My father lives a pretty safe life. He’s an engineer from a small town with four children and a wife. He rarely encounters serious danger, but he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
My older sister also has a concealed weapon permit. After she turned 21, she took the class to obtain a CPL — a concealed pistol license — with my father and my brother. Because they took the time to learn to use a weapon properly and followed the law, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be trusted to carry it.
In Michigan, it’s legal to carry a weapon openly. Concealed weapons are regulated by state law. Currently, individuals with CPLs aren’t permitted in areas such as school grounds, college classrooms and dorms, sports arenas and hospitals.
Legislation has recently been introduced in the Michigan Senate to loosen restrictions on where concealed weapons can be carried. The proposal has some flaws, but it’s based on a solid concept. Adding firearms to any situation isn’t automatically going to increase safety, but trusting qualified individuals with those firearms might.
In a Jan. 31 editorial, the Michigan Daily argued that the proposed legislation should be thrown out (Rethink gun legislation, 01/31/2010). The editorial argued that adding more firearms to a dangerous situation makes things worse, not better.
The Daily said in its editorial that the shooting in Tucson, Ariz. in early January was causing people to think rashly. But as horrible as that event was, it wasn’t the true impetus for the legislation. As the Daily also noted, the sponsor of the proposal, Sen. Mike Green (R–Mayville), sponsored similar legislation in 2000. People have been debating the range of the Second Amendment for decades. There are legitimate debates about where individuals’ rights end and the concern for public safety takes over.
It’s clear that there are some places that firearms shouldn’t be allowed. The Daily was right when it pointed out that schools are one such place. Allowing weapons to be in close proximity to so many children isn’t a wise decision. And, of course, we shouldn’t hand out firearms willy-nilly to any Tom, Dick or Harry on the street. Some gun restrictions can be reasonable — like asking those seeking a CPL to provide proof of residency and not be a convicted felon or mentally unstable. These restrictions don’t step on Second Amendment rights. They simply ask people to approach these rights responsibly.
But there are good reasons to relax concealed carry restrictions, some of which are unreasonable — like the ban on firearms in stadiums and arenas. In these settings, there are people we trust with weapons — police officers, for example. We trust these individuals because they’ve been trained to protect the public and use a weapon conscientiously.
People with CPLs also undergo some education — they must complete a course in gun safety to apply for a license. Typically, the people who choose to complete the course are people who know how to use a weapon. My father and sister, for example, have military training. And my father has been using firearms for a few decades. Admittedly, this doesn’t compare to the training cops get, but it shows that these individuals are thinking critically about the use of a weapon and their obligations as a citizen — that they’re approaching their rights with a sense of responsibility.
I once asked my father why he got a CPL. After all, the most dangerous situation he faces is rush hour traffic. He explained to me that he made the decision because it’s better to have some people who know how to use a weapon in a potentially dangerous situation than simply allow one dangerous individual to hurt as many people as he or she can.
The concerning weapons are the ones that are illegally obtained — either bought illegally or stolen — or illegally concealed by unstable individuals. There’s only so much that can be done to limit those weapons, but we can trust stable, legally-certified people to help protect public safety.
It’s easy to think that maybe the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 would have led to less loss of life if someone had been able to disable the shooter sooner. Not everyone with a weapon can be trusted, but it’s better to know that some people — like those who take the concealed weapons training course and know how to use their weapon — are ready to take the responsibility to protect their fellow citizens. Violence isn’t always the answer, but it shouldn’t be taboo either.
Rachel Van Gilder was the Daily’s editorial page editor in 2010. She can be reached at email@example.com.