The Corner

More Willful Obtuseness on the Question of Firearms at the GOP Convention

David Frum is evidently amused by my suggestion that there are few good arguments for allowing firearms into this year’s Republican National Convention:

Despite the insinuation here, I’m actually not of the view that arming everyone, everywhere, at all times will invariably make America safer. As I have written repeatedly, my view is that private businesses should make their own decisions on carry, and that individuals should respect those decisions. The government is — and should be — bound tightly in this area. But private actors should not be. If the owner of a church or a bar believes it will benefit him to allow armed customers inside his premises, he should allow armed customers inside his premises; if he believes it will hurt him, he should refuse to do so. The same goes for the Quicken Loans Arena, where the GOP’s convention is being held. I understand that it is fashionable these days to consider this this sort of agnosticism suspicious, but there it is. Private property matters, and what its owners choose to do with theirs is typically none of my business.

That being said, one doesn’t have to be in favor of forced proliferation to recognize that Frum’s snark makes pretty much no sense at all. Are we really to believe that he cannot comprehend why the Republican National Convention might have different needs than, say, a church in Connecticut? As has been confirmed by the powers-that-be, the Republican National Convention will be both locked down at the entrance and attended by hundreds of trained men with guns. Suppose that a bad guy with a gun wanted to harm someone at the convention: All things being equal, he would quickly run into metal detectors, bag searchers, and, if he were stupid enough to start something before gaining entry, a host of gun-toting LEOs. Sure, the Secret Service is not infallible. But it is fair to say that any would-be assailant would have his work cut out if he tried to take the outfit on. In consequence, the RNC is able to ask a secondary question: Namely, “Given that we have taken care of security — and, being private, that we can do what we like – do we want armed attendees?” As I suggested in my post, one can make a good case that, contested conventions being similar to polling places in nature (and Donald Trump’s crowds being unusually rowdy), the answer to that question is “no.”

Does this same dynamic obtain in churches, bars, and schools*? No, it does not. Indeed, in these circumstances we remain stuck on the first question, which is “what about security?” It is a sad-but-incontrovertible fact that if a bad guy wants to walk with impunity into a church, a bar, or a school, he will likely be able to do so. Unlike the GOP convention, most schools, bars, and churches do not enjoy Secret Service protection — either at their entrances or inside — and, as a result, they are at the mercy of those who would inflict harm. All told, the argument in favor of concealed carry is a simple one: Namely, that a) well-intentioned signs do not stop people with evil intent; that b) most places do not enjoy armed protection or manned checkpoints; and c) that, this being so, it is a good idea to allow the innocent the means with which to fight back should they be attacked. Where there is no security at all — i.e. in most of the country — it is pretty stupid to put up signs saying “no guns” and to hope, blithely, that this will keep the peace. Where there is a whole lot of security — say, in the secure parts of airports or at the White House — it can make sense to restrict the availability of weapons. (It doesn’t always.) I refuse to believe that David Frum and his fellow travelers are incapable of grasping this.

*Schools are in a different category than bars and churches, of course, as they are usually run by the state. My view is that it is legal for states to pass laws barring concealed carriers from schools, but that these questions are best left to school boards and local communities.

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