Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Concealed Carry Backfire?

Conservatives and the mainstream media have teamed-up for a rousing neighborhood game of kick the governor the past few days. And when our nation is at war, no less! Oh wait, I forgot that only works with a Republican president. My bad.

In any event, let’s run down the causes for the beating. First there was the travel contract indictment, then the “legal but improper” case against a Doyle political appointee, and now the Spivak and Bice report about a group of engineers donating money to Doyle three months after being awarded a contract for the Marquette Interchange construction project.

Forget the facts of these cases. It doesn’t matter that there is no evident line of impropriety between Georgia Thompson and Jim Doyle, that what the Doyle political appointee did was ultimately legal, or that the Marquette Interchange contract went to the best bid. Those pesky details don’t matter. The damage is being done. As I mentioned in a post last week, these issues are not about finding proof or even genuinely caring about the public good. They’re about muddying the waters surrounding Doyle’s ethics in an election year for conservatives and about selling the news for the mainstream media. That doesn’t take even-handed, fact-filled arguments. It just takes screaming loudly and incessantly.

These attacks on Doyle do, however, present an interesting possibility in terms of one of the right’s core election year issues: concealed carry. The state senate has already overridden Doyle’s veto. That wasn’t a big surprise. The assembly, on the other hand, is not a slam-dunk for the GOP. A number of key Democrats who voted for the passage of the bill initially have not committed publicly to voting for it again in order to override Doyle’s veto. And now that the Democratic governor is coming under intense attacks on his ethics, the likelihood increases that Democrats will not allow Doyle to succumb to the first veto-override in Wisconsin in many years.

After all, with the ethical accusations, however weakly founded, already doing political damage, the Doyle administration can hardly stand the leadership questions that a veto-override would bring, especially considering Democratic votes are required to make it happen. This is an interesting case of one piece of the Republican campaign strategy potentially backfiring on another piece of that strategy.

If the Democrats in the state assembly are smart they would not let Doyle fall to a veto-override. That hit would be very damaging now and down the stretch heading into November. However, simply rejecting the veto-override does not put the Dems out of the woods because that will, in effect, strength a core issue for the Republicans. There’s a small chance the conservative base will revolt in the face of a failed veto-override vote and blame the failure on a lack of leadership in the Republican Party to get this thing done after over a decade of trying, but I don’t find that too likely. And even if it does happen it’ll be a very contained revolt, only spoken about in the inner-circles. It’s more likely that rejecting the veto-override will fuel the conservative base even more to oust Doyle and put in power a Republican governor who will not veto their ability to carry a deadly weapon around the state.

This makes it very important for Democrats, in the instance that they sustain the veto, to find a way to thwart the Republican base’s fury by finally playing some offense. As soon as the veto-override fails, the Democrats should be prepared to offer up a concealed carry bill of their own. Yes, you read that right. I think the Dems should put forward a concealed carry bill this year, one that has the public support of Governor Doyle.

There are two main types of concealed carry laws in the 46 states that have such laws. Republicans like to quote the 46 states figure as if they were all the same, but they’re not.

One type of concealed carry law is called “shall issue,” which exists in 37 states. Under this type of law, the state may not arbitrarily deny a request to carry a concealed weapon. Of course, certain situations exist under these “shall issue” laws when someone would not be allowed to carry a concealed weapon, such as if they’ve committed a felony in the past. However, it’s the state that bears the burden of proof to show that a citizen is not fit to carry a concealed weapon under the “shall issue” laws. Hence, the number of concealed carry applications resulting in a permit issuance would be high.

The “may issue” form of concealed carry laws is quite the opposite. The “may issue” type of concealed carry law, which exists in 9 states, allows the state much more leeway in accepting or denying applications for concealed carry. In other words, it’s the applicants who must bear the burden of proof in explaining why they need to have the ability to carry a concealed weapon. For most liberals, this “may issue” type of concealed carry law is far preferable to the “shall issue” type ultimately because the number of permits issued would be potentially quite smaller.

The Republican concealed carry bill that was vetoed by Doyle this year and is going before the state assembly later in the week for a veto-override vote is of the “shall issue” variety. After sustaining the governor’s veto and subsequently his leadership credibility, the Democrats should turn around and propose a concealed carry law that’s of the “may issue” variety. The "may issue" law proposed by Democrats could also include such provisions as shorter permit periods (the Republican proposal is five years) and allowing counties to develop different concealed carry requirements to account for the difference between carrying a concealed weapon in, say, rural Price County and carrying that same weapon in densely-populated Milwaukee County.

This would do two things.

One, it would reclaim the debate over protection for the Dems. Right now the GOP owns that debate nationally through the War on Terror and locally in Wisconsin through the concealed carry laws that only they have proposed. Republicans in Wisconsin have made concealed carry into a black and white issue. Either you’re for concealed carry and, in their wayward logic, the second amendment or you’re against those things. But those don’t need to be the terms of the debate. Proposing a “may issue” type of concealed carry bill would show that the Dems are for both personal protection and societal protection. Personal protection because they are willing to allow some people to carry concealed weapons, and societal protection because they demand putting stringent requirements on who is allowed to carry a concealed weapon.

Two, proposing a “may issue” concealed carry law would shake up the Republican base. As long as the concealed carry issue is black and white, the Republican camp will be filled with all of those people who feel uneasy about relatively lenient application requirements and five-year permits, but ultimately think that some people should have the right to carry a concealed weapon. If an alternative can be presented, many would potentially jump ship and find the Dems version of concealed carry to be in keeping with the spirit of the second amendment and simultaneously a safer bet for society as a whole.

Governor Doyle is taking a beating on ethics issues right now, but those hits only mean so much at this point. Those who are following the issues closely have, for the most part, probably already decided which party they’re voting for on election day. For those who are hearing the conservative screams from a distance, there is a lot of time between now and November to forget. But allowing Doyle’s concealed carry veto to be overridden would not only strike a blow to the image of the governor’s leadership, it would also energize the right even more to see a decade-long battle end in victory—with a Democrat in the governor’s office, no less.

Simply sustaining the governor’s veto isn’t without consequences either, though. The Dems need to start playing some offense, and there’s no better place than by challenging on its face one of the core election year issues of the right.


Blogger krshorewood said...

I was a little afraid to suggest this, but let's visit that point of the state having strong approval over who gets a C & C license.

It is a joke when considering the very people who are behind this law are from the "crime ridden" areas of Waterford and Eua Claire (never mind that the supporter from Eua Claire is just plain nuts).

The state as a whole is pretty low in the ranks of violent crime. No, make that extremely low -- fourth lowest.

But the pro-gunners can make the argument that there are people who live in genuine fear. It is compelling for those with no skin in the game.

So a conditional permit would be a great idea for those who could make their case that they need a gun for some reason, and to shut up the gun nuts.

But among us grown-ups, we realize that having a gun in most cases is not real protection. If that is the case, how did the Mung hunter from Minnesota in Northern Wisconsin a year or so back, mow down so many gun-bearing hunters?

January 30, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks for your comment. Good point about concealed carry not exactly offering complete personal protection.

It seems to me to be more about just having the ability to carry a weapon rather than any intention of using it for personal protection. Since a decent portion of the population, at least in some parts of the state, seem to want this ability, it's worth the Dems time to consider putting together a bill of their own. But it also seems to suggest it'd be helpful to place the burden of proof on the potential weapon carrier by requiring them to explain why exactly they need to carry a concealed weapon, not to mention allowing counties to make different rules on carrying concealed weapons.

January 30, 2006  
Anonymous elliot said...

Only one of the hunters who was shot was armed.

By the way, when a police officer is gunned down, do you advocate disarming cops because clearly being armed was not an effective defense?

January 31, 2006  
Blogger elliot said...

My response.

January 31, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

If you read my post fully, including the comments section, you'd see that I wasn't suggesting a Democratic concealed carry bill for solely political purposes. What I said was this: "Since a decent portion of the population, at least in some parts of the state, seem to want this ability, it's worth the Dems time to consider putting together a bill of their own."

Is there a political side? Yes. Do I personally think people should have the right to carry concealed weapons? No. Do I believe in compromising in public policymaking? Of course. That's how a republic works.

The concealed carry bill presented by Republicans was a compromise, too. Certain provisions were included to appease some Democrats who otherwise would not have even entertained voting for the bill. The veto override vote came up short, anyway, but it wouldn't have even been close without those provisions. Does that mean the Republicans were presenting a cynical bill because it wasn't completely what they wanted? I don't think so.

My political point is this: The Republicans have a certain interpretation of the second amendment and the Democrats have a different interpretation. Right now, as long as the Republicans are the only ones proposing a bill that deals with the second amendment, their interpretation is controlling the debate surrounding that amendment. What else allowed them to tag Doyle with the nickname "Governor No." If the Dems were proposing a bill that aligned more closely with their interpretation of the second amendment, that would not be cynical, it would be joining the debate by standing up for their second amendment interpretation. The key phrase there is "aligned more closely," you know, compromise. That's what you do in a democratic republic, as opposed to an authoritarian regime that simply decides on its own what's best for the state. It's tough to compromise, though, when you don't even have a proposal of your own on the table. All I was suggesting is that Dems join the debate and do it seriously by presenting a proposal of their own. I figured people who truly care about the second amendment would appreciate such a suggestion.

February 01, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I need to clarify one of the points I just made in my last comment. When I said that I didn't personally think people should have the ability to carry a concealed weapon, I was speaking from a Milwaukee County perspective.

I've lived in Milwaukee County my whole life, minus my college years, so whenever I personally think about the effects of concealed carry, I envision those effects in densely-populated Milwaukee County. And every time I think about it at places like Summerfest, the State Fair, etc., it's not a good situation.

Does that mean someone in rural Bayfield County, for example, would be able to understand my personal view of the issue? Probably not. Which is why I completely favor allowing cities, counties, or, at least, regions of the state to develop their own guidelines for concealed carry.

February 01, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

If people want to see how this conversation finished out, see

February 03, 2006  

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