The lady who took my fingerprints at the sheriff's office for the mandatory print card seemed nice at first. I was just there to get my prints taken but she wanted to talk. At one point the issue of CWPs came up. I have a lot of disdain for the process down here for many reasons, but was polite and merely brought up that in Alaska we have "Alaska" or "Constitutional Carry" with no permit required.
She seemed alarmed, ventured that it was because Alaska was all"wilderness and frontier." I replied that it was actually a recent liberalization of the law in 2003, not a holdover from the gold rush days, and that it also applied in Anchorage (which is a bigger city than the town of BumFudgeVille, Deep South, by the way). She then wondered how it worked out.
I asked, "So, what was the concern prior to your state passing a shall-issue CWP law?"She replied, "Oh, it was hysteria. Everyone thought there'd by crime all over and shootings in the street."I asked back, "And what's happened?""We've had no problems," she said. "Not a single one."
I said it worked out pretty much that way in Alaska, too. The perps who unlawfully use firearms to commit crimes, as Gwen likes to point out for us, are almost always prohibited persons who can't legally touch a gun and who wouldn't qualify for a permit if they bothered to apply (which they wouldn't).
Finally, as we got to the third (!!!) fingerprint card, the real crux of her concerns came up. "Well, how do you keep those people from having guns?" asked the lady.
"Those people? Who do you mean? Its still illegal for felons and criminals to carry guns. Do you mean poor people who can't afford your fees down here?" I asked back.
"No, they're not all poor... you know, those people." she said, with strong emphasis. I was flabbergasted. I mean, I have a strong suspicion as to what she was hinting at but couldn't believe that here, a law enforcement agency employee, was actively telling me that she disapproved of certain minority groups exercising their civil and constitutional rights. I felt like it was right out of an old movie or a tired internet post stereotype. Yet there it was right in front of me. I shut it down immediately by saying something like, "Well, if someone's not a criminal, I think they have civil rights regardless of the color of their skin." I was so flabbergasted that I wasn't quite that eloquent but that was the bottom line. She blushed at being called out and changed the subject.
According to newspaper figures from down here in 2008, about 10% of CWPs were issued to individuals who identified themselves as African-American, even though over a quarter of the population is black according to census data. That is, African Americans are far less likely to have CWPs down here that whites. Maybe things have changed since 2008 but I kind of doubt it. With attitudes like the one being displayed by the white "public servant" it isn't a surprise why. I have a feeling my experience at the sheriff's office might have been a bit different had my skin tone been different. This isn't a huge surprise given the racist history of gun control laws in general but it is disheartening to see such prejudices in play today.
She was also concerned about NRA instructors providing training that made it too easy to get CWPs. She thought only off-duty cops should be doing it, so they "can make a little extra money." I then pointed out that my wife was an NRA instructor and focused on providing affordable training to other women, including home firearms safety (not just CWP stuff). I made the point that training shouldn't be about money for the instructor, it should be about providing accessible training to students who need knowledge to be safer. Then I left.
Heather and I have just started saying, "This place... These people..." when we come across the dysfunctionality of cultural life down here. And we don't mean it like that woman meant "those people" -- we're referring to culture which seems to pervade across many demographics down here that celebrates highlighting and demonizing "the other," leads to 50/50 high school dropout/graduation rates, and covers deep seated prejudices with that sugary sweet polite southern demeanor. I mean, Alaska has some issues with a racist history as well. You don't have to look far. But it didn't seem as obvious and pervasive as it is in the Deep South.
I'm not saying that everyone in the Deep South has those attitudes. We have met lots of very nice, generous, and friendly people here, in Texas, in Alabama, in Virginia (not so deep south I guess), and in other places in the south we've lived/visited. Just like everywhere, the majority of folks are probably neighborly and relatively fairminded, and it is an obnoxious offensive minority that gets your attention. However, the attitudes are common enough to make me uncomfortable.