by Rob Morse
Politics are real. Politics sets priorities between competing public interests. The process is never perfect. It gets ugly when existing political interests work against your individual rights.
Let’s take an easy example first. Suppose you want to gather people together and voice your opinions. The government says you need a permit for a public gathering. The rationale is that we don’t want several groups trying to use the same space at the same time. Now you learn that there is a permit process, a required interview, and an application fee. The bureaucrats say they are busy and schedule your interview for nine months from now due to Covid-19. Clearly, your right of free speech has been infringed.
Things like that happen more often and in more ways than we’d like to admit. The reasons are easy to understand. Politicians don’t want the protester’s complaints voiced in public. The news media might pick up the story and amplify the citizen’s concerns. Politicians don’t want to see a large group of passionate people expressing a clear and compelling message. The politician might have to change how public resources are spent because that will upset the existing interests that got the politician elected.
Scheduling a demonstration on public property was first called a public safety concern but it was quickly manipulated by politicians to serve their personal interests. When politicians restrict the right of free expression, many protesters simply bypass bureaucratic roadblocks and hold illegal assemblies.
That was an easy example of public policy. Now I’ll make the example more difficult, but no less hard to swallow.
We’ve all seen riots on the news. You’ve seen stores looted and homes invaded. You’ve seen pictures of violence on the street and read about innocent people being killed.
You are an honest citizen with a clean criminal record. Like tens of millions of people before you, now you decide to get a firearm to protect yourself and your family. You also want to carry your firearm with you as you go to work and as you move about with your family in public. You’ve taken your firearms safety classes, and you and your spouse apply to your local sheriff to get your concealed carry permits. That is how things work in theory.
This is where my theoretical story crashes into hard reality. The deputy at the sheriff’s office says you can submit your concealed carry application, and schedules your appointment eight months from now.
That is a problem, and exactly what happened in northeast Ohio where honest citizens were told to wait 8 months for their concealed carry application to be processed. By law, the sheriff is required to process your application in 45 days. Sheriffs violated the spirit of the law, but technically remained within the letter of the law, by delaying your application for months.* That is neither what legislators intended nor what citizens were told would happen when the Ohio’s carry laws were enacted.
We passed gun laws after politicians told us that making honest people get a permit would disarm criminals. That promise sounded plausible at first. Then, we discovered that criminals get their weapons illegally and don’t obey our gun laws. We paid the price of a slow-acting bureaucracy, but never enjoyed the reduction in crime that legislators promised.
In a perfect world, the state attorney general would intervene to stop these delays. The AG would remind sheriffs that denying a civil right under color of law carries severe penalties. A wise AG would also suggest alternative sources of funding and manpower to process concealed carry applications. We don’t live in a perfect world.
Remember that there are 16 states that passed a form of constitutional carry where citizens with a clean criminal record may carry a concealed firearm in public without a state permit. Those states don’t require an application to exercise the individual right of self-defense. As a side benefit, constitutional carry doesn’t require a government bureaucrat to risk infection with Covid-19 by dealing with the public.
The Ohio legislature talked about constitutional carry.. but never acted. It is time to act unless sheriffs reduce the processing delays to issue carry licenses to honest citizens.
In the real world, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
We only get the rights for which we are willing to protest and fight.
There are interesting psychological forces at work when citizens apply for a carry permit. Each concealed carry applicant thought that the process was unfair, but wondered what he could do to change it. That individual never sees the thousand other applicants who try to apply each month.
In contrast, a thousand angry citizens protesting at the sheriff’s office at one time are a significant political force that can change elections. Their protests can get their rights restored in a timely manner. (I’d also invite local mayors, state representatives, and the attorney general to the protest, but that is just me.)
The right to bear arms and the right to petition the government work best when they work together, but time is short. Criminals and rioters won’t wait for permits.
I gave you 800 words. Please share them with a friend
*ORC 2923.125 section D(1) Except as provided in division (D)(3) of this section, within forty-five days after a sheriff’s receipt of an applicant’s completed application form for a concealed handgun license under this section… shall issue to the applicant a concealed handgun license…