Monday, December 18, 2017

Tragedy in Aztec, Revisited

Stephanie Nakhleh asks some good questions in her letter regarding the Aztec school shooting and reflects a lot of our mutual frustration with not being able to stop these things from happening. But she may have missed the article in the Albuquerque Journal that stated that the FBI had investigated the shooter and reported him to the local police. The FBI did not have adequate justification to equate William Atchison's obnoxious rants with a credible threat so they could not act on their information to arrest, interdict, or put the future shooter on a no-buy list. Neither could the local police.

That in a nutshell is the problem with having both First and Second Amendment rights. The Founders assumed a sort of circuit breaker between thought and action. That was clearly missing in this and a lot of cases.  How we re-instill that mental circuit breaker is a good question. I think laws are not a guarantee of success but perhaps education and social outreach combined with some carefully targeted legislation might be effective.

One option is to institute a "may issue" permitting process for purchasing a handgun in New Mexico that would allow local law enforcement to put the brakes on a future Mr. Achison until he matured a little and demonstrated some distance between radical ideology and radical lawlessness. The trouble with that idea is that while it may, if we are lucky, interdict the William Atchisons of the nation, it also empowers law enforcement to arbitrarily and capriciously deny other people their rights. Having grown up in a "may issue" state, New York, I saw that arbitrariness and capriciousness used against my uncle, a WW II combat veteran with a spotless military record and no criminal history who was denied the right to defend himself by the actions of a law enforcement official who didn't even have to offer a reason to deny my uncle a handgun permit. That was in spite of my uncle having defended his nation while dodging German '88' shellfire as he fought his way across Europe. In a neighboring jurisdiction, I was granted, straight out of college, an unrestricted concealed carry permit virtually no questions asked. The bottom line is that permitting had virtually nothing to do with one's reliability or qualifications and everything to do with local politics. If you like that idea applied to guns, feel free to apply it to abortion rights or anything else.

Back to my uncle, who with an increasing disability due to nerve damage in his neck as he grew older, worked late nights as the maitre d'Hotel at a well known restaurant in Buffalo, the Anchor Bar, which local readers might know from the "Buffalo Wings" that were invented at his restaurant. He wished to carry a gun for protection as he left work at long past midnight and due to his nerve damage and age could neither outrun nor outfight anyone on his way home in inner city Buffalo. So in spite of his history of being a combat veteran and honorable citizen, he was denied a permit. Yours truly, with neither age nor maturity nor a history of knowing how to defend myself in combat as my strong points, could carry a hand cannon virtually anywhere I wished. Go figure.

 Perhaps if the gun violence prevention community could ensure that these travesties that tormented my uncle would not occur, we in the gun community could offer to meet our political adversaries halfway. After seeing what my uncle went through, I have little confidence in such a situation of trust ever developing. In fact, given recent political polarization, the political climate, like the natural one, seems to be changing for the worse.


Weer'd Beard said...

The Bottom line is that the "Vetted May Issue" System praised by anti-gun people is, in fact, a myth.

My first Massachusetts permit was a LTC A, with a "Restricted to Target and Hunting" stamp, meaning my "License To Carry" as LTC stands for was for anything but.

This denial was given to me by the CHEIF's secretary. She was not a peace officer, nor did she even ever ask my name.

The bottom line was at that time (it can change as Chiefs change) Medford Massachusetts was essentially a no-issue town, with some very crass exceptions to those who were politically connected to the Chief of Police.

If you were a politician, Police Officer, or Fireman, or the family there of, you could in fact get a carry permit, but all others were denied, sight unseen.

I know of no places where a true "May Issue" system exists...and frankly such a system could NOT exist in this country.

Think about it. Let's say you are an upstanding citizen, clean criminal background, gainfully employed....but the Chief feels, maybe because you have a Trump Bumper Sticker on your truck, or agree with Black Lives Matter's innate distrust in the police, that you are "Unsuitable".

Doesn't that not only violate your 2nd Amendment Right (and I suspect you know where I stand on the scope of that Amendment) but also your 1st Amendment rights?

There are only two just systems. My Personal preference being the Constitutional Carry model, where if you can walk into a gun shop and buy a handgun, there is no legal reason why you shouldn't carry it out of the store concealed if you so wish.

(And think about it, there was nothing stopping your uncle from carrying his gun except for his respect for the law....and shouldn't his respect for the law be even more strong when it comes to murder and assault, and other fears the anti-gun lobby uses to oppose concealed carry? But somebody with NO respect for the law, or human life, isn't going to be concerned with a slip of paper that validates their concealed weapon....or the legal system that declares them prohibited from owning or using firearms because they are say a convicted felon)

Or I can concede that a Shall Issue system is just. If you are to be denied your right to keep and BEAR arms, that right should only be stripped by a court and a jury of your peers. (5th and 6th Amendments)

In reality a public servant should not be able to exercise their own subjective whims, instead rights should only be stripped by due process of law.

Khal said...

This should be a due process/Constitutional issue, not one where a decision is made on the whim of a politician or appointed bureaucrat. If there is a question of one's suitability, it should be incumbent on the government to prove its case in court rather than asserting the power to deny a right by mere fiat.