L. Neil Smith's

Number 4, January 1996

Letter to editor:

         The Libertarian Enterprise is great. Thanks for emailing issue #3 to me.
         Right on to L. Neil Smith for his article on concealed carry permits!
         When I was growing up in Alabama, just about every adult (and many youngsters) owned firearms, and a good percentage had concealed handgun permits. These permits were issued by the local sheriff for a token fee ($5 the last time I checked), and were given to just about anyone who wanted one -- excepting, I suppose, convicted felons. Although as a libertarian I object to all "permitting," as handgun restrictions go, this system didn't seem too bad. The concealed carry laws being passed by various legislatures in recent months appear to be a different animal altogether, though.
         I was never "into" guns, and never acquired one the whole time I lived in Alabama. But a couple of years ago I became increasingly alarmed at the escalating assaults on the 2nd Amendment and so went out and bought both a rifle and a handgun. I also wanted to be able to carry my handgun with me, but was prevented from doing so (legally) because North Carolina -- where I now live -- did not allow concealed carry under any circumstances.
         The situation was changed last year when a Republican-dominated legislature swept into power. A new law was passed requiring counties to issue concealed carry permits, and the law took effect on Dec. 1 of this year. Alright! Freedom wins one ... or does it?
         It turns out the new law has all kinds of restrictions. The sheriff will not issue you a permit unless you have first passed an approved handgun safety course. Then, you must be fingerprinted and undergo a background search (although they supposedly do a background check on you when you simply buy a handgun in the first place). News reports estimate that the cost of obtaining a permit (safety course fee + permit fee) will be $150 to $200. Once you have the permit, you are free to carry a handgun anywhere you like ... except in any state building, any state park, any highway rest area, any school (public or private), any day care center, or any place that sells or serves alcohol. That's just the state-mandated restrictions; each county (and city) was given the option to pass additional restrictions. Here in Durham County, the county commission voted to further prohibit handguns from county buildings, county parks, etc. (The parks thing strikes me as especially nonsensical, given the high frequency of rapes and robberies reported taking place in them.)
         The law also allows private businesses to prohibit handguns from their property. As an advocate of property rights, I support the right of business owners to prohibit guns ... but I'm galled by the fact that the legislators and especially the media have played up this provision of the law. What would be the outcry if anyone dared suggest that a business owner should similarly have the right to prohibit blacks or Hispanics or whites or people in wheelchairs or people with purple hair from entering his property? The anti-gun groups were hot to take advantage of this provision; within 48 hours of the law taking effect, I noticed that someone had gone around to seemingly all the business places in Durham and generously provided them with "No Handguns Allowed" signs, which most had posted. (I know it was an organized effort because many of the businesses also had anti-gun literature stacked on their counters.) I feel like asking every one of those business owners if they really think that people who would use a gun to rob them will now be prevented from doing so by the sight of that sign.
         There's one other rule: If a police officer approaches you for any reason, and you are carrying a concealed handgun, you must inform him of that fact immediately. It's not spelled out in the law, but I suppose that if a policeman asks you for the time of day, and then he notices a bulge under your jacket, and you didn't inform him that you were carrying, then you could be fined or sent to the pokey!
         Finally, as to Neil's point about the media publishing or broadcasting the names of people who obtain concealed carry permits -- so what's new? The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer, the main paper in this part of the state and rabidly anti-gun, already publishes the names and addresses of everyone who obtains a permit to own a handgun. I'm sure we'll start seeing the names and addresses of concealed carriers any day now.
         The concealed carry law, I can report, works perfectly in North Carolina -- I for one won't be getting one, and I suspect that many other citizens will also figure that it's just not worth the hassle.

-- Steve Smith, Durham, NC

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