Gun Under Every Coat: Would We Be Safer? : State bill would create a deadly ‘Old West’ situation


In a backlash against a state law permitting most citizens to carry concealed firearms, many Texas businesses have posted “no guns allowed” placards in their windows. California is now considering a similar law, and Gov. Pete Wilson and the Legislature ought to pay close attention to the discontent in the Lone Star state.

Nationwide, 26 states have adopted liberal concealed weapons laws. Another, Vermont, does not even require a permit. Californians, in general, appear satisfied with the state’s existing policy, which allows sheriffs and police chiefs to issue permits only to applicants with compelling reasons to carry a hidden gun. Violent crime is down. And rather than clamor for change, a number of jurisdictions--including Stockton, Fresno and Redondo Beach--have rejected efforts to prod Sacramento to overturn the California law.

Against that backdrop, Assemblyman William J. “Pete” Knight (R-Palmdale) is pushing legislation that encourages weapons proliferation. His bill, AB 638, would require law enforcement officials to grant permits to any Californian who had not been convicted of a “serious crime” and had passed a firearms test.


The measure is expected to clear the Assembly this week. But if common sense prevails, it won’t make it any further. Yes, defending oneself against criminals is a serious issue. We understand there is cause for fear, that police can’t be everywhere. The situation has driven legions of us to buy guns. This ritual may afford temporary relief, but look at the clear results: A steady rise in gun-related homicides, suicides and accidental shooting deaths shows that society is not safer with a gun in the home, or under a coat.

A substantial increase in concealed weapons would do nothing but foster the carnage. Last year, a University of Maryland study of five metropolitan areas in three states--Florida, Oregon and Mississippi--found that gun killings increased by an average of 26% while other types of homicides held steady.

The Knight bill is strongly opposed by Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren and major enforcement organizations such as the California State Sheriffs’ Assn. and the California Police Chiefs’ Assn. Police officials believe there is solid reason for making case-by-case decisions on who should be issued concealed weapons permits. Packing a pistol in public, especially in crowded urban areas like Los Angeles, should require more than the scant knowledge of firearms demanded by the Knight bill.

There must be substantial restriction on those permitted to move about with a loaded firearm. Present law requires a clean criminal record, good mental health and a demonstrated need to carry a weapon. Why would we want anything less?

If it takes a veto by Gov. Wilson to stop this legislation, he should not hesitate. There is no credible argument for a return to the Old West. And there is no good reason to invite a future in which “no guns allowed” signs are plastered on storefronts across California.