I recently completed my concealed carry permit class. I shoot occasionally at the range, but I’m not really a big gun person. I decided to do the class largely because I’d heard good things about the training that the class would provide. I also spend time with people who do carry handguns, so I thought that doing the class and learning a little more about the law and gun safety just made sense. And the class met my expectations. I learned a lot.
But then I had to go to the Sheriff’s office to submit my permit application. I filled in the form, submitted my certificate showing that I’d passed the class, and paid the $90. I signed releases so that they could check my mental health history and run a background check. And then I went to be fingerprinted.
This is where it got interesting. There were four of us there being fingerprinted for concealed carry permits, and there were two people in handcuffs being fingerprinted and, seemingly, booked. Those in custody went first, which gave me plenty of time to consider the situation. In our society, we don’t routinely fingerprint people unless they’re suspected of committing crimes, and that’s a good thing. It protects individuals’ privacy. But here were the four of us, wishing to exercise what is a constitutional right, and we were funneled in with those suspected of crimes to have our identifying information entered into some big database. In order to exercise a constitutional right to gun ownership, we had to sacrifice our right to privacy.
I’ve chosen to make that trade-off, but it concerns me greatly that I’m asked to. The Constitution and the rights it protects are important. When we have to sacrifice some rights to gain others, we’re not made more free. People who want to carry a concealed handgun shouldn’t be treated as if they are suspects or criminals. They shouldn’t be fingerprinted and entered into a database. They shouldn’t have their right to privacy infringed. Instead, we should respect the principle of constitutional rights, which means all of them, whether gun ownership or free speech or jury trial. For when we accept that the government can limit some of those rights, we open ourselves up to the notion that perhaps they could limit them all.