50 States, One Law
November 8, 2017
And yet again, our nation hits bedrock. Shooting in Texas church leaves 26 dead and many others injured. Once more, voices rise in anger, condolences are tweeted and surface numbers overshadow the real statistics.
The last massive shooting California witnessed resulting in 15 deaths, was in 2015 at San Bernardino. However, the Texas shooting record goes something like this; shooting on Oct. 15, 2017 causes 2 deaths and 2 casualties. Another incident on Sept. 10, 2017 raises the death toll to 9, and a preceding shooting on Apr. 7, 2017 accounts for 5 deaths.
Underlying reason for the contrasting records are the 50 different gun laws practiced in each state. Laws for openly carrying guns vary by state which make certain areas more prone to attacks than the rest.
In Texas, long gun and black powder weapon (including handgun) open carry is not forbidden by law, unless in a manner “calculated to cause alarm.” Non-residents from states whose permits are recognised by Texas are also allowed to openly carry weapons under the new law.
It is crucial to understand the subjectivity that revolves around the expression ‘calculated to cause harm’. The consequence of which is statistically proven by the number of shootings.
In comparison, California laws state that “long guns and handguns may be openly carried in unincorporated rural areas where firearm discharge is not prohibited by local ordinance. In a county with a population of less than 200,000 residents, a permit to carry a handgun “loaded and exposed” may be issued by the county sheriff, valid only in the issuing county.
A person may also open carry if he or she “reasonably believes that any person or the property of any person is in immediate, grave danger and that the carrying of the weapon is necessary for the preservation of that person or property.”
Other states like Arizona “legalise a person over age 21 to carry a concealed firearm or deadly weapon without a permit within the state, except for certain prohibited locations.
In Alabama, open carry is also generally permitted, but handgun must be securely contained in a holster (belt, inside-the-waist, ankle, or shoulder). However, open carry in a vehicle without a concealed carry license is prohibited.
Some states allowing openly carrying guns are Colorado and Alaska. While in Colorado, it is legal without permit requirements except in Denver and other posted areas in Alaska ,one may carry openly without permit/license.
The home of the deadliest shooting in modern US history, Las Vegas, Nevada legalises open carrying throughout the state. For open carry in a vehicle, the firearm may be anywhere except concealed upon the person without a concealed firearm permit.
List of differences is endless in a country with 50 states. Does this mean all states should have the same gun laws? Should gun laws be a federal affair?
There is a host of controversies surrounding the gun laws but we must ask ourselves what could be gained from the federalisation of gun laws. If the potential benefit is to human lives then giving up individual freedom shouldn’t be our concern.