children, gang members, revolving door felons, disgruntled spouses, and others are our gun violence poster children. There are few if any, out of state zip codes on those mug shots, regardless of a state’s CHL requirements. 

Two laws that would reduce gun crime in New Mexico (it takes more than gun laws to reduce gun crime) are first, a set of incentives and requirements to ensure secure gun storage. Lax storage is a major conduit (via theft) of guns to illicit purposes and a significant cause of childhood accidents. If widespread gun ownership is coupled to lax storage, this creates a target-rich environment for gun thieves. Second, passage of a domestic violence/gun restraining order bill such as the one Gov. Martinez vetoed. In third place is a background check requirement when selling a gun to someone you do not know.

"May issue” permitting should be off the table. Our standards for concealed carry in New Mexico are tough but fair and transparent while "may issue" permitting lacks basic due process protections. Imagine, when renewing your driver's license, having all the paperwork in hand and a clean driving record. The DMV administrator denies your license request because traffic is too congested and in his opinion, you don’t have a good reason to drive a car. "May issue" permitting is arbitrary and capricious.

Finally, training in the safe handling and use of firearms, and knowledge of self-defense laws, are inseparable from carrying a gun in public. That's my objection to this Federal bill: the "race to the bottom" lack of proficiency requirements is inappropriate.  My CHL instructor Mike Grimler commented in the New Mexican: "...I firmly believe that anyone who incorporates a firearm into a personal self-defense plan...assumes a huge societal responsibility...and, part of that responsibility incorporates firearm knowledge, knowledge of use of force laws, and demonstration of firearm marksmanship and handling proficiency, which can only be attained through comprehensive and extensive training..." Mike, with his comment, shot a rhetorical bullseye.

Some compare CHL to driver's and marriage licenses, i.e., states recognize each other's driver's licenses while Obergefell requires states to recognize each other's same-sex marriage licenses. Universal CHL could be accomplished with thoughtful consensus requirements. But with gun politics so polarizing, such a solution is unlikely. Thus, either a federal law or court order is the only solution to changing the crazy quilt status quo of who can carry where in the United States if we desire to do so. 

The bottom line? Deadly force should be the absolute last resort in confrontational situations. Guns should never be America's Maslow's Hammer when resolving conflicts, whether they be personal or political issues. That has to be the bottom line. 

Finally, for an example of just plain inappropriate even if Constitutional, go here.

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