NRA: Legal Guns Are a 'Great Equalizer for the Blacks'

During a public hearing on a Wisconsin bill that would allow people to carry concealed firearms without a license or training, a member of the pro-gun lobby caused consternation with his statement that "one of the great equalizers after the [1863] Emancipation Proclamation was firearm ownership for the blacks."

Scott Meyer, a lobbyist for the pro-gun National Rifle Association (NRA), made the statement before the Senate's Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, currently considering the arguments from advocates and opponents of the controversial measure.

Arguing for the bill to become law, Meyer added that minority groups are sometimes excluded from obtaining a concealed carry permit under current laws, given the attendant training costs.

In response to his clumsily worded statement, the Democratic Senator Lena Taylor told Meyer: "Don't say 'the blacks.' Don't do that." Taylor, who opposes the relaxation of gun legislation, went on to suggest that laws are needed because people cannot be trusted. "You know what, a lot of parents believed that their kids would never try drugs and they did," she said. "A lot of people believe their daughter would be a virgin until she got married. People thought we could just make condoms and people will use them. It doesn't happen that way."

Despite the controversial rhetoric employed by both sides, the bill is likely to have an impact outside the state considering it. Twelve states have laws allowing concealed carry without a permit while a further 16 are trying to pass such legislation. According to The Washington Post, groups like the NRA see this as the next step in Second Amendment advocacy.

The bill's co-sponsors, Senator David Craig and Representative Mary Felzkowski argued that since many states already have permit-free concealed carry laws, people in Wisconsin deserved the same. When questioned by Democrats about the safety implications of removing training, Felzkowski said that "responsible gun owners" already teach their children gun safety, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. She also rejected a suggestion that firearms owners should be required to put safety locks on their weapons.

Craig and Felzkowski are also hoping to persuade lawmakers to approve another portion of their bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons on school grounds without gun safety training but with a background check. (Schools would still have the right to ban guns on their premises, if they so chose).

Opponents of Craig and Felzkowski's bill point to figures from the D.C.-based group the Violence Policy Center to demonstrate the dangers of concealed carry. Since May 2007, 969 people have died in concealed carry shootings, a figure that gun safety advocates say will only worsen if people are allowed to carry weapons without a permit.