Monday, November 16, 2015

THE NRA, OPEN CARRY LAWS, AND TROJAN HORSES

I just got an email from the NRA urging me to support the passage of the open carry law [CS/HB 163] here in Florida. After they read this blog post they're probably going to take me off their email list. Although I had never read the legislation, I always thought that the proposed open carry law was a dumb law aimed at fixing a non-existent problem. The NRA's email had a link to the bill, so I clicked on it and read it. It's scary. It's not about protecting concealed carry cardholders who accidentally expose a lawfully carried firearm. It's about something else entirely. Here's the email I just sent to the committee considering the bill:

I've been an NRA member for decades, and the Second Amendment is my favorite amendment, but I cannot support this ill-considered open carry bill. It is being sold as an antidote to people getting arrested when lawfully carried firearms are momentarily accidentally exposed. As a retired prosecutor of 30 years, let me say that the odds of that happening are as slim as the odds of winning the lottery. And the odds of a successful prosecution on such an arrest are zero. If the fear is arrest when a lawfully carried firearm is accidentally exposed, why doesn't the statute simply say "accidental exposure of a lawfully carried concealed weapon shall not be considered a violation of the open carry statute"?

What it does say, in so many words is, "If you've got a concealed carry permit, strap on a gun like Matt Dillon in Dodge City and strut around." What it doesn't say but should is "do this right up until the time somebody walks up behind you and pulls the gun out of your holster and shoots you dead." You really need to rethink this bill.

Now I'm going to tell you what the bill really is. It's a Trojan horse for a scary provision [790.0015]   which basically tells officers and prosecutors "You better not arrest or prosecute any gun-toting citizen because you're liable to get your britches sued off." Since time immemorial law enforcement officers have had immunity from suit when they were acting in good faith. The rationale was that if they made an honest mistake while trying to enforce the law, they shouldn't get sued because to allow them to be sued would intimidate them into not doing their job. You know, kind of like what Rahm Emmanuel says is going on right now with the Chicago Police and the spike in crime in Chicago.

So This bill is being sold as a shield to protect law-abiding citizens when it is in reality a sword to intimidate law enforcement. And a license to allow people to recklessly carry guns exposed on their person. Purse snatching is a crime. If you pass this bill, you better start drafting another one outlawing gun snatching. Please do not pass CS/HB 163.

Two more observations and I'll get down off my soapbox:

[1] Passing the open carry law as it is now worded to solve the nonexistent problem of citizens whose lawfully carried concealed weapons are accidentally exposed is like swatting an imaginary fly with a real sledgehammer. You're not going accomplish anything except ruining whatever the imaginary fly was sitting on.

[2] What the heck does stripping law enforcement officers of immunity they've enjoyed since 1776 do towards protecting people who accidentally expose their lawfully carried concealed firearms? My final answer is "Nothing."