Monday, April 10, 2017

Of Gun-Free Zones and Transgender Bathrooms

I've noticed an odd left wing vs. right wing dichotomy regarding belief in the magical power of signs: if you believe "A person intent on committing mass murder will be deterred by a sign saying 'This is a gun-free zone'," your politics most likely lean toward the left. By contrast, if you believe "A person intent on raping a child in a public bathroom will be deterred by a sign meaning 'This bathroom off-limits to those who genitalia at birth looked like your own'," your politics most likely lean toward the right. Both ends of the political spectrum have adherents who manage to believe "A person evil enough to commit major felony harm against another human being will surely be scared off by the prospect of misdemeanor charges being added on."


Anonymous Dave H. said...

In both cases the laws are designed for the people who were already in compliance.

It seems to me that “Gun Free Zones” are one of the (many) similarities between seedy bars, mental hospitals, Disney World, and courtrooms: Anyone who unholsters a gun can be assumed to be drunk, insane, or a criminal. The sign does not deter criminals in any way, it just makes them easier to pick out of the crowd (for purposes of arresting or shooting, depending on whether you are in California or Florida.)

The sign in the bathroom also fails to deter criminals, but other than that is very much the opposite. Criminals cannot be easily identified from a distance unless they happen to be naked, in which case the sign was never necessary to enforce their arrest (or, again, in the case of Florida, shooting.) Most restrooms do not include showers, so the only way to determine if someone is violating the sign would be to scan their birth certificate, which is the opposite of just looking to see if they have a visible gun.

The only place where the logic gets murky is public showers. The North Carolina law did not (really) distinguish between restrooms and showers, even though the two are obviously different. When a child visits a public pool, for example, most parents will treat the restroom differently if it contains a shower: Most parents will allow a child to use the restroom unaccompanied, but will not allow them to use the shower unaccompanied. When the only restroom contains a shower, the lines get blurred.

This is one of the few areas where Pat McCrory actually had a valid point: Whenever people asked about the inane North Carolina bathroom bill, he resorted to talking about “full grown men showering in the women’s locker room, in full view of little girls.” He is attacking a straw-man, of course, but that is what politicians do.

Most women’s locker rooms offer private showers, and most shower areas are separate from the toilets. Most people prevent their children from wondering around near showers, and most people who use showers are discreet enough not to wander around naked, (particularly if their apparent gender doesn’t match the sign on the door). So McCrory is picking the most extreme possible example, and using it to justify a law that literally makes no sense in any other context.

Although the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law was a failure in the military, it still seems like an appropriate rule for bars, pubs, and bathrooms: Keep your gun and your gender concealed.

6:47 AM  

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