Ross Nelson column: They watch too much 'Gunsmoke'
It's not a pretty sight when urban legend and hysteria combine, but it can be entertaining if you keep a safe distance from it. For years the Minnesota Legislature, reinforced by the state's law enforcement Chicken Littles, has staved off a conce...
It's not a pretty sight when urban legend and hysteria combine, but it can be entertaining if you keep a safe distance from it. For years the Minnesota Legislature, reinforced by the state's law enforcement Chicken Littles, has staved off a concealed weapons permit law. Now that Minnesota has a non-discretionary ("shall issue") gun permit law, the nonsense is cascading forth, flooding the banks of reason.
One legislator called the proposed law a "conceal and kill bill." Moorhead City Council is considering turning city hall into a fortress, with Kevlar bulletproof barriers placed all over. This, despite the fact that Minnesota law already allowed the carrying of concealed weapons in city halls, and despite the fact that a would-be criminal keen on havoc wouldn't trifle with getting a permit anyway, now or in the past.
Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist -- can he be serious? -- draws a picture of Rambos and Wyatt Earps under the new law packing unlimited arsenals on their persons. But according to John Calle of the group Concealed Carry Reform Now, that exaggeration was legal under the old law too, but was never a problem. Barnesville Police Chief Dean Ernst thinks the law takes us back to the days of the old West. He forgets that it was far safer to walk the streets of Laredo, Texas, back then than it is now in New York or any major city in America for all their strict anti-gun laws.
Clearly these and some other Minnesotans have watched too many "Gunsmoke" TV episodes and spaghetti westerns. Some of their time would have been better spent trying to free themselves from myth and irrational views. The definitive work on guns, concealed guns and crime is John Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime," second edition. His study covers all of America's 3,054 counties and is based on public records such as the census and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports. No other study matches his work for depth, breadth and the number of variables included and factors accounted for such as demographics, cause-effect sequences, income, race, gender and a host of others. His empirical conclusion? Concealed weapons laws decreased violent crimes of nearly every description and most property crimes to boot.
Contrary to expectation, the evidence shows that heavily populated urban areas benefit more from concealed weapon laws than do more lightly populated or rural regions. So much for the argument that Minneapolis-St. Paul will turn into a vast OK Corral. The crime rate of permit holders in the 33 other non-discretionary permit states is practically zero.
Let's forget all this book larnin' for a moment. North Dakota is a "shall issue" state. Can Sheriff Bergquist or Chief Ernst point out a problem here with trigger-happy gunslingers shooting it out over that last piece of pie? Have permit holders here posed a serious crime problem at all? Whence have these law officers gotten their caricatured views of law-abiding citizens and guns?
These men imply that the typical -- not the criminal element, but the typical -- Minnesotan would tend to be one of the Clancy brothers if allowed to carry. Since they recruit from the Minnesotan populace this must mean that Minnesota law officers would also tend to be dangerous gunsters.
There's something else at work here. Contrary to the Second Amendment, government at all levels seems to want a monopoly on force by disarming everyone, except when it wants us to fight its wars. Then we may be trusted to carry weapons and level Third World countries. We just can't carry firearms in our own country, no matter what common sense, the Constitution and empirical evidence say.
Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and regular contributor to The Forum's commentary pages. He can be reached at email@example.com