As conservatives locked in a never-ending fight to protect the Second Amendment, we spend a lot of time defending the right to bear arms. This extends, in many cases, to the right to bear arms in public. And so we have debates about concealed-carry, open carry, gun-free zones, permits, and all the rest.
But what doesn’t get talked about much is the duty that comes with a license to carry a concealed weapon. For one, this topic has little to do with the most important thing, which is to preserve our basic constitutional rights. For another, it’s a largely philosophical issue. Some will say that a permit confers upon the holder no duty other than to obey the law. Others insist that it comes with the duty to protect one’s self and one’s family if given the opportunity to do so.
But what about the larger duties? We’ve argued for a long time that mass shooters, terrorists, and other criminals might not be so quick to act if they knew their victims were armed. Some have even speculated on how certain events – take your pick of recent tragedies – might have gone a different way if an armed hero had been able to step in and stop the bloodshed. Does it then follow that anyone with a concealed carry permit has a duty not just to the law and not just to his loved ones, but also to the larger community?
Donald Trump thinks so. He released a statement to Breitbart this week on the subject, and it’s one of the more interesting things he or any other Republican have said in quite some time.
“Carrying a weapon is not always feasible or appropriate,” Trump wrote. “However, given the increased tensions that are the result of continued, escalating terrorism around the world, more legitimately armed individuals on the streets is a positive outcome. Each permit holder must make the decision to carry or not carry. I will carry more often than I have in the past, and I am sure other concealed permit holders will do the same. Do we have an obligation to carry? The answer is “yes,” but we must do it in such a way as to raise serious doubts in the minds of those who might be considering violence in America. Deterring violence is far better than dealing with the aftermath of an act of terror. Less blood, more security. That is what will make America great again.”
As Trump says, each and every permit holder has to make the decision for himself. But it’s a decision worth thinking about. We don’t need any “reason” to exercise our right to bear arms, any more than we need a reason to exercise our right to free speech. But if we are not just taking up space – if we have some higher purpose than merely gaining the maximum amount of pleasure out of life – then we won’t just babble to hear ourselves talk. And perhaps then, we won’t just carry to feel the weight of the gun.