The Athens Banner-Herald published an editorial a couple of days ago that supported a bill in the GA legislature which, “would require applicants to complete a four-hour firearms safety training course from either a certified peace officer or a state-licensed weapons training instructor” in order to receive a permit to carry. Naturally this stirred up a minor hornet’s nest, to which the A B-H replied in this editorial. Editor Jim Thompson (and kudos for not hiding behind the title of Editor) picks one of the (to him, predictable) reader responses to attack. . .
“Is there some other constitutionally guaranteed right that requires mandatory, government authorized training before you can exercise it?” Oracle asked.
“For example, say, the First Amendment? Maybe editorial writers should have to submit to state-mandated training — made to study an approved list of words to never use in an editorial, and demonstrate a proficiency in using the standard American vocabulary.”
In his response Thompson condescendingly states that most reporters are graduates of journalism school and are constantly getting “on-the-job training” as they rise through the ranks. Editorials are almost all written by seasoned journalistic veterans, something the mere hoi polloi would be unaware of.
Where to begin…for the purposes of this piece, let’s ignore the questionable validity of requiring a government permit to exercise the natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right to own and carry the weapon of your choice and focus instead on the question of requiring state authorized training for same.
To start with, who the hell does Jim Thompson think he is? Does he seriously believe that someone who chooses to take responsibility for his own safety and the safety of those he loves is going to be so irresponsible as to neglect to learn basic safety rules? Does he really think that permit applicants require, “instruction on the features of a firearm and a brief explanation of loading, firing, and unloading the firearm” as will be required by the new law?
Does he honestly think that someone who is completely ignorant of firearms will one day be driving down the road, see a gun shop and say “Gee, I think I’ll get my permit to carry!” That such a person will plunk down the (minimum) several hundred dollars for a weapon, holster and ammo, plus the $75 to $89 permit fee, get fingerprinted and background checked all for the purpose of carrying a piece of equipment they have no idea how to use? (See what I mean about the arrogance?)
Seriously though Jim, would you get your PTC without knowing how to safely operate your weapon? If your answer is “Yes” then perhaps the whole idea of state-mandated training for editors isn’t such a bad one, because you’re clearly too irresponsible to be trusted with a pen, much less a firearm. If your answer is no, then how dare you presume that other people are less conscientious than you are?
Jim wraps up with this pearl of wisdom:
It’s not government-mandated training, certainly, but it is training nonetheless, and I think it’s sufficient to blunt Oracle’s argument.
Actually, no, Jim it is not sufficient to blunt the ‘argument,’ it’s merely sufficient to blunt Oracle’s example. The argument which you avoided throughout your editorial – a skill you probably learned rising through the ranks. The argument is that there should be no government mandated training in order for people to exercise their natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right to own and carry the weapon of their choice. Since you dismiss the possibility of such strictures applying to journalists, let’s look at a different example. An example with some history behind it so we can see how well it worked in the past. Let’s look at voting.
Let’s suggest a bill which would require a four hour course, taught by a registered lobbyist or a state-licensed voting instructor, on the principles of democracy, a background of economics and current events, and the mechanics of how to operate a voting machine. According to your editorial board, it would be difficult to argue that such a bill would represent anything but the most limited attempt to ensure that people who want to exercise the right to vote are competent to do so.
A four-hour course which, under the terms of the bill, must cover only the most rudimentary aspects of exercising the franchise can hardly be seen as an onerous or overbroad attempt to curtail peoples’ right to vote. Right? I mean who could ever argue that such training would be used as an excuse to deprive people of their rights.
No. Mandatory training for the exercise of an enumerated right is neither reasonable nor common-sense no matter how many “other kids are doing it”.