Courage lost in fearful bluster

It was disappointing to learn of Gov. Mike Beebe’s acquiescence to yet one more right-wing demand. One would hope that a term-limited governor would have a little more moral courage than we’ve seen in recent days. Apparently not.

The issue at hand is the measure sponsored by Republican Senator Bruce Holland of Greenwood. The new law will allow the names of persons with concealed handgun permits to remain secret. That this kind of law exists is a testament to the influence of extremists in our state. (The governor isn’t going to sign the bill, but he’s not going to veto it either. Either way, it quietly becomes law.)

Of course gun idolaters construe it differently. They laud the bill as protecting their “God-given right” to carry a gun wherever they choose. They invariably cast anything but complete surrender to their will as the first step to seizure of their beloved weapons. Given the fear-mongering hyperbole on which Holland and his ilk invariably rely – namely, the predictable references to either being murdered while you sleep or public disarmament under the Nazis — no one should be surprised at the resonance their dubious claims appear to have.

Of course, there’s another, more neutral way to assail this issue: permitting. Think for a moment about all the other activities that require some kind of publicly recorded and accessible permit: hunting; fishing; building; driving; catering; alcohol sales; tobacco sales; occupation licenses; incorporations; seismic operations; crematorium operations; sales tax collection; burning yard waste; geocaching; pyrotechnic use for explosive pest control devises; carrying a wide load, pulling a trailer; keeping a dog; transporting hazardous waste… and scores of other activities, practices and professions.

Somehow a publicly accessible concealed carry permit is inherently different — at least that’s what these folks would have you believe, “But it’s our Constitutional right to bear arms…”

Yes, you have a right to own guns. You also have a right to freedom of assembly — until that assembly becomes so large that it poses a danger to broader society — at which point you typically have to get a permit to hold the assembly. You have a right to vote, but you have to register first. You have a right to own property, but your ownership must be recorded on the public rolls. You have a right to free travel, but international travel requires a passport. You have a right to free expression, but if that expression takes the form of a publishing or broadcast concern (books, newspapers, radio, Internet) you’ll likely need a business license…

So, why then, are guns any different?

“They just are!!! Remember the Constitution! Remember how dangerous the world is!”

These aren’t reasons. They are propaganda that emanates out of fear. They hope that you’ll be so scared by all the boogeymen and so enraptured by flag waving that you’ll forget about all the other things that require a permit.

In the end, their logic is just flawed. For example, one of their central contentions is that public access to carry permit rolls would make it easier for thieves to come steal their guns, because they’d know who had them. By this same logic, driver’s license holders should be worried that car theft would be facilitated by identifying licensed drivers.

At the end of the day, if you ask these folks to make a rational argument for their position that isn’t predicated in fear — either of criminals or the government — they can’t. Therein lies the greatest irony: By succumbing to fear, they’ve already surrendered the most important part of their freedom.