July 25, 2005

Joining The Team

Nearly a year ago, Publicola invited your humble correspondent to make some of my commentary available to you here. Why he thought I'd have anything useful to add to the discussion is beyond me ;) but here I am. So occasionally you'll be treated to my specific brand of blather, bloviation, and baloney.

I've put it off for this long principally due to time constraints; I live out in the sticks and don't have an internet connection at home, so yes, I post from work. It's semi-sorta-okay though, seeing as how I'm a part owner of the machine I use. 'Sides, Publicola himself seems to be insomniac. Generally, when I've seen something that prompts a response such that I should file something, he's already all over it like the proverbial stink on a polecat.

Okay, so just exactly who is this "Iceberg" character anyway? (File this under the category, "More Than I Needed To Know")

First, I'm a 46-year-old bred, born, and raised Kansan, Red-state white trash through and through. Kansas, as some of you will know, is something of a study in contrasts, which provides fertile ground for political and firearms-related commentary. Although we rather reliably vote for more-or-less Conservative Republican candidates for national offices, we are generally less monolithic with respect to statewide offices. Our current Governor is a female Democrat originally from Ohio; our last governor was a RINO from a Kansas City suburb. Currently, we have no provision whatever for nonsworn citizens to carry concealed firearms, one of only five (I think) such states in the nation. I'll address the political machinations adherent to this issue at another time.

Secondly, I think brother Pub asked me aboard for reasons having to do with our differing perspectives with regard to firearms ownership and concealed carry law. Don't for an instant get me wrong here. In principle, we're on the same page. One of the reasons I was invited to add my thoughts to those you’ve been reading here is that my fellow writers believe in a breadth of opinion and experience with respect to these matters. Publicola and I do not necessarily speak with one voice on these issues. Our lifestyles differ sufficiently that we perceive our societal responsibilities somewhat differently.

To wit, and perhaps most cogently: My wife and I have been blessed with love of two adopted sons. The only reason we have been so blessed is that we can provide them with something the circumstances of their births could not – the love and guidance of an engaged father. That’s my most important job; all else is secondary. I can’t do that job from a prison cell, so if I’m going to be breaking a law, even if it is an Unconstitutional law (and it is), our collective interest is best served in my being extremely circumspect about it. I don't think this makes me a slave to circumstance or an unprincipled oaf. I must, on a daily basis, weigh the costs of not providing for my own means of protection, those of doing so and running the risk of being exposed, and those of not being able to provide the guidance and protection I owe my wife and kids.

The government, and more specifically the serial Governors of my home state have, therefore, placed me in a damnably difficult position. Our sons’ safety, and that of my wife and myself, is solely my responsibility, one that I cannot delegate (the doctrine of sovereign immunity and all that). One could reasonably argue that I have no moral or ethical grounds for doing so in any case; what right do I have to leave our safety up to the largely underpaid and overworked public servants in law enforcement? In any event, the point is moot. Since case law has, during the past 40 years or so, effectively converted the doctrine of sovereign immunity from de facto to de jure, I realistically have no one to whom I can reliably turn for such service, unless of course I’m willing and able to pay for around-the-clock dedicated security. I am neither willing nor able, so I’m stuck. Unlike, it should be noted, certain public figures in lawmaking capacities.

The horns of this dilemma are even sharper than one, at first glance, would imagine. True, penalties pursuant to the 1903 state statute prohibiting concealed carry aren’t terribly onerous. Conviction of a first offense is a misdemeanor which carries a small monetary fine and a temporary suspension of one’s (legal, not moral or ethical) right to the possession of firearms. However, subsequent violations are elevated to felony status, and upon conviction carry the very real possibility of permanent rescission of one’s (again, legal, not moral or ethical) right to firearms possession, as well as prison time. If I’m to be effectively responsible for my family’s safety – and I don’t believe there’s any serious argument that I must be – I want the best tools available at my disposal to carry that responsibility out. At any time and in any place any of us might be.

When we're home this is no problem; as earlier noted, we live out in the sticks. Generally speaking, Kansans take a dim view of trespass with intent, and the local LEOs with whom I've spoken are favorably disposed toward the "Castle Doctrine" approach, particularly with respect to rural homeowners. Traveling is another matter, however. One has to be cognizant of the ins and outs of Kansas statutory law in order to move about legally armed without running afoul of the law; a cocked-and-locked 1911 pistol in the truck, for example, is a two-finger shamy in the state. As one might guess, walking around in public with a concealed firearm on one's person is completely verboten unless he or she is sworn to law enforcement.

I think it goes without saying that your run-of-the-mill criminal goes quite a way out of his way to avoid committing his criminal acts when he knows law enforcement officers are present. That’s not necessarily true, of course, of the nastiest of sociopaths, but for the sake of brevity, let’s assume an otherwise relatively sane and savvy miscreant. No cops around, and this individual decides there’s something of mine he wants and that he’s willing to use any amount of force, up to and including lethality, to get it. Apparently, my government believes he’s (at least temporarily) entitled to it, and that I’m not entitled to defend myself from his tender affections in public places. This I find inexcusable.

Perhaps I’m being obtuse, but that individual has broken the implied social contract between citizens of a free society to interact civilly with one another. He’s lost my respect as a human being and forfeited my good will. Furthermore, I have no possible way of knowing with any certainty what his use-of-force comfort level is; if he offers me even the possibility of lethal force, he’s entitled to nothing less in return. I would offer the assertion that, given the two alternatives, society as a whole is better off without him than without me. Certainly my wife and little boys fare better, should such an exchange ever have to occur, and G-d knows I hope it never does.

Your typical nanny-statist will offer the observation that I’m taking the law into my own hands, that I’m neither properly trained nor “permitted” or sworn by law to engage in law enforcement activity. Do not be duped into arguing with them on those terms. The law is a human construct designed to limit – ideally, to eliminate – predation on those who would otherwise have no inclination to break it. When legal constraint fails, as it most certainly has when such offences occur (and, I’ll admit, through little fault of its own), basic individual rights must be protected by other means. In a perfect world, societies in general and governments in particular exist solely for the purpose of protecting and advancing individual rights; should they fail in that responsibility, the individual must be prepared to haul the freight himself. And please notice that I’m not advocating vigilantism. Once the encounter is over, however it turns out, it’s over; I have no right to further pursue this individual. That’s society’s job. As Jeff Cooper has put it, “You have the right to self-defense; you do not have the right to revenge.”

“It’s the cops’ job to ensure public safety,” the liberal argument further goes. We’ve already mentioned the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Perhaps I should exposit a bit further on this most important concept. Since at least the early ‘70s, its been a matter of accepted wisdom in case and common law that no government administration, administrator, law enforcement agency official, or law enforcement officer at any level of government can be found either criminally guilty or civilly liable for failure to protect any individual citizen from harm or fatality. Even when law enforcement agents and/or agencies were reliably informed that such attacks were imminent, and even in the face of palpable and provable malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance with respect to performance of their duties.

The courts’ reasoning goes that law enforcement agencies exist for the protection of society as a whole, not its individual members. From a practical standpoint, this makes a good deal of sense; it’s unrealistic to expect the taxpayer to pony up the cash necessary to put a cop on every street corner. The legal corollary, unfortunately, is the doctrine of sovereign immunity. To date, neither any such criminal prosecution nor civil suit has been successful, and case law would suggest that this legal precedent is as nearly impregnable as they get. Which means precisely what?

The doctrine of sovereign immunity on its face destroys the assertion that “It’s the cops’ job to ensure public safety,” at least insofar as it applies to any specific individual. One must assume, therefore, that the liberal argument goes that victims of criminal predation must simply accept the fact that, since we’re not to have the means to self defense (they having been outlawed), we’re necessarily at the mercy of the basest instincts of our society’s lowest common denominators.

Furthermore, where there’s no accountability, there’s little incentive, other than sense of duty, to, you know, actually perform your duties. And please also note, this isn't meant as a cop-bashing tirade – I’ve been accused of this more than once. I've met a good many police officers, sheriffs and their deputies, and a few state, Federal, and military law enforcement types. Some I wouldn't trust with my spare change; others I would trust with my life, which, the stakes being what they might be, is a hell of a crapshoot. In fact, one of my father's good friends, one of his college classmates and a career cop, helped me considerably with the "armed while driving" issue. To reiterate, they can't be everywhere all the time and (most) don't pretend otherwise.

I suppose the foregoing plants me firmly in the category of "Simple Cowboy." Okay, I accept that. I think I've got a pretty good innate sense of right and wrong, of justice, of proper governmental responsibilies and restrictions, and of individual rights. My love for my family, and indeed for my own life, won't permit me to be a victim; I refuse to be one. I’d welcome comment on what our readers would recommend for those of us in Kansas and other states who find themselves in my situation, from the purist (‘scuse please, “absolutist”) as well as the practicalist perspective. What I do with respect to these matters is not for public disclosure or comment at this juncture.


Posted by Iceberg at July 25, 2005 03:23 PM | TrackBack

Carry in D-E-E-P concealment and if you have to drop some predator biped, just walk away. Beats the other alternatives. Oh, a suppressed sidearm might go a long way towards leaving quietly.

Posted by: Barney at July 26, 2005 02:22 PM
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