Pandora's Box - Joel Hall

On some days, I wake up with a feeling that somewhere between now and landing on the moon, American culture has digressed into a more primitive state.

One of those days was this week when Gov. Sonny Perdue signed legislation allowing those with concealed weapons permits to take guns into restaurants, parks, and onto public transportation.

Forgive me for being a jerk, but it's hard for me to believe that Perdue -- or the majority of legislators who passed this bill -- have walked inside of a crowded mall recently, much less, taken the bus anywhere. Anyone who has had to utilize the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) on a regular basis would know that allowing guns in such a confined, seldom-patrolled space is a recipe for disaster.

Until two days before starting at this paper, I had never owned my own car on American soil. For the entirety of my college career, I relied almost solely on MARTA for independent transportation. One summer, I depended on MARTA's rail and bus system seven days a week, to take me back and forth from multiple jobs in different parts of the city.

Many people have recently become aware of the exploits of Nafiza Ziyad, the 25-year-old woman who lost it on a MARTA rail car and went on a several-minute-long, incoherent, verbal tirade against a senior citizen.

While many people were surprised, people who ride MARTA on a regular basis know that disturbed individuals make their way to the train all the time.

Now let's assume during that confrontation everybody had a gun (including Ziyad). The incident would have ended very differently.

Advocates of the legislation would say that if everybody on the train had a gun, Ziyad wouldn't have dared to get in that woman's face, for fear of being shot. However, if Ziyad also had a gun, the situation would have probably escalated to where Ziyad or somebody else on the train might not have left alive.

I have never been an advocate of people keeping handguns in their home, but I believe if they want to keep a gun in their home, or in their car, that's their business. Other people shouldn't be in those places uninvited in the first place.

However, allowing anybody with a permit to bring guns into the general public is a major invasion of space for anybody who doesn't feel like reliving the Wild West on a daily basis.

I think the legislation is flawed because it makes two very wrong assumptions. First, it assumes that everybody is afraid to die. Just as states with the death penalty often have comparable murder rates to states without the death penalty, the threat of being shot may deter some potential criminals, but won't deter those who have truly evil intentions.

The second wrong assumption is that individuals with gun permits will use their guns responsibly. Even very responsible, God-fearing gun owners have the propensity for sloppy judgment. Rather than mitigating the risk, the legislation puts public safety into the hands of people who may not be qualified.

This legislation has the potential to lead to the 'Rambo-ization' of our culture, in which people become increasingly paranoid, and everybody has to be trained to use a gun in order to feel safe. It also could lead to the normalization of gun culture, in which people start putting their gun on the table at Waffle House when their waitress brings toast instead of raisin bread.

The governor, the House, and the Senate need to rethink the scary abyss into which we have dived.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.