Friday, March 27, 2009

AB357: California Shall Issue Bill

Steve Knight, a CA Assemblyman representing Victorville, has proposed a bill which would remove the "good cause" requirement for obtaining a concealed carry weapons permit (CCW). This would allow CA to join the ranks of "Shall Issue" states (currently 37 out of the 48 states that allow concealed carry). The text of his bill can be found here.

Existing law authorizes the sheriff of a county, upon proof that the person applying is of good moral character, that good cause exists, and that the person applying satisfies any one of certain conditions, as specified, to issue a license for the person to carry a concealed handgun, as specified. This bill would delete the good cause requirement, and require the sheriff to issue the license if the other criteria described above are met.

The bill is currently in the Public Safety Committee for review. I wrote the following letter to each of the members of the committee.

I am writing to encourage you to support AB357 titled "An act to amend Section 12050 of the Penal Code, relating to firearms." This bill would remove the unnecessary, unfair and subjective requirement of showing "good cause" when applying for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The current requirement of showing "good cause" is unnecessary because the law already provides that the applicant must be "of good moral character" and "is not prohibited from possessing firearms". Both of these criteria allow the chief law enforcement officer to investigate the applicant and screen out those individuals who cannot be trusted to use their freedom responsibly. The requirement of showing "good cause" does nothing to reduce crime or increase public safety. Out of 48 states that allow concealed carry, 37 do not have such unnecessary restrictions. These "Shall Issue" states have some of the lowest crime rates in the country. According to the FBI, Right to Carry states had 24% less violent crime in 2007 than other states. AB357 would eliminate this unnecessary requirement and allow law enforcement to focus resources on keeping communities safe.

Furthermore, the requirement is unfair because it places the burden of proof upon law-abiding citizens to show that they have a special need to exercise a fundamental right of self-defense, which has been recognized for centuries. Despite the fact that the California Constitution acknowledges the rights of defense of life, protection of property, and pursuit of safety in its Section I, many officials do not consider such self-defense sufficient as "good cause". This means that people who may live in high-crime areas are unfairly deprived of the right to defend themselves away from their homes unless they have been personally attacked or threatened, in which case it is often too late. Yet statistics show that many attacks can be prevented when victims are armed. The US Justice Department found that 34% of felons were scared away by armed victims and another 40% avoided attacking altogether because they feared that the victim might be armed. AB357 would promote public safety by ensuring that the right of self-defense was equally available to all law-abiding citizens.

Finally, the subjective nature of the current law disadvantages those who reside in counties or cities where the chief law enforcement officer has unusually restrictive views about what constitutes "good cause". This places law enforcement in an unfortunate, adversarial relationship with those who are generally their strongest supporters. Furthermore, many crimes are prevented by holders of concealed carry licenses, often without a shot being fired, which greatly reduces the burden on law enforcement. AB357 would benefit both law enforcement and law-abiding citizens by removing the subjective, time-consuming process of reviewing "good cause statements" and restoring a co-operative relationship among those who are natural allies.

Historically, anti-concealed carry laws were enacted because everyone was presumed to have the right to carry weapons openly and only criminals were thought to have a need to conceal guns. However, we no longer live in the Wild West and many now realize the advantage of having a population where the criminals do not know who is armed. John Lott, in his book More Guns, Less Crime has definitively shown that crime rates go down dramatically when "Shall Issue" laws are passed. Please join Assemblyman Steve Knight in supporting AB357 and making California a "Shall Issue" state.

Here are the email addresses of the members of the Public Safety Committee:

Jose Solorio
Curt Hagman
Warren Furutani
Danny Gillmore
Jerry Hill
Fiona Ma
Nancy Skinner

You can also go here to send a comment to Steve Knight in support of his bill. Just look him up on the list and hit the comments link next to his name. The system will allow you to select the bill you want to comment about and check a box for support or oppose. I am sure that will help him win support for the bill.

If you live in a district represented by an assembly member not listed above, be sure to tell them you support the bill as well. Click on the "Find My District" button on the Assembly's web page.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

San Diego Bans JROTC Shooting Class

As I have noted before gun safety classes ought to be mandatory for all U.S. citizens, starting in the at least in the teen years. (Prior to Junior HS, kids should have Eddy Eagle-type safety classes that do not involve handling actual guns.) This should be obvious to everyone, but especially to the guns-are-inherently-scary crowd. In no other public health subject do these folks recommend an abstience-only approach. Chad Baus makes a similar point at greater length in a recent article on the USCCA web site (registration required).

Society has determined (after seeing enough homes and apartment complexes burn to the ground because little Johnny was playing with matches) that it cannot be left to parents alone to teach children not to play with matches.
Society has determined (after seeing enough children experience the horrible victimization of sexual abuse) that it cannot be left to parents alone to teach children what to do if they are touched inappropriately.
Society has determined (after seeing enough children on the sides of milk cartons and WalMart bulletin boards) that it cannot be left to parents alone to teach children what to do if a stranger attempts to lure them into their car.
Society has even determined (well, at least our President did when he was an Illinois State Senator) that it kindergartners need to be given sex education.[2]
I simply cannot understand why a society that has decided that parents cannot be trusted to provide the "proper" education on issues like fire safety, sexual abuse, abduction, and even sexually transmitted diseases, is perfectly comfortable leaving the issue of gun accident prevention up to parents.
The NRA has been promoting a safety program for children in grades K-3 since 1998. The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program tells those youngsters to "Stop! Don't Touch! Leave The Area! Tell An Adult!" if they find a gun.

So, with that in mind, what the hell are the folks in San Diego thinking?
A group of San Diego teenagers successfully convinced the San Diego Unified school board yesterday to dismantle the district's Junior ROTC air-rifle program. The on-campus program has been training young cadets how to shoot for decades.
The district's Junior ROTC air-rifle marksmanship program has a long and distinguished history in the San Diego Unified District. But now the program has been shot down. That's the result of a one-year, student-driven effort.
The program first came under fire last year when JROTC officials introduced air-rifle shooting ranges on the campuses of Lincoln and Mission Bay high schools.
Students, teachers and parents were outraged. Many didn't realize on-campus shooting practice even existed in the district.

As noted in this article, the program is thoroughly concerned with safety (almost to the point of paranoia):
They argue that their instruments, .177-caliber air rifles, shouldn't be classified as weapons because they don't use bullets propelled by gunpowder, but pellets projected by compressed air.
Students are allowed to handle the rifles under close supervision and only after logging a perfect score on a qualifying test. Less than 10 percent of the 1,845 ROTC students make the cut, said Jan Janus, who supervises the district's ROTC programs.
The best shooters, like Elizabeth and Monica, compete on teams, testing their aim in three positions: prone, standing and kneeling. The discipline requires stillness and concentration, coaches contend, and women often excel at it.
“Despite what some of our opponents think, we're not out there training gang members to knock off 7-Elevens and do drive-by shootings,” Janus said.

This is far worse than the brainless "zero-tolerance" policies that other schools have enacted -- protecting their students from the dangers of t-shirts, crayon drawings and chicken fingers -- because this destroys a program that could actually teach someone about gun safety.

The latter article concludes with this optimistic thought:
Another Mission Bay High ROTC member, Zachary Warden, said a classmate has launched a petition drive to challenge the board. One of Andrew's ROTC advisers, Mark Vizcarra, suggests that critics have awakened “a sleeping giant” in the form of students, parents and ROTC backers who will want marksmanship reinstated.

Let's hope so.