Monday, April 11, 2005


With more than four out of five states allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, that argument is finished. Now, the nation's long-running argument over guns turns on how much to loosen the rules - should guns be allowed in judge's chambers? Bars? In workplace parking lots? The work in state legislatures following the latest spate of fatal shootings shows how much the debate has changed. The 1999 Columbine school shootings sent moms marching into the streets for tougher gun laws, but this year, many state legislators are looking at ways to broaden access to weapons and ease training and other requirements.

The push for concealed weapons began in the late 1980s, when all but 10 states refused to allow residents to do so, or only allowed it in special circumstances. But starting in 1989, those barriers fell. Now it's up to 46, with 35 states allowing just about anyone who is not a felon to get a permit. The late 1990s saw a rise in gun control legislation. In 1999, after 15 were killed, including the gunmen, at the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, gun control gained a sharp edge and legislators' attention.

Violence hasn't subsided this year, from courthouse shootings in Atlanta and Tyler, Texas, to the school killings at Red Lake, Minn., the most deadly since Columbine. But the reaction has spurred something far different, drawing on the idea that if the victims had weapons they might not be victims. "At the scene of these crimes, despite all the good intentions of the police, the prosecutors, the courts, the judges - they're all coming in later," said Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association. "The country as a whole is taking another look, across the board, at the idea that maybe it makes good sense to allow people to protect themselves in as many situations as possible." Current legislation in some cases is a direct response to the recent shootings, though often predates it. In recent weeks:

-Florida legislators passed a measure allowing people to "meet force with force" to defend themselves without fear of prosecution, extending the right from their homes to anywhere they're legally allowed to be. Gov. Jeb Bush said he intends to sign it.

-Arizona's Senate approved letting people carry guns into bars and restaurants, as long as they're not drinking. The House has yet to act.

-North Dakota legislators approved removing the shooting test needed for a concealed-weapon permit, though the bill awaits final approval from the governor.

Even schools and workplaces, the scene of some of the most horrific violence, saw restrictions fall. A new Virginia law lets people with concealed handguns onto school grounds, as long as they and the gun remain in their car. A 2004 Oklahoma law lets employees with permits keep guns in cars in job parking lots.

Anderson, in New Mexico, said restrictions are outlawing the way he grew up, when he learned about guns before he was a teenager. In his view, restrictions make crime more likely, and his view seems on the rise. "There should be the possibility that any house on the street should have a weapon," he said. "Do I think every house should have one? No. But the bad guy should think so."

More here

Wisconsin: Victim not charged: "A man visiting from Arkansas will not face any criminal charges for killing a Racine man in self-defense. The 64-year-old has been released from jail. Police said a group of young people tried to rob the man at a gas station on 12th and North Sunday morning. They began beating the man with his cane, police said. That's when the Arkansas man grabbed his gun and shot 20-year-old Kendall Moss."

ATF hysteria over museum: "[Marcellus] Area residents want federal authorities to return a 1918 German .50 caliber machine gun to the local VFW Post's war museum after it was taken during a search earlier this year. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms took the Maxim machine gun as part of a broader investigation into the person who donated the weapon to the post, the Three Rivers Commercial-News reported. Museum curator and Vietnam veteran Wilber Breseman was outraged by the Feb. 23 search. ... Four ATF agents and one state trooper arrived at the post with a search warrant for concealed weapons. Mark Hady, the ATF's resident agent in charge, said the donor was under investigation for illegally dealing in firearms."

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