Thursday, December 04, 2014

Thoughts on Disarmament

Volokh writes:

[A]a common argument against allowing people to carry weapons in public is that even otherwise law-abiding people might get angry, get drunk, or needlessly create or escalate a confrontation if they had a gun, and as a result unnecessarily kill or injure someone. True, the argument would go, such laws aren’t going to protect us against mass murderers or even armed robbers, who are obviously willing to deliberately violate many laws that are much more serious than gun control laws. But the carry restrictions might protect us against people who are law-abiding when they have time to deliberate (when they decide whether to carry a gun), but who can do something wrong or foolish on the spur of the moment (such as misuse a gun that they did decide to carry).

Volokh goes on to suggest that such a scenario doesn't seem to actually materialize very often among lawful concealed-carry permit holders. Indeed, I'm aware of only one instance in which it fairly describes the facts. It may be true that there exist certain . . . demographics among whom violence is casually resorted to as a means of settling disputes over "respect", a problem that the availability of firearms exacerbates. But those people seldom qualify for permits.

Nor, for that matter, admisson to the armed services. I was thinking about this in the context of the general prohibition against possessing firearms on stateside military installations. The prohibition doesn't apply to base residnets, who are allowed to keep guns in their quarters (except dormitories) as long as they are registered with Security Forces and stored in a safe and allowed to transport them on and off base for lawful purposes. But the much larger population of personnel who commute to the base for work are not allowed to bring weapons with them, even kept in their cars. This prohibition is enforced by the honor system: while incoming vehicles are in theory subject to search, this has never actually happened to me in the 23 years I have been commuting to military installations.

This prohibition is in dramatic contrast to overseas installations in conflict theaters. Throughout Afghanistan, for instance, all soldiers and many civilians are technically required to be armed at all times unless doing PT, although at ISAF this requirement went unenforced. With the exception of Security Forces and flag officer bodyguards (yes, generals had personal bodyguards), our weapons were to be kept unloaded while on post. "Unloaded" in this context means that the full magazines were kept in a separate pouch from the holstered or slong weapon. Loading the weapon would add, depending on the individual, around a full second to the time it would take to deploy it. I can only assume that this requirement was an effort to prevent accidental discharge, but it would provide very little deterrent against murder, deliberate or otherwise.

So the military has abundant experience with both (a) prohibition and (b) open carry*, and the relative risks each pose. I don't have at my fingertips any data on violent crime rates in deployed vs. stateside locations, except to say that if there were criminal uses of firearms at ISAF HQ while I was there, I never heard about them. There were
and are plenty of green-on-blue attacks, but I will leave it my readers to figure out how our soldiers being murdered by our "allies" in the field bears on this discussion.

What about stateside installations where carry is prohibited? The Nidal Hassan and Aaron Alexis bodycounts dominate the statistics and headlines of the last five years. But crime is not unheard of on our disarmed military installations, and its not especially clear what the prohibition accomplishes.

* At ISAF, there was no prohibition on concealed carry. I knew an officer that carried in a paddle holster under his ABU blouse. But paddle holsters weren't issued, so few people had them.


Anonymous said...

I carried concealed in Panama, Honduras, and Bosnia. In Bosnia, the only holders available were the m9 green pistol belt kind or the leather shoulder holder (for aviators) that was designed for the 1911 and never updated for teh M9. So, everyone I knew used privately procured holsters and it was big business at the consessions for Bosnians to sell hand mande leather holsters in a wide veriety.

By the time I went to Iraq, I had a butt-load of holster styles to choose from, issue and private.

Dr. Φ said...

The Afghans also sold leather shoulder holsters, but the one I bought was of such poor quality that I didn't even bother to bring it back with me. I did buy my own Blackhawk rig before I left and used that instead of the issue holster; a friend who deployed in 2012 had one issued to him.