This is a primer for people who don’t know what they’re talking about but still want to post something about Kim Davis anyway.
With very few exceptions, there really is no such thing as a “gun permit” or a “gun license” in the USA. This is because we have the Second Amendment, which calls out gun ownership as a right. After vacillating on the matter for decades, the Supreme Court overturned most local attempts to curtail personal gun ownership about ten years ago — even those in Washington D.C., where for years it was almost impossible to legally own a gun.
The reasoning: gun ownership is a right — a near-absolute right as stated in the Constitution. You can tell by the wording of the amendment: “Shall not be infringed.” The authors were stating gun ownership was a human right to begin with — even before the founding of the US — and explicitly not part of some goodie bag they were handing out just to celebrate their new venture. They also made it number two on the list, right after acknowledging that you had the right to speak, worship, and assemble as you wished. As an aside, many Americans seem to have forgotten what a “right” is. Your rights are yours inherently, just by virtue of your existence, and only further secured by your citizenship. The state doesn’t grant you basic rights. It merely affirms them, defends them against others who might infringe upon them, and at times restores them to those who lost them as punishment for not playing nice.
Yes, there are things like concealed-carry permits and Class 3 licenses. The former are issued less and less frequently as many states embrace “Constitutional Carry,” under which it’s legal for any non-felon to carry a concealed weapon — permit or not. The Class 3 applies if you want to own a full-auto machine gun or a silencer, as it seems many people do. Because hunting. Or something.
But for the most part, when you go to buy a gun at the gun store today, you undergo a quick background check at time of purchase for felonies or anything that might mark you as specifically barred from owning a weapon (like having been judged mentally incompetent in court). That’s not a license. It’s not a permit. It’s a check for anything that might make it illegal for the store owner to sell you a weapon. If you pass (as most do: it’s only the relatively-together-seeming people who buy guns through retail stores), you pay your $300 or so for your 9mm Glock knock-off or whatever and walk out the door — hopefully minus any little-boy power fixations, victimization fantasies, or hidden psychoses.
So when I see these memes trying to make the anger over Kim Davis relatable to those of a traditional, conservative bent by asking the question “What would you do if this applied to gun permits,” I nearly blow my top. I can’t be the only one. I hope I’m not.
What she’s doing is wrong, of course. If she can’t do her job, she should quit. It’s fine for her stand around the outside of the courthouse holding up signs and protesting sin on her own time. That’s her right. But as an elected official sworn to uphold the Constitution and laws of the US, she’s failing spectacularly while on the clock. I say this with a recognition that we could potentially have laws on the books which are horribly destructive (in fact, we probably have more than a few of those). Still, it’s Kim Davis’ job to administer those laws. If she decides she just can’t due to personal beliefs, that’s fine: She can quit. I hear WalMart is always hiring in those small towns. Looks like she already has the wardrobe to be a greeter.
Sorry. Just had to put that in there.
Beyond the scope of this article is my little screed about how the government really shouldn’t be in the marriage license business anyway. Civil marriage is a property-sharing and survivorship agreement that’s been elevated to a holy writ and mistaken as the anchor point of some sort of eternal personal happiness. Marriage was so recognized as a right at the time of the founding that they didn’t bother saying much about it at all. But we all seem to want the blessing of someone or something for our decision to share half our stuff with someone who will most likely end up fucking up our lives. If that’s not the role of the church in your life, then I guess it falls on the county.
But anyway, a far better analogy to convince conservatives would be this: Kim Davis refusing to document same-sex marriages is like an animal rights activist at Fish and Game refusing to issue fishing licenses. Fishing licenses are actual licenses, the proceeds of which go to manage fisheries and keep people from taking more than their share and spoiling it for the rest of us. It’s a grand old tradition, this licensed fishing — though fishing as an activity is far older. If I were to encounter some feeler-on-a-mission at the Fish and Game Office standing in my way based on his or her principles, I would put it this way, in my most civil tone: “Fuck your feelings, you sanctimonious asshole: I want to go fishing. Do your job or quit.”