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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guns at the Capitol   [Ramesh Ponnuru]

E. J. Dionne Jr. writes:

Isn’t it time to dismantle the metal detectors, send the guards at the doors away and allow Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights by being free to carry their firearms into the nation’s Capitol?

I’ve been studying the deep thoughts of senators who regularly express their undying loyalty to the National Rifle Association, and I have decided that they should practice what they preach. They tell us that the best defense against crime is an armed citizenry and that laws restricting guns do nothing to stop violence.

If they believe that, why don’t they live by it?

It is a clever idea for a column, and it took me a little while to think through why I think Dionne’s logic is unsound. But unsound I think it is. I think supporters of conceal carry can readily concede that a regime of metal detectors and armed officers trained to protect people and surrounding the workplace is superior to conceal carry as a way of protecting congressmen and their staff. But 1) nobody is proposing to implement such a regime for every 7-11 clerk working the night shift somewhere in this country, 2) doing so would be impractical, and 3) doing so would come with non-monetary costs that we are prepared to pay in the case of Congress but not for society generally. (Thanks to reader J.G. for helping me think this through.)

One other thing: Dionne writes,

The pro-gun folks love their studies. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) offered this one: “A study for the Department of Justice found 40 percent of felons had not committed certain crimes because they feared the potential victims would be armed.”

That doesn’t tell us much about the other 60 percent, but what the heck? If it’s good enough for Barrasso, let the good senator introduce the amendment to allow concealed carry in the Capitol.

I haven’t seen the study, but I assume that the possibility that prospective victims might have guns didn’t make any of the criminals in that other 60 percent more likely to commit a crime. The reduction of risks here seems pretty impressive.

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