Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Rights and Reason: Virginia's concealed carry law

I don't write much about local issues, but ROR reader Mike Walker passed this story on to me and I could not resist.

In the 1990's, the Virginia legislature guaranteed the recognition of its citizens' right to self-defense via its Concealed Handgun Permit law. That law guarantees a Concealed Handgun Permit to citizens who have not otherwise forfeited their rights to gun-ownership and who have proven their ability to effectively use a handgun with certified training.

Since the enactment of the Concealed Handgun Permit system, over 100,000 permits have been issued in Virginia. In that time, permit holding Virginians’ have been spared from violence and death at the hands of thugs, murderers and rapists because they were armed. The vast majority of these acts of self-defense do not involve even a single shot fired; the mere fact that victims were able to show that they were capable of defending themselves was enough to deter an attacker. And contrary to the predictions of the opponents of concealed carry, Virginia has not turned into the "Wild West" after adopting Concealed Handgun Permits—it has turned into a place were lawful citizens can live their lives with the ability to protect themselves from violence and criminals.

Yet despite all the success of the Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit law, there is a flaw in the law that threatens the safety and security of permit holders. The current law denies the permit holder the means to defend himself on his way to, at, and coming from, restaurants serving alcohol. The current law also encourages the leaving of handguns in cars while their owners enjoy a good dinner, leaving lethal weapons vulnerable to theft.

The premise that the current law prevents persons from carrying concealed weapons in alcohol-serving establishments is true only insofar-as it prevents law-abiding citizens from doing so. Criminals have been, and will keep violating this law now and in the future, and by their nature, they will not be caught nor punished.

The fact is that one’s right to use a firearm in defense against a deadly threat does not disappear just because one has entered a restaurant. If the legislature wishes to protect the people from permit holders using firearms under the influence of alcohol, it ought to prohibit the specific conduct of the permit holder, and not his mere location.

Using a firearm in self-defense ought not to be subject to arbitrary restrictions. The prohibition against alcohol and guns is common sense. The prohibition against guns and restaurants is not.

Virginia Senate Bill SB579 would correct this deficiency, and I urge Virginia ROR readers to support it.

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