The phrase “good moral character,” in and of itself, isn’t an issue. We all value people of such character, as we should. They’re people you can trust with pretty much anything. Such folks can be handed the emergency key to your house and you never even blink about it.
However, that particular phrase has a history with guns and gun laws, and that history is problematic.
As Cam noted on Monday, such a definition is likely to be weaponized in such a way as to keep certain people from getting carry permits. After all, they can no longer tell you that you must show a good reason to get one, so they’re likely to find new and interesting ways to limit who can get a permit.
This is especially troubling in a day and age when simply disagreeing with progressive orthodoxy is sufficient to get one labeled as a racist or vile or any number of other horrible things.
By mandating “good moral character” before someone can get a carry permit, it opens the door to denying rights to those who the issuing authority disapproves of.
Yet subjective standards are where “may issue” gun licensing laws fell apart before the court.
And make no mistake, “good moral character” requirements are no different.
North Carolina, for example, requires such a determination before one can get a pistol purchase license. That and a criminal record are pretty much the only things that would prevent someone from getting such a permit, and the criminal record would come up during the NICS check.
Yet that law was put in place during the Jim Crow era as a way to keep black men and women from being able to purchase handguns. It was designed as a way to limit pistol sales to white folks without outwardly appearing racist.
And you’re deluding yourself if you think they can’t be used that way today.
Imagine, if you will, a permitting authority–let’s say a California sheriff’s office–sitting at their desk when approached with an applicant. He wants a concealed carry permit. His attire and demeanor signal that he’s part of the hip-hop subculture, which isn’t surprising for an African-American man in this day and age.
Yet for that issuing authority, that suggests instead that the individual is part of a gang.
Oh, it’s nonsense. While there may be some overlap between hip-hop and gangs, the Venn diagram is far from a single circle. Yet because of this, the authority may decide the man lacks “good moral character.”
Seeing as the measure is so subjective, it would be difficult to determine the racial intent, yet isn’t the hard just the same?
The truth is, though, that since states can no longer require people to show good cause, they’ll fully embrace this “good moral character” standard, either in issuing purchase permits or in issuing carry permits. In California, the California Rifle & Pistol Association is prepared to file lawsuits wherever this standard pops up.
And, to be fair, they should.
“Good moral character” may feel objective, but we live in a world where morality is often determined based on ideology, and that means it most definitely needs to go as a standard for anything to do with the Second Amendment.