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DANA PARSONS

Armed and courteous foes of fewer gun permits

February 13, 2009|DANA PARSONS

When I opened my big, fat mouth a couple weeks ago in support of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' more restrictive concealed weapons permit policy, I knew there'd be hell to pay.

You know how it is. You say or write anything remotely suggesting we don't all have a right to pack a sidearm on Main Street, and the gun nuts will eat you alive.

You write and, to quote Capt. Sully Sullenberger, brace for impact.

So, I wrote and braced and . . . .

Talk about a smooth landing.

Make no mistake, they came out in force. Dozens of e-mails came in, basically arguing that law-abiding citizens who pass mandatory training courses ought to be allowed to carry concealed weapons.

Gun nuts?

Hardly. At least not the overwhelming majority of e-mailers I heard from. They zeroed in on the nub of the issue, which is to ask why well-intentioned citizens shouldn't be allowed to carry a concealed weapon, just in case it might someday be needed.

In arguing that people should, the letter-writers weren't vitriolic, insulting or patronizing.

I almost wish they had been. It's easier arguing with people if you dismiss them as wackos. I'm always willing to match wits with people who call me names. I sit at home at night thinking of comebacks.

But when the right-to-carry people argue their case on the merits, it disarms me.

As one e-mailer wrote: "I have carried a firearm the majority of my adult life, legally and/or otherwise when the need to protect myself arose. I neither require, nor desire, the need to obtain 'permission' from my employees (otherwise known as 'public servants'). As a retired member of the U. S. Armed Forces, a former law enforcement officer, and firearms instructor, you have no reason to fear one such as myself carrying firearms."

Then, to emphasize his point, he wrote in capital letters: "WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS."

He had me at hello.

As I suggested in the last column, I get the argument. I really do.

How can anyone dispute that if confronted on the street by a criminal intent on mayhem, it's much preferable to have a way to defend yourself?

But I and other pointy-headed people just can't extend that argument as far as the other side does. Bottom line: I wouldn't feel safer knowing that untold numbers of private citizens that I pass on the street -- yes, even salt-of-the-earth types who have been trained -- are packing guns.

I know criminals don't care about permits. I know the 2nd Amendment gives gun-owning and gun-bearing rights. But not even a leading conservative lion of the U.S. Supreme Court argues that the rights under the 2nd Amendment extend automatically to concealed weapons.

In defending the right to armed self-defense in one's home, Justice Antonin Scalia also wrote: "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment."

For another thing, California law leaves discretion on who gets permits with the county sheriffs, and Hutchens interprets the code to limit permits to people who can make a compelling case for needing protection.

She got blasted again this week for that position, because it's more restrictive than what had been in place. Sheriff only since last summer and a former high-ranking member of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, Hutchens has been told that she's out of step with the Orange County "culture." Given that only about 1,000 people have permits and the county has 3 million residents, I'm not sure how pervasive that "culture" is.

Hutchens should stand her ground. The Board of Supervisors ought to be supporting her, but isn't.

I accept that most of the people who want the right to carry a gun don't have sinister intentions.

But if their numbers were to exponentially grow, my comfort level would exponentially drop. I don't trust all cops, and I certainly wouldn't trust the teeming masses with thwarting street crime.

You right-to-carry folks insist you're not the crazy ones.

I so stipulate.

But you need to realize that we're not the crazy ones, either.

--

dana.parsons@latimes.com

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