Today is a sad and, frankly, just plain stupid day in Wisconsin. Today's the day that anybody who can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time can walk and chew bubblegum while carrying around a loaded firearm. I am not feeling safer because of this.
Think about it. Who in their right mind would want to pack heat? Well, nobody in their right mind would, unless they're a cop or a security guard. But otherwise "law-abiding citizens" who choose to carry will do it because they're scared, paranoid or have some kind of Superman complex.
That point was underscored by a Sunday State Journal article on a concealed carry class at MATC. In fairness, the instructors for that class came off as responsible and levelheaded, and the students didn't come off as crazy. But they did come off as a little paranoid.
One man, a Monona resident, was quoted as saying that Madison was "definitely" not as safe as it was 35 years ago. He was reflecting a widely held belief brought on by talk radio and the overreporting of crime on television news. But the truth is that he's definitely wrong. Madison is the safest it has been in a generation. While I couldn't find any numbers for Madison alone, crime in the U.S. is much lower today than it was 35 years ago, and there's no reason to suspect that that wouldn't also be the case here. For every 100,000 people in the U.S. there were 488 violent crimes in 1975. In 2010 there were 404, a 17% decline. The homicide rate was 9.6 in 1975 and 4.8 in 2010, a 50% decline, and property crimes were down 39%.
Another woman in the class, a Baraboo resident, had an especially revealing quote when she said she might need her gun if she ever traveled to Milwaukee. I grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, and went to grade and high school in the city. My parents still live there, and I travel there fairly often. I've never felt the need to carry a gun, but this woman's concern is a reflection of what much of small-town Wisconsin believes about our state's biggest city, and I don't think I'm out of line to suggest that a lot of that has to do with race.
The third person quoted was my fellow Isthmus blogger David Blaska, who when asked if he'd be carrying replied, "You don't want to find out." No, I don't. I rest my case on that one.
When I learned to shoot a gun, I was taught some basics of firearms safety. You never point a gun -- loaded or not -- at another person under any circumstances. You always keep the safety on when you're not shooting. When you hand a loaded firearm to another hunter, you make sure it's pointed away from both of you with the safety on, and when the other person has control of the weapon they say "thank you" to indicate that it's now safe to let it go. And all of those rules were applied in a rural setting with more deer than people in the woods.
A gun is deadly force, and you need to treat it with respect and care. So, the idea of carrying around a loaded weapon strapped to my belt in the middle of a busy city seems just plain nuts to me. And no normal, well-adjusted human being would do it. So who does that leave?