One of my biggest, most frustrating pet-peeves is when those in positions of authority fail to follow the very rules they establish. There are tons of examples. I’ve written about some here before, like when the Prince Georges County, Maryland, police performed an illegal home invasion on the Mayor of Berwyn Heights or when the Governor of Illinois tried to sell a vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. If government officials expect us to follow the laws and policies they establish and enforce, then they must follow those same laws and policies themselves. We, as the citizens and the source of all legitimate government authority, must hold all of our government officials to a very high standard.

This is especially important when we talk about our law enforcement and courts. Police officers, judges, magistrates, and their supporting staff must be held to the absolute highest moral and legal standards. I know this is a lot to ask, since these people are (obviously) human and have jobs that are much more challenging and difficult than anything the rest of us can easily imagine, but it is only fair that the people who directly enforce our adherence to the law adhere to the law themselves in all respects.

While certainly not as dramatic as the PG County home invasion, the Fairfax Circuit Court has just violated Virginia law (and likely does so all the time), and it just drives me crazy.

In November, I applied for a Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit. In-and-of-itself, I consider it ludicrous that I have to apply to the government for permission to carry a concealed handgun. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, unequivocally, that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” and the Virginia State Constitution says the same (almost word-for-word). ‘Bear’ means carry. It seems to me that means my right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed by my state or federal government, but maybe I’m failing to see all the made-up, non-existent words that various courts have managed to wedge in there invisibly.

That’s neither here-nor-there. §18.2-308 of the Code of Virginia explains in grand detail all the ways that the state unconstitutionally infringes my civil rights regarding bearing arms concealed, including the process for applying for and obtaining a Concealed Handgun Permit. The relevant bit that the Fairfax Circuit Court has violated in my case is Part D of the referenced section (emphasis added):

Any person 21 years of age or older may apply in writing to the clerk of the circuit court of the county or city in which he resides, or if he is a member of the United States Armed Forces, the county or city in which he is domiciled, for a permit to carry a concealed handgun. . . . The clerk shall enter on the application the date on which the application and all other information required to be submitted by the applicant is received. The court shall consult with either the sheriff or police department of the county or city and receive a report from the Central Criminal Records Exchange. . . . The court shall issue the permit and notify the State Police of the issuance of the permit within 45 days of receipt of the completed application unless it is determined that the applicant is disqualified.

45 days from the date of my duly submitted, super-complex, combed-over, triplicate, notarized application with its requisite $50 (!!) ‘handling fee’ was Jan. 1, 2009, which means that—in order to comply with the law—my Concealed Weapons Permit had to be in the mail (‘issued’) by Jan. 1. Since the government was closed on Jan. 1, doing it ‘within 45 days’ required it to be mailed the day before. The Postal Service traditionally conveys mail across the county in one business day, so a permit mailed from Fairfax City to Herndon on the 31st should have been here on the 2nd. If not the 2nd, then today.

Since the mailman has come and gone today, and there was no Concealed Handgun Permit in the mail, I’m going to assume that the Circuit Court is in violation of §18.2-308 of the Code of Virginia. Of course, if they’ve determined that I’m ‘disqualified’ to exercise my civil liberties that they shall not infringe, the law doesn’t really say what the time-line is for giving me that denial. But I can’t imagine why I’d be disqualified, since I’m a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record who pays all his taxes and has previously passed federal security checks.

There is (moderately) good news. When your local Circuit Court fails to issue the Concealed Handgun Permit in the required 45 days, the court is required to issue a certified copy of your application which serves as a de-facto permit. Quoting from a bit further down in §18.2-308 Section D:

If the court has not issued the permit or determined that the applicant is disqualified within 45 days of the date of receipt noted on the application, the clerk shall certify on the application that the 45-day period has expired, and send a copy of the certified application to the applicant. The certified application shall serve as a de facto permit, which shall expire 90 days after issuance, and shall be recognized as a valid concealed handgun permit when presented with a valid government-issued photo identification pursuant to subsection H, until the court issues a permit or finds the applicant to be disqualified.

Of course, if the court isn’t going to obey the earlier part about giving me a response within 45 days, why should I expect them to (as required) send me the certified application? Shouldn’t I have gotten that in the mail yesterday or today too?

These are the people that punish people for crimes; they aren’t supposed to be committing them. This is especially true in this case, since we’re not just talking about a regular old bit of paperwork. We’re talking about a permit to exercise a civil right (just like my permit to write on this web site, or my free speech permit, or my license to protection from unreasonable search and seizure . . . oh wait, sorry, only one civil right requires a permit).

So what’s the next step? Well, on Monday I’ll call the Court and ‘inquire’ about the status of my application. If dissatisfied with their answers, I understand that the Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court takes an active role in harassing local circuit courts that flagrantly violate the law in this respect . . . and my state legislators will probably be helpful too if it comes to that. All-in-all, I’ll do what I need to do to push this whole process forward, but—well—that’s not really my job, is it?

Update 1/6/2009: According to the Fairfax Circuit Court, my Concealed Handgun Permit was issued by the court and mailed today—five days late, but I guess that’s not too bad (I hear these are in high demand at the moment). I should expect it in the mail tomorrow or the day after.

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.