Senate embraces fear mongering

As was reported by the Arkansas News Bureau, the notoriously lead-footed Arkansas state Sen. Bruce Holland (R-Greenwood) recently introduced a bill that would put the brakes on civil liberties. Following his lead, the state Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would deny public access to personal information about people who apply for or hold permits to carry a concealed handgun.

“I don’t believe this does erode the Freedom of Information Act. This is just a privacy issue; we’re not talking about how we’re spending our state dollars,” Holland told the Senate. “People who get their concealed-weapons license don’t want their names listed.”

We have a one word response: tough. There is no inalienable right to privacy where concealed carry laws are concerned. This is just one more attempt by the state GOP to push Arkansas further toward the cliff of right-wing extremism.

Our own state Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, questioned how the exemption would work since the Legislature just this week passed Senate Bill 71, to allows churches to decide for themselves whether to let people with conceal-carry permits into their buildings.

“How would a church verify that a person who claims to be holding a valid permit is actually permitted if they can’t access” the information? she asked.

When Holland suggested they ask to see the permit, Flowers responded that they could easily be falsified or forged. Holland’s subsequent replies only served to further trap him in an inescapable mire of contradictory logic.

At the end of the day, Holland and people like him seem to want one thing: to carry a concealed firearm, wherever and whenever they choose and to have as little accountability for those acts as possible. They construe the issue as one of Constitutional rights, but the truth is far simpler and far less noble.

They lose sight of the fact that this is not how a free, open and peaceful society comports itself. This isn’t the wild west. It is a modern democracy that is Constitutionally bound to transparency.

This law flouts that ideal, both in practice and in spirit. The argument this extreme contingent always falls back on characterizes any attempt to circumscribe free-wheeling gun-toting frontier antics as “the first step toward the government seizing our guns.”

The greatest irony in their position of alleged strength is that ultra-conservative politics tend to emanate from fear. Multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies have recently confirmed that elevated fear and conservatism appear developmentally linked. So much for the cowboy ethos.

As researchers from Brown University recently conclude, “It’s not that conservative people are more fearful, it’s that fearful people are more conservative. People who are scared of novelty, uncertainty, people they don’t know, and things they don’t understand, are more supportive of policies that provide them with a sense of surety and security.”

One thing that Holland and folks like him clearly fail to understand is the necessity of open public records. While we have a Constitutional right to bear arms, there is absolutely no Constitutional guarantee of doing so secretly.

As we all know, there was a huge flap up north when the names of people holding carry permits were published by a major media outlet. Holland would have you believe that publication of such information is intrinsically different than many other publicly available permit records.

If you want an occupation license, a license to sell alcohol, a building permit, a license to drive … or any of a hundred other permitted actions, then your name appears in a publicly accessible database. This contingent likes to remind us that freedom isn’t free. We agree with that sentiment. The price for the privilege of carrying your shootin’ iron wherever you please should be having to let everyone else know you’re doing so.