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Lawmaker hypocrisy helps doom needed legislation

A couple of items needing passage by the Louisiana Legislature long ago once again seem set to fail this session, in part because of selective hypocrisy by some legislators.

The idea to allow holders of concealed weapons permits to carry handguns onto college campuses (who otherwise are not sworn peace officers), in the form of state Rep. Ernest Wooton’s HB 413 took a tumble again. As previously noted, to prohibit this exercise of Second Amendment rights fails both logically and empirically. What’s the theoretical justification for banning carrying in this one public venue as opposed to all the others now not banned? Why do something counter to research that shows concealed carry does not increase violent crime, but reduces it?

If nothing else, common sense tell us that, other than the existing ban, there’s absolutely no deterrent to illegal carrying and use on campus (regardless of whether a permit is held), so even a mildly-motivated miscreant still will attempt to use illegally a handgun.
So why not put a greater deterrent in place by creating doubt in the minds of prospective shooters that they can even get a shot off with an unknown number of defenders potentially present? Instead, legislators and supporters would rather monopolize legal firepower in their own hands rather than protect citizens. Words written on a page don’t stop assailants, as most Texas legislators understand.

Supporters of state Sen. Rob Marionneaux’s defeated SB 133 also continue to flail not just because they don’t use the most powerful argument to persuade why smoking in any public venue violates the rights of breathing-compromised individuals. Instead, they tended couch their arguments on health concerns; for example, stating that employees of these establishments have to breathe in secondhand smoke, which then threatens their health.

But the scientific evidence that secondhand smoke causes maladies like cancer is sketchy, and then the argument gets completely routed when observed that people can choose to wherever they like and most work venues are not permitted to have smoking indoors. Rather, supporters need to articulate that, just as the Americans with Disabilities Act that allows for physical access into almost all place of commerce that otherwise likely would not occur, a non-smoking law of this nature – already the case in about a dozen states and in many more municipalities – would gain environmental access to those otherwise shut out of this kind of commerce.

Perhaps this tack would overcome the objection that economic consequences of non-smoking would reverberate detrimentally within the hospitality industry and, while research differs on this point, at worst a small, isolated but significant impact appears as a result of smoking bans. But research also shows that the aggregate long term economic gains appear considerably more likely to outweigh any costs borne by a few. So whose rights and privileges should public policy favor here, the interests of a few who smoke or derive more revenue because of it in what at best is a mild inconvenience for them to forgo, or the interests of many (such as taxpayers or alternative entertainment providers who otherwise would not enjoy the positive economic benefits), a few of which are majorly inconvenienced if not their lives threatened, without a ban?

Making matters worse is the hypocrisy of many lawmakers on this issue. They claim economic considerations are more important than protecting lives when it comes to a ban, but then they vote in favor of continuing higher taxes on tobacco, if not trying to send them even higher, and try to claim therefore they are for protecting health yet deny visiting economic harm. If they really had genuine concern for people’s health, instead of pursuing their main goal of trying to find more money for government to spend, they would restrict the practice of smoking as much as possible. Any legislator who votes for taxes on tobacco yet will not support restricting smoking and claims its for health reasons is dishonest; any who says agreeing to tobacco taxes to pump up state revenues and fails to move to restrict smoking merely is a cad and cretin.

Election year politics no doubt had something to do with these setbacks as that tends to create more pandering to the simplistic and less courage to explain the complex. Perhaps next year both of these worthy causes finally will make it into law.


Anonymous said...

Easy for you to say - you are never on campus.

Jeff Sadow said...

8 hours a week every week during the regular semester, but rarely in the summer. Teaching online so much keeps me at my computer at home quite a bit. Even so, it seems I spend more time on campus than you (and you hopefully unarmed and not smoking inside or near doors) since you didn't know that.