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Political Report: Free Right-to-Carry: Truth Wins More Allies

Friday, February 22, 2008

Early every morning at NRA headquarters, we get the latest news stories on all issues that relate to our mission.

Quite often, the clippings read like a police blotter—incidents from all over the nation where law-abiding citizens have used firearms to defend themselves, their homes and businesses and their loved ones from criminal attack. Some of these tales make their way to you in the “Armed Citizen” column, although space simply won’t allow for all of them.

Reading these clippings every day reminds us that the work we do together makes a powerful difference in the lives of millions. I have lost count of the stories that end with a quote from the citizen to the effect that “I wish I hadn’t been forced to use this gun—but I’m sure glad I had it.”

It hasn’t even been 20 years since the concept of Right-to-Carry had its genesis in Florida, under the leadership of former NRA President Marion Hammer. Today, there are 40 states with Right-to-Carry on the books. Another eight provide some form of permit system, and only two—Wisconsin and Illinois—prohibit carrying altogether.

We still have our work cut out for us in the eight states that need reform, and the two that have no legal carry at all. State legislative sessions are now getting underway, and we will be on the front lines pushing for more and better Right-to-Carry laws everywhere we can.

As I have said before, a life of fear is what our opponents have chosen. They harbor fear of change, fear of the unknown and the strangest of all—fear of their fellow citizens and neighbors. Those who choose to exercise the basic right of self-defense have chosen a life of confidence.

The pattern in these debates has become familiar. When Right-to-Carry is proposed in any given state, our opponents marshal fear and hysteria, shrieking about “blood in the streets.” The media parrot their lines, and usually find some police chief in some big city who will sternly warn about the “dangers” of lawful self-defense.

But the mayhem never materializes. As we know, the people who pass the criminal record check for permits are, by definition, law-abiding. They go quietly about their day-to-day business, and the law-abiding fellow citizens they encounter are none the wiser.

But the members of the public who exercise their right to carry are enough to wildly skew the chances for predatory criminals. And even the media are starting to get it. In my home state of Tennessee, the Memphis Commercial Appeal recently ran an article that examined the increase in justifiable homicides, from 11 in 2006 to 32 in 2007. Memphis self-defense instructor Tom Givens had a simple explanation for the reporter: “The thugs have started running into people who can protect themselves.”

In Michigan, Right-to-Carry is now six years old, and law enforcement is coming around. A spokesman for the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police told the Detroit Free Press, “I think the general consensus out there from law enforcement is that things were not as bad as we expected … I think we can breathe a sigh of relief that what we anticipated didn’t happen.”

Grudging acceptance is the first step in the process. Other law enforcement experts have gone much further, faced with near-daily evidence of the value of “instant responders” who are on the scene when a criminal attack begins.

A commentary on PoliceOne.com, an information clearinghouse for active-duty law enforcement, makes quick work of analyzing the scenario that professionals call “active shooter.” Columnist Dick Fairburn, a longtime trainer with the Illinois State Police, takes note of the recent tragedies in Colorado, Utah and Nebraska, and writes, “Several years ago a comprehensive study of active shooter incidents found that most were over too quickly for a Rapid Deployment Contact team to assemble and make entry into the kill zone. In almost every incident where an active killer was stopped before they fully ran their plan, someone on-scene took immediate action. Generally, these ‘Instant Responders’ were security guards or ordinary citizens.”

Facts can dispel fear among legislators and some law enforcement officials, but not among the opponents of our fundamental right of self-defense. As I have said before, a life of fear is what our opponents have chosen. They harbor fear of change, fear of the unknown and the strangest of all—fear of their fellow citizens and neighbors. Those who choose to exercise the basic right of self-defense have chosen a life of confidence. We hold confidence in self-reliance, confidence that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones and confidence in our fellow citizens to do the same.

The first part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote is the famous one, but the rest is equally applicable: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” As we advance the right of self-defense through Right-to-Carry, the only people who need to retreat into fear are violent criminals.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.