We are afraid. You can see the evidence everywhere, from the shootings at Columbine High School to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
We are no longer a nation governed by laws and state representatives. We are a nation governed by fear. And it's starting to take over.
Every time there is a tragedy in this country, we overreact. After the shootings at Columbine in Colorado and Buell Elementary in Michigan, schools across the country responded by suspending and expelling any student who even hinted at trouble. Suddenly teen angst was illegal, and anybody who didn't have the correct proportion of happy days was suspect.
Worry and fear have defined the past two years, with Americans constantly on guard. Ever since Sept. 11, government officials have sent vague warnings about terrorists who might attack at any moment by any means. And now, all of America has become Chicken Little, waiting for the sky to fall and turning a wary eye at our neighbors, friends and family.
Now Ohio wants to pass a conceal and carry law. It's legal, they say. It's their God-given, constitutionally sanctioned right to carry concealed handguns.
The normal thing to say is that allowing everyone to carry a concealed weapon will cause people to go crazy, shooting each other because of missed parking spots and heated discussions about the sad state of local sports franchises. But in all honesty, we don't know if that's true. That argument is based on the idea that carrying concealed weapons would still be OK, as long as we don't all kill each other (more than we already do).
And it wouldn't be.
We are still afraid, and a scared person is a dangerous person. A scared person has a sick sense of desperation. He is willing to do whatever it takes to alleviate the fear that is eating him up inside, even if it means changing his way of life.
Fear-based laws allow the government powers they would not otherwise have been given, had the populace acted in a sane and rational manner. They allow the systematic stripping of civil liberties and personal freedoms.
Passing a conceal and carry law may not seem like that big of a deal, but when does it end?
We can already see the effects of fear-based laws coming down the pike. The Total Information Awareness Act allows the government to build dossiers on every American citizen, including individual financial transactions, medical histories, college transcripts and reading habits gathered from library records and bookstore purchases. Then there is the Patriot Act, which allows for a huge shift in the government's power of search and seizure.
So, now you can be arrested and detained for taking a class on politics in communism and buying Catch 22 or Slaughterhouse Five.
Passing a conceal and carry law is not necessary. We are not under such a constant threat that we need to carry guns everywhere we go, protecting ourselves against an unseen predator that may or may not exist.
Conceal and carry laws pander to the rampant fear that dictates our lives.
Joe Shaw is a junior at the University of Cinncinati and is a staff reporter for The News Record, the campus newspaper where this column originally appeared. Students at the University of Cinncinati watch the Fox News Channel on their campus cable system.