Public Safety, Guns, and Politicians
Prior to becoming law on December 22, the New Jersey “carry-killer” bill, A4769/S3214, generated a great deal of discussion in the assembly and senate as it went through various revisions. Numerous anti-gun advocates gave testimony about how the provisions in the bill would benefit public safety, and why such restrictions on already-vetted conceal carry permit holders would benefit the general public welfare.
The arguments for such restrictions were generally crafted as follows: Of course we recognize your Second Amendment right to own and carry a firearm. And of course New Jersey should have a process to provide permits to people who have been thoroughly investigated. But a concealed carry permit holder with a gun in a crowded place may become a danger to themselves and others and may act irrationally and therefore, in the interest of public safety, we cannot allow this.
The illogical reasoning here is evident to most rational thinkers. If an individual has been vetted via the thorough background checks, multiple personal character affidavits, a national criminal background check, mental health records search, AND made the additional effort to train and qualify to a particular marksman standard, AND shouldered the hefty fees and costs to do all the above, there’s no rational reason to believe that such a person would become a threat to themselves or others simply because he or she visits a crowded public location.
In fact, the assertion that someone so thoroughly vetted would all of the sudden resort to criminal activity smacks of “thought crimes” that George Orwell knew a dystopian government would use to strip its citizens of rights. The idea that one is guilty until proven innocent is anathema to our traditional cultural and legal values in America. Even more perilous is the slippery slope standard that, in the name of public safety, liberties should be curtailed because one might commit a crime at some point in the future.
In an open society that embraces free will, the concept of universal “public safety” is illusory at best. It is an emotional appeal to reason. If the argument for severely limiting the exercising of our Second Amendment rights were applied to other activities, we would ban or eliminate nearly any risky activity — a concept that a totalitarian government would not blush at embracing.
CDC Furthers the Gun Control Agenda
Earlier this year the Center for Disease Control (CDC) removed statistics regarding defensive firearms use from its website (a study the CDC itself authored), and will presumably no longer publish them going forward. The study found instances of defensive gun use occur between 60,000 and 2.5 million times per year. And while the CDC saw fit to remove this data, they had no problem publishing the following regarding annual automobile injuries and fatalities:
…more than 32,000 people are killed and 2 million are injured each year from motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, the US crash death rate was more than twice the average of other high-income countrieshttps://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/motor-vehicle-safety/index.html
It seems that not only is driving an automobile dangerous, but we do it much more poorly than other countries do. In the interest of public safety, we could eliminate the deaths of a population equivalent to a small town each year if we simply banned traveling by automobiles.
Critics of this comparison will assert:
- It’s a false equivalency to compare a constitutional right to a privilege (like driving)
- One has to have insurance to exercise the privilege to drive
- Firearms are [somehow] inherently more dangerous than vehicles
- Automobile travel (as opposed to self-defense) is necessary
Even making the bold assumption that those are somehow valid statements, that all misses the point. Public safety in a free society requires an individual to exercise personal responsibility, regardless of the activity being conducted.
New Jersey’s Flawed Idea of Public Safety
All of the training, insurance requirements, background checks and other systems of checks and balances cannot guarantee that a person will either drive an automobile safely and lawfully, nor that they will use a firearm in a safe and lawful manner. Rather, we’ve collectively agreed that certain, if not all, activities have an element of risk, and that it’s up to the individual to conduct himself within the confines of the law and good judgement — or live with the consequences of not doing so. Except for New Jersey and concealed carry firearms.
The newly enacted prohibitions on where one can lawfully carry a concealed firearm eliminates personal responsibility. The state has effectively transferred the individual’s ability to make decisions and regulate his or her own behavior unto itself by simply banning the possibility of a location in which one may do so. (It merits pointing out, that such limitations will only be respected by the law-abiding. By definition, criminals will not comply.)
If public safety was truly at risk by lawful citizens going about their day with a concealed handgun, we would have known by now. Thousands in New Jersey have already been doing it, quietly, carefully and considerately, since July of 2022.
Some celebrate the new bill and its restrictions on our civil liberties. They claim we are now “safer” — whatever that may mean to them.. Time will tell whether New Jersey is truly safer, but common sense and history dictate that when the state takes it upon itself to make decisions for the individual, we are all less safe. The only way to ensure public safety, is to embrace and uphold the concept of personal responsibility.