virus: Utah Gun Meme

Gifford, Nate F (
Thu, 6 Nov 1997 09:38:03 -0500

On NPR today I heard a story about how the Governor or Utah <a
republican> is in trouble with his party and with the union of state
workers because he is prohibiting state employees who are not law
enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons to work. Utah is a
right to carry state so that any citizen without a criminal record can
obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The report had an interview with a state employee described as a "middle
level" manager whose decisions were sometimes unpopular enough to cause
his life to be threatened. He asked "Is it fair that people can come in
here with guns under their coats but we can't have guns?" My first
thought was "Hell yes." As a consumer of state services I would prefer
to think any arms fire will be going towards the opposite side of the
counter from where I'm standing. I know that the last time I had my
driver's license renewed I spent 70 of the 90 minutes I had to wait in
various lines fantasizing about blowing away the idiots behind the
counter ... Those idiots couldn't work a pencil but I'm supposed to
trust them to not blow me away when the yahoo in front of me opens fire?
I think not. My point is that I suspect that the ban on concealed
weapons in state offices will increase the level of compassion among
workers who face the public ... It sounded like the miscreant manager
felt that somehow his carrying a weapon would keep the public from
drawing on him. I suspect that a soft voice and a quick dial to
security on the speaker phone would protect him more than his Glock.

The report went on to say that private employers could prohibit
employees from carrying at work ... but the union of state workers
argues that the governor's decree causes state employees to be treated
differently then ordinary citizens.

This seems like a version of the Prisoner's Dilemma game ... and is a
classic instance of how your logical conclusions are dependent on your
axioms. From the each state employee's point of view their personal
safety is enhanced by their carrying a gun. From the governor's point
of view a small percentage of state employees are idiots who are as
likely to hurt their customers and co-workers as the loonies off the
street. <The governor's ruling was the result of an employee forgetting
their weapon in the washroom ... where it could have been picked up by
anyone>. I would think that a reasonable human being <which excludes
the union reps> would concede that some percentage of state employees
are wackos who should not carry. Likewise some percentage of the public
are wackos. Even if a larger percentage of the public are wackos their
exposure time is lower then the workers ... so where is the equilibrium
for the safety of the public? Is it the same place as the equilibrium
for the state workers? If not <and I suspect there are different
equilibrium points> what is fairer to limit the danger to the public or
the workers?

Its also interesting that the whole issue exists in a meme space instead
of objective reality since the issue is how carrying a handgun at work
prevents violence ... hard to prove at best.