In a surprising event, the NRA actually lost a major legal argument in a federal court, and America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ predictably responded by calling the decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (U.S. v. Robinson) “the most anti-gun ruling from any court of the modern era.” Which only goes to show how rarely the NRA loses a big one in court. But forgetting for a moment the NRA’s attempt to engage in a bit of Trump-like hyperbole about this new threat to all law-abiding gun owners, the decision does put something of a crimp in gun-nut nation’s plan to realize their most cherished ambition, namely, the extension of unquestioned concealed-carry to all 50 states.
The NRA has been pushing the idea of letting everyone wander around the entire country with a gun in their pockets ever since then-Senator Larry Craig took some time away from his public toilet stall and sponsored a national, reciprocal concealed-carry law back in the Clinton years. Since then, gun-nut nation has built up a small but solid phalanx of academics and commercial hucksters who will tell you that walking around with a gun in your pocket is a good thing.
Here’s how it works today and here’s how gun-nut nation wants it to work. Licensing for gun ownership is and has always been a state-by-state affair. Ditto carrying a gun. Some states make it easier, some make it a little more difficult, but the bottom line is that a gun license isn’t like a driver’s license because no matter where you drive, basically the rules of the road are the same. In the case of guns, however, the rules covering concealed-carry (CCW) are different in every state. Which means that if you want to cross a state line with a concealed weapon, you have to make sure that you are meeting the different CCW laws for each state through which you travel, which means you might as well leave the gun home.
Every time a new Congress gets to work, one of the Congressional toadies for gun-nut nation introduces a bill to establish national CCW, and every time such a bill is introduced it gets ignored. But this time may be different because now we have a champion of CCW in the White House and he owes the NRA big-time. So gun-nut nation thought that maybe this time their ship was finally coming home.
The case began when a resident of West Virginia was frisked and an illegal gun was discovered on his person after the cops got a tip that the individual in question (Robinson) was armed. In this instance the cops were operating under long-established rules which allow for a limited search if the officers believe that the suspect might be ‘armed and dangerous’ even if an arrest has not yet occurred. Robinson challenged the search, claiming that West Virginia law allowed him to carry a gun. Possessing a gun may have made him ‘armed,’ but it didn’t necessarily make him ‘dangerous.’ A local judge agreed, but the 4th Circuit tossed Robinson’s argument out.
What the 4th Circuit basically said was that it was reasonable for the cops to assume that someone walking around with a gun, even someone walking around with a legal gun on his person should not only be considered armed, but might be dangerous as well. And he would be dangerous, as far as the cops would be concerned, simply because he was carrying a gun.
Do you realize what this argument does to gun-nut nation’s most cherished dream? It stands that dream on its head. Because what the NRA and all their sycophantic CCW-advocates have been saying is that walking around with a gun makes everyone safe and constitutes no threat or danger to law-abiding citizens at all. But the 4th Circuit came down on the side of cops who need to be protected against ‘unnecessary risk.’ And believe it or not, walking around with a gun increases risk.