Permits for concealed weapons are already allowed in 31 states, and the concept of citizens arming themselves against criminals is fast becoming a popular one. People want the right to shoot back. In the current race for governor, Norm Coleman is the only pro-gun candidate. The belief is that if criminals know their potential victims might be packing a handgun, they will be less likely to perpetrate a crime. All of the DFL candidates and other opponents say this opens the door to widespread gunfights, increases the chances of guns falling into the wrong hands and gives people the opportunity to shoot first and ask questions later. But once word settles in that everyone is carrying, criminals are not going to run away scared — they will think twice.
DFLers accuse Coleman of backing down from his previous hard-line, GOP-supported stance because he now says permits should be issued only in certain cases, which is not all too different than current practices. For an ex-Vietnam War protester, Coleman has certainly done a complete turnaround in advocating more guns. His overall crime stance is to get tough on gangs and lower the ages for juveniles who can be tried as adults to 14 and 15. He calls the plan “adult time for adult crimes.” He’s asking for an increase from $3 million to $7 million for the gang task force. Gangs are systematic, and Coleman calls for a systematic response. Sounds good in theory, but does the issuing of permits mean shooting back at gangs? He will increase penalties for gang felonies to a mandatory five years, up from the current one year penalty. In addition, Coleman wants to impose a mandatory 10-year sentence for gun-related gang felonies. He also wants officials to have the ability to trace guns under the new Brady law.
Some supporters of the must-issue or right-to-carry laws say the press only covers crimes used with guns and not the millions of incidents where Americans successfully defend themselves with guns. Passive behavior on the part of women is under attack as a method of least resistance. Unquestionably there are a number of rape victims who, if they had the chance, would have shot the rapist.
Coleman says local police departments will have nearly total discretion in granting gun permits. Many people who will be issued guns have no prior arrest records. They may demonstrate thorough awareness of gun safety and, in all respects, look as respectable as can be. Gun control advocates believe this opens the door for shoplifters, window peepers and many other criminals who simply have not yet been caught. The thought of just anyone carrying a gun to a mall or a child’s baseball game is very scary indeed. Traffic jams and angry drivers late to work are equally worrisome, should they decide to solve their dispute with a gun.
The risks of adding more guns to the streets must be balanced against the right to defend oneself, gun to gun. Law abiding citizens should not be prevented from protecting themselves just because criminals obtain guns illegally. Serious background checks, systematic tracing of weapons and thorough safety training must be mandated.