The question of licensing / a handgun redux
In my last post I opined about the recent spate of people carrying handguns into local businesses. My main point wasn't that I thought guns should be outright illegal though plenty of people who read the piece seemed to take it that way but simply that I find it ridiculously insecure to feel the need to pack heat while you're essentially just running errands. In broad daylight. In a high-traffic spot. With lots of cops nearby.
It just seems completely unnecessary, and really only ever serves to rattle the nerves of your fellow, unarmed citizens.
Of course, discussion of that particular incident quickly bloomed into something much wider reaching, which all talk of gun rights usually does.
First of all, turns out I was wrong in my assertion that you needed a license to have and carry a handgun in Wisconsin. Apparently, no such license even exists. I find this more than a little baffling. We make people get a license to drive a car (essentially a large hunk of metal that can be easily misused to hurt lots of people), hunt for game (though that won't always save you from taking a face full of buckshot), and even to get married (a sort of weapon in its own right, really).
But not for guns? What gives?
As I've said countless times before, I'm not 100% against civilian gun ownership. I'm actually fairly ardently pro-hunter, and I don't particularly like the idea of the government putting a blanket ban on reasonable weapons (so you can safely assume that I don't think high capacity magazines or rocket launchers have any place in the home).
I do, however, believe that a simple licensing procedure would greatly increase the likelihood that the person with a pistol hanging from their waist while buying a cup of coffee next to you has passed an at least basic level of mental competency and has taken some fairly rigorous gun safety classes.
Is that too much to ask? I'll still think you're a touch on the insecure side if you carry to get your coffee, but you'll still have the right to do so.
As far as I can tell, though, since Wisconsin is one of only two states that prohibits concealed carry which, where legal, usually requires a permit with provisions similar to those I listed above we've decided that open carry doesn't require it because, I guess, we can at least see the weapon?
A gun is still a gun. We should have a permitting process in place even for open carry. That seems like very little to ask, all things considered. Then we can look at creating and actually enforcing truly effective and meaningful gun laws in general, ones that better restrict access to those who shouldn't even touch a gun and ensuring that responsible individuals can own them without fear of unnecessary reprisal. Lord knows the system we have right now ain't really working.
For corrupting the minds of the youth of Wisconsin
Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth is an ass. There, I've said it. Does it make me feel better, though? Not really.
You see, Southworth is threatening to charge teachers who follow the new state sexual education curriculum with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" because, he argues, actually informing kids about proper contraceptive use "encourages sex among children," which is illegal.
No matter that his argument is complete and utter horse manure, and has been proven to be time and time again by study after study nationwide. Sex education that includes accurate and comprehensive information about contraceptive use lowers the rates of both unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among teenagers. The abstinence-only dogma that was being force fed to our schools for so long only harms kids by keeping them ignorant of the real facts.
I cheered when Gov. Doyle signed the Healthy Youth Act (the new sex ed curriculum requirements) into law in February. Finally, cooler heads had prevailed!
I shouldn't be surprised, though, that the old reactionaries are already staging their counteroffensives. Though I hadn't quite anticipated that it would come from a DA.
Not only is Southworth dead wrong, he's also dangerous. He wrote his letter asking that several school districts suspend their sex ed programs, effectively using his official position to bully and scare educators into following his antiquated ideas.
And then there's this: "Forcing our schools to instruct children on how to utilize contraceptives encourages our children to engage in sexual behavior, whether as a victim or an offender." Thus spake Southworth, who apparently thinks that any and all sexual activity by those under the age of 18 is a crime. But hey guess what? Teenagers are going to keep having sex pretty much no matter how desperately people like Southworth wish it weren't so. The best we as a society can do is to give our children the information and respect for themselves and others necessary to make the right choice for their unique situations.
Plus, the act is pretty even-handed overall:
The law requires schools that have sex education courses to teach students medically accurate, age-appropriate information, including how to use birth control and prevent sexually transmitted disease. It also requires the classes to include information about how to recognize signs of abuse and how alcohol can affect decision making.
The classes also must inform students that teenagers who have sex can wind up on the state's sex offender registry because sex with children 16 or younger is a crime.
Under the law, parents can remove their children from sex education classes as they could before. Schools also would be allowed to not offer sex education, but they would have to notify parents they did not offer such courses.
A lot of this stems from our country's irrational fear of sexuality in general but that's a much larger issue that will take decades, if not centuries, yet to heal. We can, however, address the gross failure of our sexual education system now, which is precisely what the Healthy Youth Act is attempting to do. Let's allow teachers to implement the new curriculum and see how it goes. I strongly suspect that, if taught properly, it will pay off quite well in the long-run by helping to lower teen pregnancy and STI rates. Heck, there's a good chance it will even help lower the number of teens engaging in sexual activity in the first place, if that's what you're into.
Abstinence-only has crashed and burned as many suspected it would, to the detriment of several generations of our kids. Let's be sure not to fail any more of them in the future.
Post script: Scott Southworth, by the by, has a history of pulling ridiculous stunts like this. He was part of a lawsuit filed in '96 against the UW claiming that its method of distributed student segregated fees was unconstitutional. A U.S. district court, however, disagreed.
If you're so inclined, you might drop Mr. Southworth a note to let him know what you think of his most recent misdirected crusade: Southworth.Scott@da.wi.gov.
Ever since Dick Leinenkugel resigned from his Doyle administration position as Commerce Secretary, citing a desire to "pursue a new opportunity," there's been a lot of speculation that he'll soon be announcing a run for Russ Feingold's senate seat. As a Republican! What would that mean for Tommy Thompson's still totally-not-official candidacy? Is Leinenkugel even an official member of the Republican Party? Will his time as a Doyle administration employee be too much of a detriment for the hardcore base to vote for him? Maybe he's simply planning to rely on the beer constituency to win him the seat.