The Ethical Spectacle, May 1995,

Some Modest Proposals Regarding the Texas Concealed Carry Law

For the first time since the last century, Texas (along with many other states) is considering a bill to allow its citizens to carry concealed firearms. I have a few suggestions as to how to improve this legislation.

The first concerns my own status as a regular business traveller to Texas. The legislators obviously have not considered how frightening it is for an outsider, from a city with strict gun control laws, to travel to a place where anyone may be carrying a hidden weapon. Effectively, I am a second class citizen when visiting Texas, unable to exercise the same fundamental right of self-defense as those around me. There is a simple way to solve this: let's permit, or even mandate, automobile rental agencies to rent guns as well. If I can pick up a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum and shoulder holster along with my Ford Taurus at the airport, I will feel a lot safer when visiting your lovely state.

It is all very well to let everyone carry guns, but how are we to know whom it is acceptable to shoot? I am not aware that the concealed carry legislation sheds any light on this significant issue. Therefore, I am especially proud of the following proposals, which I have derived from a close reading of NRA materials on the Second Amendment.

1. It should be permissible to shoot law enforcement officials in self-defense if they are armed and you have a reasonable belief that they are not legitimately acting under color of law in taking action against you. Imagine what a comfort such a law would have been to Randy Weaver and David Koresh! I find ample precedent to support this proposed rule in two places: the Second Amendment itself, which says that carrying (and presumably using) guns is the best guarantee of liberty against an oppressive government, and the House of Representative's recent bill confirming a reasonable belief exception to the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. What a lot of good can be accomplished in the name of a "reasonable belief"!

2. It should also be allowable to shoot someone else for carrying a concealed weapon. I know this is likely to be much more controversial than my first point above, but stick with me while I reason it through. According to a little book about self-defense sold in Texas gun shops, gun owners frequently (if erroneously) tell each other that if you shoot a perpetrator outside your house, you must drag him inside before the cops arrive. What is to prevent criminals from advising each other, similarly, that if you draw on a citizen, and he shoots you, you should conceal your weapon before the cops arrive? The bad guy is thus able to claim that the good guy shot him unprovoked. There is no other solution but to make the carrying of a concealed weapon prima facie justification for shooting the bearer--but only if he is a bad guy.

There is significant support for this position in NRA writings such as Lapierre, Guns, Crime and Freedom, (Regnery, 1994). Because the police cannot protect us, we must carry guns to defend ourselves against other people who carry guns--people who, if there were gun control laws, would still have guns, while we would not. There are, of course, a few problems in defining who is "bad" and who is "good", but that's what laws are for, to make distinctions! Anyway, Lapierre is helpful here too, in the examples he gives. If there were no gun control laws in New York City, he points out, the Orthodox Jews could have defended themselves against black rioters in Crown Heights , and, with relaxed rules in L.A., property owners could have more effectively defended themselves against black rioters there during the Rodney King riots.

3. This leads to a corrolary of rule no. 2. We can define a "bad" guy as someone who has previously committed a felony or other serious crime, has announced an intention to commit a crime or previously committed one or more legal acts supporting a reasonable belief that he intends to commit a crime, or belongs to an ethnic group which we reasonably believe has a tendency to commit crimes. (However, a prior record of violations of federal or local gun laws should by definition not constitute a "serious" crime for these purposes.) It now becomes easy to define a "good" guy as someone who does not meet any of the foregoing criteria.

4. The beauty of rules 2 and 3 is that they create a standard that is so objective, so easy to ascertain, that we can also streamline our expensive, complex, technicality-laden justice system, save society money and cut taxes. When someone is caught carrying a weapon, concealed or otherwise, a group of twelve local citizens could be immediately summoned by the arresting officer (or the citizen capturing the perp) to determine if the subject fits any one of the four categories in no. 3 based on clear and convincing evidence. If he does, lets enable the citizens to take immediate corrective action, by stringing the offender up from a tree or a lamp-post, where left for a day or two, he will do a persuasive job of discouraging other "bad" guys from the locality.

If the Texas legislature takes heed and enacts my proposed rules, we can successfully roll the clock back to 1830, removing all the really inconvenient verbiage from the Constitution, while preserving the only part of the document that's really important: the Second Amendment :{>

In early April, a man in Corpus Christi entered his ex-employer's offices and killed five people with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol before killing himself.

In April, Tejano music queen Selena was murdered by an employee and fan with a legally purchased .38 caliber pistol, bought at a San Antonio gun dealer.