Earlier this week on Tuesday, March 19, a battle was waged over gun laws in Illinois, and it continues today. After the U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit ruled against the Illinois ban on carrying a concealed firearm, there has been a debate regarding the nature of the new law. The Illinois General Assembly met Tuesday to discuss HB0997 — the concealed carry bill — in addition to a number of other gun-related bills.
While the constitutionality of carrying concealed firearms has already been determined by the federal court, there is still a question to ask about whether or not the practice can stand on its own as something that should be allowed. After examining the trade-offs and taking some moral perspectives into account, I think there is room to say that it should be.
The immediate trade-off for concealed carry seems to be this: If citizens are allowed to carry concealed firearms, there will be a greater potential for citizens to be able to defend themselves from criminals, but there will be a greater risk of citizens making fatal mistakes at the expense of innocents. On the other hand, banning concealed firearms will lower the risk of irrational use by citizens, but it would give criminals a distinct edge.
While looking at the trade-offs alone, one might believe that this is a simple matter of opinion, and a decision on the law would make no legitimate difference. But this is where a different perspective will be helpful.
The implication of a concealed carry ban is that citizens are, in general, not responsible enough to use a firearm to defend themselves or others. And the assumption is that the cost of individual citizens making mistakes will outweigh the benefits of crime prevention.
The reasons to doubt this position are overwhelming. The Cato Institute published a well-documented publication in 2012 detailing cases in which citizens have defended themselves with firearms. An article from George F. Will in Newsweek revealed in a study that the error rate of police in accidentally shooting bystanders was five times that of civilians. The statistics show that few citizen carriers even fire their weapons during incidents. The exact ratio of successful preventions to mistakes is difficult to measure, but arguably staggering.
Another way that one might attempt to justify a concealed carry ban is to look at worst-case scenarios. The belief could be that there is a greater moral evil in doing nothing to prevent someone from mistakenly killing an innocent than allowing a criminal to kill an innocent by removing the person's firearm. However, this would fail to take into account that in the former case, there is no coercive action taken. In the latter case, there is.
There is one final point that is probably the most important one to make: Removing individual responsibility can have a detrimental effect on society in the long term. If self-defense is taken entirely away from the individual by law, the population over time will be less inclined to learn how to defend themselves.
This is not to say that a concealed carry ban would amount to this. This is to say that one should think carefully about where the removal self-defense capabilities should end.
Following the debate in Illinois:
An archived version of the General Assembly live-stream should be found here. Illinois gun-enthusiasts are following the Assembly closely on Illinoiscarry.com. Pertinent information, along with comments and opinions can be read on the IllinoisCarry forum here. A full list of current Illinois gun-related bills can be found on the website of the Illinois State Rifle Association.