January 25, 2007

Why Georgia?

John Mayer. I do surely dig the way he plays. Here's the vid. & here are the lyrics. The song is about a guy's introspection as he drives I-85; wondering if he can find some signs that he's on the right track in his life despite feeling empty. Aside from the catchy guitar lines & the seeming rejection of predestination as a justification of where someone is in life I like it for sentimental reasons. When I was a wee lad I used to look out over I-85 from a bridge near my house & wonder where it'd take me. Not quite the same sort of introspection that Mayer sings of but it's at least connected by the same highway. What more can you ask of a cheap attempt at a segue? :)

The state of Georgia should be doing some introspection right about now & thinking very hard about where a proposed piece of legislation will lead:

"Georgia lawmakers in both the House and Senate, backed by the National Rifle Association, are trying once again to pass a measure that would allow Georgians to leave registered guns in their vehicles while they are at work."

A more accurate description is that it would force employers to allow firearms on their property.

"Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and State Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger) filed identical bills Tuesday that they say will protect people who are going to and from their jobs.
'Our main objective is to put employees on the same level playing field as any other individual who would park in a public parking lot,' Rogers said."

So the argument is that to create a "level playing field" private parking lots should be nationalized?

"The Georgia Self Defense Act failed to pass last year partially because of pressure from business organizations that opposed it, saying the bill could increase the chance of workplace violence."

Yes it could. But the distinguishment is that armed employees would increase the chance of protective violence in the workplace which might decrease the need for it by deterring predatory violence in the workplace.

" Some employers also opposed language that would have allowed employees to leave firearms in vehicles left in private parking lots.

Rogers and Graves said their new proposal does not include employee parking that is restricted from the general public. Both Senate Bill 43 and House Bill 143 also exclude vehicles owned by an employer and used by a worker for business purposes. In addition, the bill excludes employees who are already restricted from carrying firearms on their employer's premises because of disciplinary action, and does not apply to penal and correctional institutions."

So the bill only includes employees who park in public parking spaces? I have to assume that the bill does include employer owned parking lots that have spaces open to the general public otherwise I couldn't see a need for the bill (not that bills or laws really have to have a reason).

"We want to ensure that law-abiding citizens have the opportunity to protect themselves, whether they're leaving work or out shopping,' Graves said. Joe Fleming, the senior vice president of government affairs for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday that the group's members plan to review the new bill this week before taking a stand on it. He said that the language of the new proposal differs from last year's bill."

There's a better way to help folks be able to defend themselves. I'll get to it in a few.

"State Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) said that she is concerned that the bill could lead to workplace violence or lead to domestic violence.
'I can see somebody who's mentally ill or disgruntled taking advantage of this law. I don't know if there is a fix to that legislatively, other than to not pass the bill,' said Benfield."

Again we see the "workplace violence" excuse. Last I heard there were laws against that sort of thing already but it doesn't prevent it. Neither would armed employees encourage those bent on doing harm to other people.

"Andrew Arulanadam, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association, said the organization discounts concerns about the bill leading to increased workplace violence. He said that many employees work long hours or stop on the way home to buy groceries and need to be able to defend themselves."

& that's true as far as it goes. Liberalized carry will not increase the chances of predatory workplace violence & folks do make stops where a firearm could come in handy.

The problem is that by telling a private property owner that he must allow firearms on his premises they're undermining a very basic right - that of property. It's no different than my principled objection to smoking bans; a legislature has no business proscribing or prescribing private property matters. if a person wishes to allow smoking or ban firearms from his place of business the legislature has no business telling him otherwise. Similarly it has no business telling him he must ban smoking or allow firearms. While one is a proscription & the other a prescription the principle is the same, & that principle is that the legislature wants to tell you what you may or may not do with your own property. It is inherently wrong & it shames me to think that pro-gunners are jumping on the bandwagon for their short-term gains.

If a legislature has the power to make you allow firearms on your property then why doesn't it also have the power to make you ban firearms on your property? See where this is leading?

But there's a solution; increase the tort &/or criminal liability of any business that prohibits firearms. As it stands now a business is not held responsible for acts of a third party, so if someone walked into a business & shot someone else the company would not be held civilly or criminally liable. But if you had a law that provided that a company is held to a higher liability if a person is injured during a crime when that person would have been able to defend himself & was only disarmed by a property owners decree then you exert the desired pressure in the correct way. A property owner could still opt to ban firearms from his place but would do so at a greater risk of responsibility. Even if it's not a perfectly equal choice it's still a choice. The main benefit is that it does not encroach on private property rights.

The other thing the state of Georgia could do if it was really concerned about its citizens well being is to relax the carry laws. For instance it could go to a Vermont-style system where a permit is not required for concealed carry. Or it could eliminate the places that are off-limits to any kind of carry (even with a permit) such as hospitals, sporting events & public transportation. If he really wants folks to be able to defend themselves then why not address the ban on carrying on the city bus system? Packing.org has a summation of the Georgia firearms laws. If you look through them you might find several places where carry is prohibited even though some employees might have to stop there on their way to or from work.

I'm probably not someone most folks would view as anti-gun but I just cannot get behind these types of bills. Even if the impact is pragmatically minimal (i.e. only effecting parking lots open to the public) the harm it does in principle is far greater than I'm willing to risk. Plus there are many other areas of Georgia firearms law that could be cleaned up in a pro-gun way. If nothing else how about they look at the "2 inch" language in their concealed carry of a knife laws? (Granted it only occurs in one spot but since blade length isn't mentioned elsewhere in the laws it could be the standard they use.) I mean 2 inches? I don't think I even own a knife without at least one blade longer than that.

The NRA has helped push these kinds of laws through in other states & I doubt they'll see reason on this. But if you live in Georgia write your reps & don't just tell them you oppose this bill; it's most important that you tell them why.

Posted by Publicola at January 25, 2007 07:39 AM | TrackBack
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