Civil Liberties

Arizona Officials Trust the People With Guns; Connecticut Pols Don't


formatted dad / flickr

I've carried a gun for self-defense on and off for over 20 years. The specific gun has varied, and so have the circumstances. In that time, I've lived in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, back to New York, and Arizona. The major change over that time is that in Arizona, it's actually legal for me to posess the means of self-defense on my person without special (and hard-to-get) permission from the government. I raise the issue because the CTPost has a piece contrasting (not especially well) the widely different legislative reactions in Connecticut and Arizona in response to high-profile violent crimes.

Basically, Connecticut set out to disarm its population, while Arizona moved to make self-defense easier.

At the CTPost, Jessica Boehm and Sarah Ferris write:

Four months after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, lawmakers in Connecticut banned at least 115 types of semi-automatic firearms.

Four months after the shooting of a congresswoman and a federal judge in Tucson, lawmakers in Arizona declared the Colt Army Action Revolver the official state gun.

The similarities in the attacks were striking: Both were carried out by heavily armed young men with histories of mental illness. But in the aftermath of the tragedies, the states took radically different approaches to gun violence.

The differences reflect the wide divide separating Americans from one end of the country to the other, in which long-established gun cultures collide with efforts to restrict gun ownership.

While Connecticut took extreme measures to muscle through one of the most comprehensive packages of gun laws in the country, Arizona legislators moved to make it easier to carry guns in public.

While the CTPost piece covers some of the sausage-making process involved in producing Connecticut's "assault weapons" ban, it's sketchy on the details of that legislation. There's no mention of the rushed, debate-bypassing emergency certification process to pass the hodge-podge of ill-defined terms and impossible-to-enforce restrictions.

Nor is there mention of the scores of thousands of state residents that have refused to abide by the law, technically becoming overnight felons—and driving hyperventilating editorialists to demand mass arrests.

By contrast, the article focuses on the failures of anti-gun activists in Arizona. But there have been a lot of legislative successes, too. In 2010 (admittedly, before the Newtown shooting or the attempt on Gabby Gifford's life), Arizona rescinded requirements for a permit to carry a gun concealed.

Arizona last year required government agencies that conduct gun "buybacks" of unwanted weapons to resell them to the public so that people can get self-defense use from them (some agencies were destroying them). At the same time, localities were forbidden to keep lists of gun owners.

Anti-gunners will, no doubt, point to the higher violent crime rate in Arizona relative to Connecticut (428.9 per 100,000 population vs. 283.0, in 2012). But the Centers for Disease Control reviewed a wide variety of firearms laws, including "bans on specified firearms or ammunition," without being able to find a connection. "[W]e do not yet know what effect, if any, the law has on an outcome."

That makes restrictive gun laws a mass experiment in denying liberty and threatening people with fines and prison without any evidence that something is to be gained in the process.

And that's before you get to the major philosophical differences in the Connecticut and Arizona approaches.

While neither state is a perfect example of a type, on this issue Connecticut politicians act as rulers who fear their subjects and want further controls on people in order to somehow increase safety. Arizona lawmakers reduce restrictions on their constituents with the stated goal of making it easier for them to defend themselves without government interference.

The big difference betwen Arizona and Connecticut isn't gun policy; it's the relationship between the people and their government. As protests rage in Ferguson, Missouri, over heavy-handed government use of force, that's a relationship that, very obviously, matters.