Legislators pressing for looser gun regulation often argue that laws constrain only the law-abiding.
Bad guys with guns aren’t affected, goes the theory, because they wouldn’t follow the law anyway. But these politicians miss that laws encouraging more open carrying of guns benefits the bad guys too.
Say hello to these overlooked constituents: folks with quick tempers, with possible drug and gang affiliations, eager to pack heat in cities like Kansas City. Some rank-and-file police recognize this. And they’re fearing the possible scenarios.
On Thursday, the Kansas City Council passed a measure at the urging of Mayor Sly James banning people from openly carrying firearms in the city. It was a valiant, but probably short-lived, call for sanity. The Missouri legislature will probably override the city measure for concealed carry permit holders come fall.
Here’s an often mentioned police view: What if someone decides to hang around Loose Park toting a firearm? Police are dispatched, but then what? Gingerly approach the person and politely ask if they have a proper permit? Or wait for the person to begin firing? You never know — it might be a good guy with a gun.
Police find it difficult to comment openly on another reality because it touches on the dicey issue of profiling. There are lots of people in this city who are known by police because of affiliations with drugs and other crimes. But many of these people don’t have a felony conviction that would ban them from gun ownership. By making it easier for anyone to openly carry a weapon, politicians are encouraging these sorts too.
“I still want to find the one guy who wants to protect himself and he can’t because of our oppressive gun laws,” one officer said mockingly. “I’m still looking for him.”
That’s because the castle doctrine is solid. People have long had the right to protect themselves and their homes.
The legislators pushing these changes don’t live in the urban core, where just this week a rally with circus performers had to be halted. Fights were breaking out. Organizers wisely feared violence. They knew the mouthy ones might have easily escalated to gunfire.
Right now, when someone shouts “gun,” people reflexively duck and run.
But that could change if legislators get the kind of city they want, where it is more the norm than not for people to carry weapons. And police are left to figure it out who is the good guy with the gun and who is the bad. Before the bad one shoots them dead.