Or are you just happy to see me?
a concealed SUIT column by Chris Jungle
Just to prove that the state I live in is still the wild west, the 2001 New Mexico State Legislature passed a measure permitting the "concealed carry" of guns. There is a heavy debate whether this will be allowed in my hometown of Albuquerque. The legislature added a proviso to the bill allowing the larger municipalities to exempt themselves from the law and continue to ban concealed weapons. The mayor has called on the City Council to make Albuquerque the first city in the state to disallow the concealed weapons act. While I hope that concealed weapons are not permitted in my town, I'm going to have to go on believing in the kindness of strangers.
Before two weeks ago, I hadn't given much thought to gun rights. I knew almost anyone can go into the local Wal-Mart and purchase a shotgun anytime they wanted. Gun shows occur at the fairgrounds about once a month. If no one has what you want, you can always mail order your favorite firearm. Guns are easy to get, legally or illegally. If you really want one, you can get one. This right has been around for a long time, and although people always quibble over whether semi-automatic and automatic guns should be legal, the fact remains that it's easy to purchase a firearm that will maim or kill any mammal you desire.
I've always thought gun owners should be proud of their guns. Show them off. Stick them in gun racks. Wear them in a side holster. Hold them in their hands. I've never understood the theory that concealed guns prevent crime.
Advocates stress that criminals will be hesitant to pull their own guns if they assume that anyone could also be carrying a weapon. A friend tried to explain to me that carrying a concealed gun will keep him safe from all the other weirdos out there who are hiding their package. The theory is that everyone will play nice if they assume they can be blown away at anytime. I won't go into it here, but the same rationality has been proposed with regard to nuclear weapons. If every nation has the bomb, we'll all play nice. Sounds silly, doesn't it?
Whether the theory holds true or not, it's not the kind of society I want to live in. I see more problems than benefits with people concealing their guns. A society that is forced to assume everyone could be carrying a gun is a paranoid society. They are expected to stay in line out of fear of retaliation. People will be polite to each other, but they will also keep their distance. What if someone came up to you asking for change? What if someone has a blown tire and needs to ask for help? What if a buddy sneaks up behind you as a joke? In this new Huxley-esque world, everyone you meet could be your grim reaper.
Like I said before, I never considered any of this before two weeks ago, and my goal is to live my life the same way regardless of the decision. For years, people have been walking around with guns, knives, brass knuckles, mace, and if worse came to worse, they could always pick up a rock and throw it at me. Basically I'm a nice guy, and I'm going to assume that whether your guns are concealed or not that you will still not shoot me, even when I'm at my most obnoxious. If you do shoot me, I hope you go to jail for the rest of your life.
Hiding our guns won't make us safer. It will make us more armed. I know people who are getting their concealed gun license just because they can. People are going to carry concealed guns just because they can. People are going to do whatever they want anyway, but give them permission, and they will prove how American they can be. I just hope that if cops ever search me and discover I'm carrying a concealed joint that they realize the absurdity of what is considered legal and what isn't.
I'm still going to shake hands with people I don't know. I'm still going to keep my life and house gun free. I'm still going to assume people don't want to shoot me. But now I get revive that old juvenile joke and ask folks "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"