If anyone has been paying attention to domestic legislative politics through a recent cloud of international uprisings, highly publicized trials and gun wielding football players, one particular development stands markedly out from the rest. It’s happening in the state of North Carolina and it stands to reverse the political direction of a state who’s trajectory appeared to be locked in but a few short years ago. Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan discusses his belief that unless power is vested in one commonwealth, something that I believe can be incorporated into today’s gun control laws on the federal level. How North Carolina managed to transform itself from one of the quickest growing progressive states in the country, along with neighbor Virginia, to the poster-child for a conservative social agenda is one for the history books. In 2008, Barack Obama carried North Carolina by a very small amount, just about 13,700 votes separated the President from Senator McCain in a state that cast 4.2 million votes. I’ll skip through 2009 and 2010 — writing extensively about the Tea Party has proven to be a bearer of too many severe headaches — but what you need to know is that a strongly conservative movement gained widespread political participation from thousands of individuals and were able to translate their voice in the political discussion into restoring a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Perhaps more relevant than a new majority in the House, are the gains made at a state level in red and so called “purple” states. 2013 saw North Carolina turn into a mecca of far-right policies.
North Carolina turn into a mecca of far-right policies. Oh, where to begin? Six months before the congressional deadlock took it away from all states, North Carolina was the only state in the union to reject Federal long-term unemployment benefits, even though the state would be absolved of any financial liability in accepting them. The state legislature repealed the ability of appeal for death-row inmates based on evidence of racial bias on juries, this after similar measures were rejected by former Governor Bev Purdue (D). A Medicaid expansion that came to states as a part of the Affordable Care Act was rejected, the expansion would have insured over half a million Tar Heels. The most stringent abortion laws in the U.S. now reside in North Carolina. The legislature passed new abortion restrictions, which closed down 15 of the state’s abortion clinics, leaving only one standing. It’s worth noting also that these restrictions were packed into a motorcycle safety law. Because, you know, the way to make motorcycling a safer method of transportation is to prevent women from having control over their own body.
This course of public policy may be wildly partisan, but at least it’s that – reflective of a belief in social and fiscal conservatism, consequences be damned. However, there has been a recent trend in North Carolina politics of legislation that isn’t just partisan, but blatantly un-American and damaging to the fabric of a constitutional democracy. We can talk endlessly about how we believe America is entering a new phase of acceptance and tolerance; that the old days of racially discriminatory laws and politically motivated disenfranchisement are long behind us. I’m afraid to say that those old days are not behind us, and in some places, like North Carolina, they are as alive and well as in the days of the pre-Voting Rights Act , motorcyclical abortion laws, and gun control negligence. Some of the measures taken up by the GOP led Assembly are reaching comical status, especially concerning firearms. A relatively new North Carolina law went into effect that prevents police or other law enforcement from destroying confiscated or voluntarily turned in guns. Fittingly it has been named by supports as the “save the gun” law, and it passed the legislature easily earlier in the spring. That’s not even the best part. The law mandates that law enforcement must keep the guns or sell them to licensed gun dealers. North Carolina republicans honestly do deserve a moment of recognition, they found a way to turn the safest and most effective way society takes dangerous weapons out of communities, and turn it into a way to recycle weapons back into circulation. Seriously, someone needs to be given some sort of award for coming up with this plan. But wait, if you thought gun laws in North Carolina couldn’t get anymore egregiously stupid, wrong you are! Starting in October, gun owners with conceal and carry permits have been allowed to bring their firearms into restaurants and bars where alcohol is served. Wow, you know what kudos on that one two, I’m not sure I could have come up with any combination better than cookies and cream, but you know what? Guns and alcohol definitely takes the cake. Almost forgot to mention playgrounds and other places of public recreation will also be places gun owners can legally conceal weapons.
Chapter 17 of Hobbes’ Leviathan discusses how the power that man is naturally inclined towards will ultimately lead them to breaking social contracts with each other. Thus, a core power should have the authority to punish those who break the contract. The same thought process could be applied to gun control at the state level, as well. If the United States’ federal government (the core power with vested power in this scenario) had power over internal state gun control laws, men would be less inclined to break social contracts, according to Hobbes’ logic. The arguments for these laws are based on spotty news excerpts and sloppily organized studies, and everybody knows it. I’m just waiting for someone in the Republican Party other than Colin Powell to acknowledge it.