Its official title is the “Safe Carry Protection Act,” and when it was signed by Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, the National Rifle Association praised it as the “most comprehensive pro-gun bill in state history.” That’s because, under its provisions, Georgia residents are now able to carry guns into churches, bars and public buildings. Georgia teachers, with a green light from their school board, can carry guns into their classrooms. This may explain why the statute is better known as the “Guns Everywhere” law.
While Christ remains for many the true Prince of Peace, and while firearms in churches do seem wildly inappropriate, you have to concede that it could provide a new definition for the often-coerced marriage commonly known as a “shotgun wedding.” As to the wisdom of mixing guns and alcohol in a crowded public place on a raucous Friday night, 19th-century Americans in Dodge City, Kan., were a lot smarter than that.
But here’s the inconsistency. Those same Georgia legislators who championed the “Guns Everywhere” law “to arm law-abiding citizens in order to confront and to take down, if necessary, armed law-breakers” in libraries or fast-food restaurants exempt one place where Georgians cannot bear arms: the state Capitol in Atlanta — the very place where those legislators work.
Georgia legislators are not alone in voting to keep guns out of their own workplace. Three-dozen states, which, like all 50, have their own concealed-carry laws that permit citizens to carry guns into public places, specifically prohibit law-abiding citizens from bringing firearms into their state capitols, where, incidentally, those very legislators can be found.
Credit goes to Esme Deprez and William Selway of Business Week for capturing this glaring inconsistency, which some might even call hypocrisy on the part of pro-gun politicians, when they interviewed South Dakota Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, who owns 17 firearms, is a dues-paying NRA member and favors the untrammeled right of South Dakotans to pack heat in public places, that is except the state Capitol, where, according to Hickey, “We have the most contentious issues being debated in public policy, affecting people in irate, angrily ways and affecting millions and millions of dollars.”
Here in Washington, within the space of five days, two law-abiding Americans, the press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and the past president of the National Turkey Federation and the president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, were separately arrested and jailed after Capitol police found each trying to bring a pistol and ammunition into the Cannon House Office Building, which connects to the Capitol. If found guilty, the sentence could be five years in jail.
Capitol Hill, where Congress spends its time, has become an armed camp with uniformed and plain-clothes security people everywhere. It’s true that in 1998 there was a tragic shooting, resulting in the deaths of two Capitol Hill police officers. But that was 16 years ago, long before four-fifths of the current House members had even come to Washington, and before the strong national movement to expand citizens’ right to carry firearms where they choose.
It’s clear these pro-gun/anti-gun control politicians must believe that more citizens carrying more guns in the community or the workplace will make you and me safer. But somehow these same politicians do not believe those same citizens with those same firearms would make the state Capitol and U.S. Capitol safer places. They believe these citizens could somehow be a threat to them.
If more guns were to make people safer, then the United States — which, with 310 million guns in private hands, leads all nations — would be the safest place on Earth.
— Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.