My Comment To Professor Epstein's " We Need More Guns On the Ground"


To say that I consider Professor Richard Epstein to be one of the most capable legal minds on the planet would be a gross understatement.  And this is so despite the fact that we have some profound disagreement on very important facets of the law--Professor Epstein is not shy about disparaging the Heller and McDonald decisions, for example. Thus I was pleasantly surprised at the headline, and the bulk of the content of his post at the Hoover Institution:  "We Need More Guns On the Ground."  I urge you to read the whole thing, as they say, by clicking here.  At the moment I'd like to focus on one facet in particular, to which I commented in his post.

As part of his argument in support of "more guns on the ground" Professor Epstein advocates that we should be more aggressive in allowing off-duty law enforcement officers and military to carry concealed firearms:

In Israel, it is common practice for off-duty police and military personnel to carry concealed handguns or other weapons. The same approach should be adopted in the United States for it is the only remedy that is likely to provide a credible first response to a terrorist attack.

Why this restriction to merely off-duty law enforcement and military? What about the millions of private citizens licensed to carry firearms in one or more US jurisdiction?

Because the weapons won’t be in the hands of rank amateurs, it is highly unlikely that the off-duty officers or military personnel will compound the problem by foolish actions.

It is this point that I addressed in my comment to Dr. Epstein's post, which I copy here:  

Nice piece, Mr. Epstein. As a life-long member of the gun community and a life-long competitive shooter, I would however take issue with your implicit assumption that off-duty cops and military are somehow inherently more competent in the use of handguns for self-defense or defense of others than what you derisively term "rank amateurs."

The large majority of police rarely shoot their handguns other than when required to do so for annual or bi-annual qualification, which might amount to a couple of hundred rounds a year. The military by-and-large doesn't train with handguns hardly at all, as the rifle is their primary personal weapon (for good reason).

In contrast there are many millions of Americans who practice seriously with their sidearms regularly, and many tens of thousands who engage in pistol competitions vigorously every single weekend of the year--and those pistol competitions are vastly more challenging than just about any law enforcement or military qualification test.

Perhaps a more reasonable approach would be to require that ANY citizen--law enforcement, military, or otherwise--who can pass the firearms qualification currently used for retired law enforcement to maintain their carry privileges should similarly be licensed to carry concealed in all jurisdictions of the United States.

I expect we'd end up with vastly more people so licensed that had never been LEOs or military than we would those who had or are.

As an aside, also a huge fan of your appearances with Professor Yoo on LawTalk!

A safe and happy Holiday season to you and yours,

--Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

That's all, folks.

(By the way, if someone would care to comment to this post to assist me in testing whether our new commenting function works, it would be appreciated.)