Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Concealed Carry

To carry, or not to carry. That is the question.

According to my old (and obsolete) friend, GURUNET, "Concealed Carry" means:

concealed carry (USA)

In the United States, concealed carry is the right to carry a handgun or other weapon in public in a concealed manner.

I've just posted an article about FishOrMan, describing his twenty-month legal battle to defend his Open Carry of a pistol in the state of Washington, USA.

This is different from Concealed Carry in that you are required to carry your pistol in a manner which makes it obvious to the casual observer that you are armed.

It is also different in that, in Open Carry states, you (supposedly) need no governmental permission to carry Open.

This isn't always the case, as FishOrMan learned.

Because the people who are paid to enforce the laws aren't always clear about what the law is, and how it should be applied, it may be prudent to get 'pre-approval' from the State (or County) to carry a concealed weapon. LEOs pay attention to this. Also, being 'merely human', they may apply their own interpretations as to whether your chosen method of carrying a firearm is legal.

I have made my own decision about whether or not to carry, and the associated decision about seeking governmental approval of my right to carry a concealed weapon. This is a good time, I think, to talk about that decision.

It's important to consider how one will exercise the right (if right it is) to carry a concealed weapon.
Probably the most common reason for carrying a weapon is self-defense. This supposes that one will be attacked and need to defend one's life, another person's life, or even one's personal well being or property.

Defense against, for example, rape or assault with injury which may NOT lead to death is a point of contention. Most people think that they have the right to defend themself with lethal force against injurious assault, but some assert that they would submit to assault or even die rather than to take the life of another human being. I personally find this hard to understand. Perhaps I'm just a selfish person, but I believe that anyone who would willingly assault another human being has already decided to accept the risk that it may escalate into a Life Or Death situation for at least one of the (unwilling) participants, and thus has accepted the unspoken covenant that the life of the assailant is forfeit if the assaulted can only accomplish it.

This result (that an assaulted person might ultimately kill his or her assailant) strikes me as 'an outcome ernestly desired' by some innocent who is violently attacked. "Your Mileage May Vary", but it seems to me that I have the right to defend myself by whatever means available when attacked, and if I have not chosen to arm myself beforehand I have made the decision to submit to any injury or indignity which another can force upon me.

You might not agree with me NOW, but when you are attacked by a naked man with a machete when you are walking to your car after work, you may have an entirely different perspective on the question. Of course, by then it will be too late to work out the ethical details.

Thus I postulate that I have a right to arm myself in defense of myself, and this right has been generally conceded by the Bill of Rights (2nd Amendment) and specifically by over two thirds of the States of the Union.

Given that this right is correct and real, and supported by the Rule of Law, what am I going to do with it?

Most states which legally support the right of the individual to arm in self defense include several conditions of qualification. Most common of these conditions are proof that one is legally entitled to own a firearm (felons need not apply; insane maniacs get in line behind the felons, but don't get your hopes too high; juveniles . . . don't even think it, you have less rights than maniacs.)

Assuming you're not a felon, or a maniac, or a juvenile, can you prove that you are competent to use a firearm? Most states require some certification that you have received the benefit of training, or have received instruction on the rights and/or obligations of a responsible carrier of weapons.

Given, for the sake of argument, that I am a legally responsible adult citizen in all respects, and I can prove it, and if I can get at least three other people to vouch for me (also a common stepping-stone on the road to permission to carry), I can be awarded a Good Conduct Medal. This is variously referred to as 'Concealed Pistol License" (CPL), a "Concealed Weapon Permit" (CWP), or in my home state as a "Concealed Handgun Permit" (CHL). I'll use the term CHL to describe the governmental permission.

The good thing about a CHL is that you can carry a handgun ALMOST anywhere, and you can carry someplaces where you would be subject to legal penalty if you don't have a CHL. This most accurately describes the situation in my state. If I have a concealed pistol in my car, I can go to jail. However, if I have a CHL, it becomes my "get out of jail free" card.

This the reason why I applied for a CHL in Oregon. I often attend shooting matches around the state, and became concerned because in the confusion of loading the car with guns, ammunition, pistol belts with holsters and magazine carriers, tools, spare parts, clothing appropriate to a surprise change in the weather, food, water, a thermos of coffee, and perhaps a suitcase with toiletries and a change of clothes for a weekend stay with friends . . . I may put the bag with the guns in the back seat of the car instead of in the trunk of the car.

In my home state, the law requires that guns must be transported in a locked compartment, and not accessible by the driver of the automobile while operating the car. By accident or inattention, I may violate that law and thus be subject to penalties including confiscation of automobile and firearm, fine, and imprisonment. (One of my cousins was once caught with a pistol in the glove compartment of his car, while on the way to a ground-squirrel hunting area. He was fortunate that he was not imprisoned, but it cost him more money than he could afford and he was put on probation for six months. Plus, he lost a really fine Ruger .22 handgun. He was perhaps careless, certainly overconfident, but absolutely not felonious in his intent.)

To avoid this situation, I have chosen to apply for, and was eventually 'awarded with', a Concealed Handgun License by the state of Oregon and the county of Benton.

I took a one-day class in "Home Defense" from my local gun club, filled out the forms, had three friends sign my "certificate of whatever", gave the Sheriff's office my fingerprints, gave the same sSheriff's office a check for $55, let them take my picture, and two months later received a CHL.

Now I don't care where I put the bags with the guns when I load the car. My Jeep Cherokee doesn't have a trunk, and I don't care. Cargo compartment, back seat, front seat, glove compartment . . . it doesn't matter where I put the guns, I'm legal. They can't touch me, as long as I don't have the gun laying open to casual observation in the car. (Another local aberration.)

So the CHL works for me, because it protects me from goofy laws which may or may not . . . but have, historically . . . cause legal problems for someone who hasn't jumped through the legal hoops and paid their danegeld to the County.

What does this do for my Self-Defense Posture?

Not much, if we're talking about defending myself against assailants.

But it does a LOT in the area of defending myself against bureaucrats!

Hey, what about defending myself against assault?

Okay, let's talk about this.

There are restrictions against carrying a weapon, even if you are the somewhat proud possessor of a CHL.

FIrst, you can't carry a gun into a court of law. (Some states include "Any Public Building", such as a post office, the local FBI office, or a school ... we'll discuss this in a minute.) Often, your CHL will not allow you to carry in a place where liquor is served. This means, if you go to a restaurant and they have a license to server beer or wine, you can't bring your gun with you.

In my state, there was once a law stating that you couldn't have a handgun in your possession within 1000 yards of a school. Good law, we're doing this 'for the children', right?

Not really. What if you live within 1000 yards of a school? What if you are driving by the school on your way to or from a shooting match? (A thousand yards is over a half-mile. Many schools are located on or near main surface streets; you may be within this artificial legal limit while driving to a shooting range from your house, your gun may be locked in the trunk, but if you're stopped for a traffic infraction you are subject to many legal penalties even though you obviously had no nefarious intention in mind.)

This law was eventually overturned in my state, because it was too vague and put too much burden on the casual wayfarer to KNOW when he or she was within X distance of a school. Besides, there are schools which somehow have retained a 'Shooting Club', and it made it impossible for them to operate. Yes, I am aware that this is a mind-boggling situation, but in Oregon there are still some people who believe firmly that competition shooting builds character and is good 'for the children'. I happen to be one of them, because I participated in Gallery Rifle Competition from Junior High School through College (ages 11 thru 23).

This all sounds Gun-Owner Friendly, right?

Unfortunately, I spend most of my daylight hours on the campus of the college where I am employed. If I bring a gun to work with me, the state can prosecute me for having a firearm in a "public building".

What if I bring a gun to work/school, but leave it in the car?
The school may or may not have a policy (it hasn', to my knowledge, been published yet) against having guns in the car?

Well, they MAY not be successful in prosecuting me for breaking the law; but there's a HUGE grey area, which hasn't yet been addressed, about whether an employer can refuse permission for employees to have a firearm in posession on 'their' property. As far as I know, a University Campus has not yet been defined as a "public building", so I don't really know if it's possible for me to arm myself while walking to and from my car in the dark of the pre- and post-work hours.

Even if they can't prosecute me, they MAY be able to discharge me for having a weapon on campus, even if it is locked up in my car.

And frankly, a gun in my car doesn't do me a lot of good if I'm attacked while I'm walking to my car in the dark at the end of the work day.

As far as I know, this is the most dangerous part of the day . . . walking to my car after work. And I'm at least 'discouraged' from carrying to defend myself.

Is that a familiar scenario? Is your employer the the entity which prevents you from defending yourself from random violence? I'll bet it is.

So, what's the bottom line here?
A concealed handgun license MAY protect you from the state; it won't protect you from the State's efforts to negate your ability to protect yourself from assault.

H/T: Bearman's 45 blot, "Why I Don't Have A Concealed Weapons Permit"

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