The St. Louis Amtrak station is a vast improvement over the original “Amshack” manufactured steel building that was the train station for most of my adult life. The new station is clean and well-lit. It provides all-weather access to the train platforms. It is, as is all of Amtrak’s properties and offerings, heavily subsidized by the Federal government. Naturally, when I’m at the St. Louis train station I am unarmed . . .
There are two reasons why I am unarmed. First is Amtrak’s “no weapons” policy—easily defeated given that there is nobody here to do a TSA inspection on you. [ED: except when there is.] I contemplated this, but chose to abide by the law. The second reason: I am travelling through Illinois, heading to Chicago, the little city that runs the state. My state allows concealed carry, this state does not. I am abiding by this law because I am law-abiding.
Years ago, I stopped to help a woman who had broken down on the side of one of Illinois’ highways. I was on my way back home and saw the wisps of radiator steam curling from under her hood. This was back when a cell phone weighed 12 pounds and cost about 900 bucks a month and only worked in urban centers.
I happened to have some anti-freeze and water. After patching up her radiator hose I was able to get her on her way. I remember her because she had a shiny .357 magnum sitting in the seat beside her. We did not speak of the hogleg; it was obvious why a woman travelling alone would keep it handy. I thought of that woman because at that time she was breaking the law. However, it is doubtful a cop would have given her any trouble over it.
Doubtful, but not impossible. Her right to self-defense—exercising her right to keep and bear arms as delineated by the U.S. constitution—was riding on the whim of a police officer or state trooper. More accurately, her exercising her “right” to carry a loaded weapon within easy reach without fear of imprisonment rode on the discretion of a cop who happened to be the one who pulled her over, or even stopped to check on her status.
My mom carried when it was illegal to do so, safe in the knowledge that she was the wife of a cop. She could rest secure that professional courtesy would protect her from harm. Dick Heller carried a gun to protect others, but was not able to keep a gun to protect himself.
We have had this multi-tiered approach to the 2nd amendment for my entire life, a product of a fundamentally flawed notion that man can be perfected from outside, if only the right influences are offered and the wrong influences eliminated.
I sincerely believe that the Second Amendment is the last line of defense for the exercise of all the other enumerated rights. The way to protect the Second Amendment is to be just like the hard-ass range officer and deal swiftly and firmly upon “rights infractions.”
I have only been politically active in the last 20 years or so, so I do not know how exactly our rights were eroded, what compromises were made, what ideas crept into our national consciousness. But the degradation of gun rights isn’t going to reverse itself, and we cannot reverse it by just talking among ourselves.
I travel for work. I have competing needs. I have weighed the risk of being disarmed against the reward of a paycheck, and paycheck won. To my right I can see Joliet prison, a grim place where men are held to pay their debt to society. I am grateful for my freedom from such an awful place, and to stay out I am voluntarily defenseless save for my wits and a Gerber tool.
I am very sympathetic to the “my permit is the Second Amendment” constitutional carry crowd. My beloved Missouri’s concealed carry law is a step in the right direction, and I am grateful for it. But one ought to be grateful to God for their rights, not to the state for permitting me to exercise them.
Our struggle is not over. It may never be. And so it goes.