You may have seen this news a couple of days ago:
COLUMBIA — Trained South Carolina gun owners will likely soon be able to carry pistols openly in public after the state Senate fast-tracked, prioritized and ultimately approved a bill to expand the rights of concealed weapons permit-holders.
After multiple days of debate, the Senate voted 28-16 late in the evening May 6 in favor of the bill. They rejected attempts by some conservative Republicans to transform it into a more expansive bill, known by supporters as “constitutional carry,” to let all legal gun owners carry openly without a permit….
This was something of a surprise to Micah Caskey, who had co-sponsored the bill and played a significant role in herding it through the House. He had predicted that it wouldn’t make it through the Senate this year. But it did.
He also had predicted that the separate bill that would have simply granted everyone who isn’t specifically barred by law from having a gun to carry without a CWP or anything would not pass, either. He was right about that, but just barely. The Senate nearly passed that measure, called “constitutional carry” — a very puzzling piece of legislation that I’ll come back to later, if I remember.
Remind me if I don’t. I’ve been writing this in chunks today because I’ve had to run a bunch of errands today, and tomorrow is Mother’s Day and promises to be busy, and I’m determined to get it written this weekend. Finally.
I’ve got kind of a complex about this post because I called and talked to Micah about all of this three weeks ago. It was on the Friday, April 16. I couldn’t get it written that day, but I was sure I’d write it over the weekend. Then on Saturday, I tore my hand up, and couldn’t type for more than a week. And then when I could type, I was catching up on stuff I had to get done, and not too worried about getting this done, since I didn’t expect the Senate to act on it this year. But as I mentioned, they did.
I had called Micah because I wanted to ask him a question, which went kind of like this: “I could use some help understanding what it is that persuaded you that people didn’t have sufficient right to carry guns about, and that that needed addressing…”
As y’all know, I’m about out of Republicans I can vote for. I’ve mentioned previously that Micah — my state rep — is about the only one left that I might have the opportunity to vote for in the foreseeable future. He didn’t have opposition in 2020, so I didn’t vote for him. But if someone opposes him in ’22, I probably will.
In spite of this. I definitely oppose what he and his caucus are doing here, but hey, there’s not anyone on the planet I agree with about everything. Not Joe Biden. Not James Smith. Not even Joe Riley, although in his long career he came closer than anybody. I’m not even sure I’d have agreed with Abraham Lincoln about everything, especially back in his Whig days.
He’s wrong on this gun thing, but I wanted to hear what he had to say about it. If he’d given me any of that “God-given rights” garbage like that Shane Martin guy that Jamie Lovegrove quoted, I’d be down to ZERO Republicans I can vote for. (If God really saw it as essential that I go about armed, why wasn’t I born with a Smith & Wesson in my hand? That could have saved a lot of money. Guns are pricey these days.)
But Micah didn’t, and I didn’t expect him to. He was reasonable as always. Just wrong — about this.
Here’s the way he laid it out to me…
As mentioned before, there are two House bills: 3094 and 3096. The second one was the crazy one — my word, of course, not Micah’s. The other one was the more moderate option — basically not changing much except that people who now have Concealed Weapon Permits would no longer have to, you know, conceal them. The reassuring thing for someone like me, Micah explained, is that 3094 was there to give more moderate Republicans an opportunity to demonstrate their great fealty to the “There aren’t enough guns out there!” crowd, without going whole-hog crazy (again, that’s me, not Micah).
About that “someone like me” phrase… It’s not that Micah is some gun nut and I’m someone who would sweep away the “God-given rights” that so concern Sen. Martin. No. In fact, I’ve never been much of a gun-control advocate. Not that I wouldn’t snap my fingers and have all the guns in private hands disappear. It’s just that I’m not likely to have that power at any point, and here in the real world, I don’t see how any control measure that would ever stand the slightest chance of passing would solve the real problem.
And what’s “the real problem?” It’s that so incredibly many guns exist and are out there in private hands. Those God-given rats (there he goes, sneaking in another “Gettysburg” reference) that certain people fuss over — you know, the “taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens while criminals have them” stuff — is an irrelevant point. It’s not about this or that person’s supposed moral superiority or greater entitlement. It’s that the virtue or lack thereof of the gun owner doesn’t mean a thing.
That’s because there are 390 million guns in private hands in this country, and only 328 million people live here. So pretty much everybody who really wants a gun has one, whether he is a hero or a villain. In fact, he most likely has several, because so many people don’t want guns and don’t have them. According to Gallup, only about 32 percent of Americans, no doubt out of a feeling of obligation to follow the will of the Almighty, actually arm themselves. That’s about 105 million people. That means they own an average of about 3.7 guns apiece.
That means if there is a criminal out there somewhere — you know, an undeserving sort, a bad guy, a thorough wrong ‘un — who for some reason does not yet have a gun, he can easily go out and obtain one. Or two, or three. Because, you know what criminals do — they steal stuff. And this is made easy for them because there are so damned many guns out there. (Go ahead and give me an extended sermon about how securely you store your guns. Well, plenty of people do not.)
One more point, and this one may distress the folks who are most concerned with the “rights” question: The world is not as neatly divided into “good guys” and “bad guys” as they would like. Occasionally, a good guy has a bad day. Or worse, his children find the handgun.
(A brief note of apology to Micah and other Marines out there — in these figures I’m citing, I’m afraid I am including rifles within the category of “guns.” I do know the difference — so I don’t need a drill sergeant to send me about the boot camp declaiming upon the subject with my pants undone. I am simply doing so for convenience, and getting away with it because I am not a boot. Fortunately, in a moment I’ll return to the subject of House bills 3094 and 3096, which I think only concern actual guns, since qualified South Carolinians already have the right to carry their rifles openly.)
So anyway, I’m not terribly optimistic about, say, stricter background checks solving the problem of, say, mass shootings in America. Oh, it might keep this or that gun out of the hands of the wrong person — or the “right” person on a bad day. And for that reason, were I to be a member of a legislative body and had the opportunity to vote for such a marginal measure, I would. I just wouldn’t have great hope of it solving the problem, which is the existence of too many guns in the private sector.
What I most assuredly would not do would be to vote for a completely unnecessary bill that addresses some vague problem that simply does not exist. It’s kind of like what we just saw in Florida. The state just ran as flawless an election as we’re ever likely to see in this sin-stained world, and Florida lawmakers still passed legislation to solve the nonexistent “problem.” This is the same deal, only with deadly weapons.
Which brings us back to 3094 and 3096. (See, I did get back to them.)
As you recall, I asked Micah, “What is it about the current situation in our state and country (on the day of the third mass shooting of the year in Indianapolis) that makes you or anyone else think: We don’t have enough people carrying around guns? Secondly, what makes you think current law doesn’t LET people carry guns around enough?”
To the latter, he responded, “There is an express prohibition on openly carrying a handgun now.” True enough. Why this is a problem remains unclear to me. And as I said, I’ll get back to the subject of 3096 — of “constitutional carry.”
As to why either bill is there and being voted upon, Micah mentioned that he is chairman of the general laws subcommittee of House Judiciary. He suggested, or at least implied, that this imposes certain obligations upon him.
He noted that in the 2020 elections, Republicans were “given even larger majorities.” He added that among Republicans, “Some say we haven’t been given sufficient exercise of our 2nd Amendment rights.” Those people say, “We want to be able to do this.” Which places a certain obligation upon him as a Republican subcommittee chairman, that being what so many constituents want.
OK, another digression: As I’ve said many times, I like having Micah as my representative. (You may recall that I actually briefly considered running for the position myself, on the UnParty ticket, but when I met Micah and spoke with him at length I decided I’d just as soon vote for him. And the only way he’s going to get to represent the district in which I live, and continue to do so, is if he runs as a Republican. And that means certain things, including things I don’t like.
It’s the same with Democrats. Vote for them, and they’re likely to be pushing something else I don’t like — such as, say, hate crime laws. (No, they’re not quite the same thing, but I’m pretty strongly opposed to them, too.)
So Micah is doing the will of many, many constituents when he does this. Nor does he have to misrepresent himself to advocate for these measures. He can quite honestly say that the change of the “open carry” provision is fairly minor — people could already carry the weapons, just concealed.
As for “constitutional carry,” he is able to just as honestly say that “I do tend to take the view that the 2nd amendment doesn’t have a permit requirement in it.”
Here’s where I get back to 3096, and the fundamental logical problem with it, apart from whether we think it to be wise legislation. The South Carolina General Assembly does not have the power to declare, with legal effect, what the U.S. Constitution says and what it does not say. That is a power and obligation reserved to the federal courts. If you want a constitutional provision to be interpreted a certain way, you take the matter to court.
And as soon as I said that to Micah, which I did, I realized why some want to pass a bill such as 3096. Like so much that South Carolina Legislature does under Republican control, voting for this bill is not about having an effect on the real world. It’s about signaling to the Trumpian base that you are on their side. If a court does it, thereby having an effect on the real world, you don’t get any credit for it.
Once you know that, you understand what the Legislature is doing, on issue after issue.
The other day, I was exchanging email with a longtime friend who was thinking about not going to the State House next week because she has a super-busy week, but at the same time, “I hate to miss the last week of the regular session.”
This caused me to harrumph about how back in my day, the Legislature didn’t quit work this early. You know, people advocated for shortening the session for many years before they succeeded a few years back. And I always argued against it, because even when they stayed until June, the session was never long enough. They would always go home with so much important state business undone. You know, important stuff like what I used to write about all the time at the paper.
But then, because of these bills and so much else, I thought, if you’re not going to do anything useful to anyone, and just spend time doing things to pose and posture for your base, might as well go home early.
Anyway, in the future, I’d like to see my representative and those other people do something actually helpful and worthwhile, something South Carolina needs. Whether it’s improving public health or education or roads or doing the kind of wonkish stuff I like, it would be nice to see again. And I know Micah and some other folks have good ideas like that…