The high court's ruling came on the heels of yet another workplace shooting, this time at Atlantis Plastics in Henderson, KY fairly near my home town. There Wesley Higdon shot his boss and five coworkers before killing himself. He used a handgun that he kept legally in his vehicle (as even non-permit holders are allowed to do). Looking at shootings like this one and hearing about the loosening of gun ownership restrictions, it would be easy to draw the conclusion that more guns make a society less safe, and banning guns at work or elsewhere will reduce shootings. Well, not so fast.
D.C. has been notorius for gun violence for years. Their solution was to disarm their people and rely completely on police for protection. Kentucky's solution was to develop a system to qualify law abiding people to defend themselves. Part of this difference is geographic, as in a larger rural land area police can't be everywhere. Growing up in rural Western Kentucky, I remember the only time we ever called the county sheriff (because of a break-in one of our barns) they called us three days later to see if we still needed them to come out. D.C. is a more compact and urban land area and more conducive to police response.
But another more important difference is cultural. D.C. has a larger percentage of its population in public housing, on public assistance of one type or another, and is a more urban/community-oriented culture. Kentucky is more rural, and more than slightly ornery. One of the foundations of Kentucky jurisprudence in the area of self defense comes from a 1931 case Gibson v. Commonwealth where the state supreme court established the right to self defense, emphatically, by ruling:
"It is the tradition that a Kentuckian never runs. He does not have to...he is not obligated to retreat, nor to consider whether he can safely retreat, but is entitled to stand his ground and meet any attack made upon him with a deadly weapon"
Based in large part upon this foundational ruling, Kentucky passed one of the best Concealed Deadly Weapons laws in the country in October, 1996 and I obtained my permit within a few months of its passing. To date, literally thousands of permit holders have successfully defended their lives, the lives of others, and their property with deadly force. To date, not a single permit holder has been charged or convicted of misuse of deadly force.
The results of the D.C. and Kentucky approaches are clear. In Kentucky the murder rate was increasing steadily from 1960 when such records started being kept on a statewide basis, until 1996 when the law was passed. In 2006 (last year for which I can find data), the murder rate is at its lowest since 1963. In 2006, Kentucky had 169 murders with a population of 4.2 million while D.C. had 168 murders with a population of 581,000. In 2006 Kentuckians experienced 2.6 violent crimes committed for every 1,000 people; in D.C. that number was 15.1.
D.C's high crime rate is because it is the ultimate soft target, like workplaces and schools. Any place where people are defenseless and can't shoot back is an easy target for someone with bad intentions and a gun. When's the last time you heard of a crazed gunman walking into a police station and opening fire?
The Supreme Court got this one right, and the answer to the horrible phenomenon of workplace shootings is to qualify and register honest people to carry and use deadly weapons, and then allow those in the workplace. The Kentucky law, unlike Tennessee, specifically prohibits businesses from terminating permit holders for carrying a firearm on company property regardless of company policy. However, Kentucky allows employers to restrict that firearm to the personal automobile of the permit holder making the workplace, as in Tennessee, a soft target unless you have armed security. It should be up to each employer to quietly change their policies to allow permit holders to carry in the workplace and save the lives of themselves and their coworkers the next time some crazy with a gun walks into the lobby.
Should we care about this at Christian companies? Absolutely! As my former boss once said, "There are nuts, and there are religious nuts, and those are the ones to fear".