How would you feel if, before being able to attend the church of your choice, you had to apply to the government and get its approval?
What if you were accused of a crime and before exercising your Fifth Amendment rights, you had to apply to the government for permission?
And what if failure to submit the required applications and gain the proper approvals resulted in gross misdemeanor or even felony charges against you?
These scenarios may sound absurd, but they are a reality for Nevadans who desire to exercise their Second Amendment rights and carry a concealed weapon.
The Second Amendment is clear. The right to keep and carry a firearm shall not be infringed. However current state law clearly does infringe that right by requiring that anyone who wishes to carry, yet not publicly display, the weapon can only do so if he or she has first applied to the government for a permit — commonly called a "CCW" — and been approved. This is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Dispelling the myth: Only criminals and police carry concealed weapons
Why would a law-abiding citizen choose to carry a concealed firearm? People who have never carried — the majority of Americans — may not see any social justification. Other than law enforcement, who needs to carry a gun on a regular basis?
Yet homes today have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, even though there are few house fires. The reason for alarms and extinguishers in the home and for carrying a concealed weapon is the same. While hopefully never needed, these are tools for specific, worst-case scenarios.
One reason stands out above all others: People choose to carry firearms to protect themselves and their loved ones. Without question, it is dangerous when criminals have guns. In contrast, law-abiding citizens with guns increase public security.
In one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject, economist John Lott investigated the effects of concealed-carry laws. He found that counties and states with less-restrictive concealed-carry laws typically have lower rates of violent crime.
Lott's findings run contrary to societal indoctrination, but the findings are nevertheless correct. Because criminals do not know who is armed, but know that a larger percentage of people may be armed, it becomes harder and less appealing to commit crime. Thus, when governments remove concealed-carry restrictions, more people carry, which improves the safety of the entire community.
Consider this true and relatively recent Nevada story: At around 2:30 a.m. on May 25, 2008, Ernesto Villagomez entered a bar in Winnemucca and began shooting. According to police, about 300 people were present, drawn by a local tourism event. After killing two men and wounding another man and a woman, Villagomez began to reload, clearly intending to kill more people. At that point, an unidentified Reno resident — who was legally carrying a concealed weapon — drew his firearm and shot Villagomez.
The entire battle lasted only several seconds. Minutes later when police arrived, the shooting was over and Villagomez was dead. How many lives were saved through the actions of that CCW permit holder?
It bears repeating: More guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens increases safety.
If the public's wellbeing were a priority for legislators, they would repeal draconian gun laws, including Nevada's CCW requirements. Yet, as previous commentaries have explained, Nevada's gun laws — which allegedly exist to enhance safety — do nothing to achieve that goal. CCW laws everywhere, including the Silver State, are no different. They make people less safe, rather than safer.
How should Nevada improve its CCW laws?
Vermont and Alaska are the only states in the union that appear to understand the Second Amendment. Vermont's law allows anyone who can legally own a firearm to carry it concealed. Alaska does the same while offering an optional concealed permit for state reciprocity (this allows Alaskans to carry concealed in states that recognize Alaska's permit). We should follow these states' examples.
Liberty and tyranny are opposing forces that cannot coexist. Nevada's concealed-carry laws restrict liberty, allowing tyranny to grow. If we as Nevadans wish to change that, we should seriously consider how we as individuals and our government view concealed weapons.
We should reclaim the fundamental human right acknowledged and guaranteed in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Ben Robison is a contributing writer to the Nevada Policy Research Institute.