Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Or attempt to legislate away constitutional rights.
Missouri has become at least the 11th state -- and the fourth this year -- to approve a “constitutional carry” law. That means no permit is required to openly carry or carry a concealed firearm in the Show Me State. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.
Three cheers and all that? Perhaps, to some. But whether the law actually was needed is debatable. And some of its provisions are, frankly, anathema to liberty. After all, the Missouri Constitution stipulates:
“That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family or property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned.
“The rights guaranteed shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement.”
As Tim Schmidt, president of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, told The Washington Times recently, “States that focus on freedom realize that self-defense truly is a natural-born right, and the Second Amendment truly affirms that natural-born right; you shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to exercise it.
“Kind of like you don’t have to ask the government to exercise the First Amendment,” he said.
That’s spot on. But neither should anyone tolerate government that endangers the public’s safety by, in the name of protecting a constitutional right, rationalizing it.
Missouri’s Republican legislators supposedly are to be lauded for overriding a veto by Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon. But the legislation appears to be a clear violation of Missouri’s Constitution. How else could one explain the 17 places where state residents are prohibited from engaging in the natural-born right to defend themselves?
Among the unconstitutional restrictions:
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri hospital accessed by the public.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri sports arena or stadium with a seating capacity of 5,000 or more.
You can’t defend yourself on any Missouri private property posted off-limits to firearms.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri church or other place of religious worship without the consent of the minister or the person or persons representing the religious organization that exercises control over the place of religious worship.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri gated area of an amusement park.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri casino without the consent of the owner or manager pursuant to the rules promulgated by the state’s gaming commission.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri child-care facility without the consent of the manager.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri school -- including colleges -- without the consent of the governing body of the higher education institution or a school official or the district school board.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri bar (except owners,that is) without the consent of the owner or manager.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri government-owned building, except public housing.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri government meeting (including meetings of the state Legislature).
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri courthouse or building used by a court.
You can’t defend yourself within 25 feet of any Missouri polling place on election day.
You can’t defend yourself in any Missouri police, sheriff or highway patrol office or station without the consent of the chief law enforcement officer in charge of that office or station.
Now, just to clarify, while the Missouri law does not authorize carry in these locations (and a number of others prohibited by federal law), violations of these restrictions are not considered criminal acts.
Still, those carrying can be denied access or removed from such premises. Should they refuse, they can be fined on a graduated scale.
But none of that makes Missouri’s forthcoming law any less unconstitutional. What part of “shall not be questioned” leaves any room to question? What part of “shall be unalienable” allows the Missouri Legislature to take away these clear rights? There is no room. There is no part. There is no constitutional warrant.
And worse, these unconstitutional restrictions establish government-advertised killing fields, a killing guide for those with nefarious designs to make Missourians sitting ducks in just about every restricted place.
It was scientist Carl Sagan who once observed that “if we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.” The great scientist called it “one of the saddest lessons of history.”
And it’s only a matter of time before such bamboozling rationalizations like those made in Missouri make every constitution in every state, and even the U.S. Constitution, the deadest, if not deadliest, of dead letters.