Arizona is not the only place where you now have to wonder if people are packing heat in your friendly neighborhood tavern. A "shall-issue" law just went into effect in Iowa on January 1. Previously, county sheriffs, who issue concealed-carry permits (you know, those "local government" type people who should be listened to about things), could use their discretion to deny one if they had concerns about the applicant's fitness. Not any more. You would pretty much have to be a convicted felon or so mentally ill you couldn't fill out the application to be denied one now.
And you can carry your guns anywhere, anytime, concealed or not, unless the owner of private property "opts out" by posting a sign prohibiting guns. Local governments may be able to keep them out of city-owned buildings (like for city council meetings, etc.) but that's not clear yet. Even in bars: It's fine to be armed when you are in a bar drinking, but Iowans are really concerned about safety, so they added a provision that you can't be carrying if your BAC exceeds the legal intoxication limit of .08. So, they've totally provide for any potential problems, right!
We are gingerly waiting for the first shoe to drop.
Oh, yeah, this was not only signed into law but promoted by an allegedly DEMOCRATIC governor!
One can easily imagine a continued fractalization of the American demographic, in which physical mobility combines with political, environmental, and economic instability to create a Barely United States of America.
For the fictionally inclined, I very highly recommend Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, a near-future USA in which the government controls only a tiny portion of the land mass and counts employee use of toilet paper by the sheet, all the prisons have been privatized into corporations called The Hoosegaw and The Clink, aircraft carriers have been sold to really rich weirdos, and skateboard messengers have smart equipment that keeps them safe and lets them steal energy from passing cars by harpooning them with magnets. Hilarious, and beautifully written. Very few speculative fiction writers will regularly force you to go back and re-read a sentence just because it's so pretty. Stephenson is the real deal; like Bradbury or Wells, a great story-teller. He's not as good at endings as Banks, but who is?
In the U.S., generally, we have the right to believe lies and conspiratorial propaganda, argue violently and threateningly, purchase and carry weapons designed to kill multiple people per second, and be bat-shit insane and not seek or be forced to seek treatment (unless someone in authority has declared us in a specific instance a threat to ourselves or others). The degree varies, of course, from state to state.
We have the right to be or to be perceived as a threat to everyone around us. We have, that is, the right make people fear us.
We do not have the right to be free of these fears.
And that's the way it is. Thursday, January 13, 2012.