Metro columnist Dan Casey: Fight to expand gun rights is far from over
By Dan Casey
This is a big week for the Virginia Tech chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.
It's Defense Education Week, and the student group, which has 100 to 200 members, has organized a week's worth of seminars and gatherings in support of concealed carry on Virginia college campuses.
Monday night's featured speaker was Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Earlier Monday, I spoke to Ken Stanton, 32, a serious-sounding engineering graduate student and the vice president of the Virginia Tech chapter of the concealed carry group.
Here's his argument in favor of guns on campus:
"We've had a couple years since April 16 to discuss this issue, to do research, to discuss this with legislators," Stanton told me. "We have not found a single argument that says we should not allow it."
Stanton's chief contention is a familiar one: Law-abiding handgun permit holders should have the right to defend themselves from gun-toting bad guys.
Right now at Virginia Tech, where guns are banned, "We have no chance. We literally are sitting ducks. We're seeing way too much evidence of that," Stanton said.
Though his argument sounds simple, it has some interesting implications.
You see, since the 1990s, the National Rifle Association has been wildly successful in expanding concealed carry permit laws in states across the country.
Now, 46 states issue concealed carry permits to law-abiding citizens. Only two states, Wisconsin and Illinois, have blanket prohibitions against concealed carry. It's legal in Vermont and Alaska without permits.
But many of those states have various exceptions where concealed handguns are prohibited. Those include college campuses, schools, sports arenas, government buildings and churches.
All those exceptions are the rub among the pro-gun-rights crowd, such as Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.
And what the SCCC campaign tells us is this: The fight to expand gun rights is far from over. If or when concealed carry becomes legal on campuses, the battle will shift to other places where concealed carry is forbidden.
Imagine the names of those new pro-gun-rights groups that could emerge, fighting supposed infringements of the Second Amendment:
Churchgoers For Concealed Carry could argue that packing heat during services will help ease the minds of the faithful, so they can better focus on sermons about turning the other cheek.
Patients for Concealed Carry in Hospitals might contend they need guns to protect themselves in their sickbeds, where they're more defenseless than usual. You can't have security guards in every room, after all.
Teachers may form Concealed Carry in Public Schools -- because some students already are carrying illegally. Just one teacher with a pistol might have been able to stop the tragedy at Columbine High School, you know?
By the time all the places above are concealed gun-approved zones, we could reach the absolute nadir of the gun rights splinter groups.
I hope the day never comes that criminals organize and call for the repeal of laws that prohibit felons from carrying firearms. Or sue to overturn those laws in federal court.
Felons For Concealed Carry might argue it this way: There's nothing in the Second Amendment that says it applies only to law-abiding citizens.
They could further argue that ex-cons need protection, too, from all the other legally sanctioned concealed carriers out there.
Such as Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army major and Virginia Tech graduate who is suspected of killing 13 people and wounding 29 at Fort Hood, Texas. He was granted a Virginia concealed handgun permit back in 1996.
I hope that group and the others never form.
But that's the direction we're heading in -- chipping away at those no-concealed-carry exceptions one by one.
Like it or not.