The last laugh

A parable from China tells the story of a man who lost a horse.  The people of his town all come around to console him, but he says that we never know how things will turn out.  The horse returns with a herd of wild horses, thereby increasing the man’s wealth.  His neighbors congratulate him, and once more, he says that we never know.  His son breaks his leg trying to tame the wild horses, drawing sympathy, but then the emperor’s general comes to town and impresses fit young men into the army to go fight, and the son isn’t taken.  Each time, whether the event is good or bad, the man repeats that we can’t know the outcome of things.

This story is a good reminder of the contingent nature of politics.  Late last year, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring decided to rescind reciprocity agreements for carry licenses with twenty-five states.  Thanks to the protests of gun-rights supporters and to the objections of the Republicans who control the state legislature, two bills to recognize permits from all other states and to stop people under protection orders for domestic violence from carrying.  Governor McAuliffe has now signed these into law.

It’s fun to gloat, and it’s hard not to when we realize that Herring’s efforts to recognize the carry licenses of only five other states led to forty-eight states having their licenses honored.  Vermont doesn’t issue licenses, so residents there will have to get a non-resident permit from another state, but if you are authorized by official documents to carry a concealed handgun, you may travel legally in Virginia.

The NRA’s statement on the signing of these laws points out that the real goal is national carry license reciprocity.  By my count, and including Virginia now in the list, eighteen states honor permits issued by any state, whether the holder is a resident of the issuing state or not, and more and more states are removing the requirement for licensing altogether.  National reciprocity in fact looks like a conservative—in the proper sense of the word—policy choice, akin to recognizing licenses to drive or marry, on grounds that all states must honor the documents of any state and the rights of every citizen.

But as the parable illustrates, we can’t give up the fight after declaring victory.  Advocates of gun control haven’t surrendered, and battle after battle remain to be fought.  The death of Justice Scalia leaves a gap on the Supreme Court that President Obama or a new Democratic president won’t fill to our liking.  Congress is unwilling to pass new gun control—for the moment.  How long this will remain the case is anyone’s guess.  The states have been leaning our way, but that will last only as long as we maintain pressure on those we send to represent us.

So celebrate Virginia, but don’t imagine we can rest on our winnings.  To quote the great philosopher, Yogi Berra, “it ain’t over till it’s over,” and when it comes to gun rights, it’s never over.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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