A new study released in February headlined Freedom in the 50 states: An index of personal and economic freedom, is a real eye opener.
For those living in the Evergreen State – whether you’re a native or a transplant – this report, presented by William Ruger, assistant professor of Political Science at Texas State University, and Jason Sorens, assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Buffalo, is enough to make one reconsider just how “progressive” Washington State has become under a quarter-century of Democrat control of the governor’s office and Democrat dominance of the state legislature for a generation.
The bad news: Washington ranks 35th out of 50 states in terms of personal freedom and 44th out of the 50 states when it comes to overall freedom.
Ruger and Sorens detail many factors that affect personal and economic freedom, and included in their discussion are observations about firearms ownership that bear attention. “For a liberal state,” the report notes, “gun laws are quite reasonable.”
While taxes are fairly low, spending is higher than average, and accordingly government debt is quite high. The government payroll is much larger than average.
And indeed they are. Washington has one of the best concealed carry statutes in the nation, and it has become the model for many other states, with its “shall issue” standard and state preemption of local gun laws – a situation that is obviously despised by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and others like him, who would dearly love to ratchet down on personal freedom much more (as is evident by his crackdown on Seattle nightclubs).
Open carry is legal here, and it has been upheld by at least two appeals court rulings (one published, the other unpublished) that have held that “It is not unlawful for a person to responsibly walk down the street with a visible firearm, even if this action would shock some people.” (State v. Gregory Casad) Twenty-seven states “allow” open carry, according to the report, without a permit of any kind. Washington, it might be said, goes a step farther as it appears that open carry is constitutionally protected. The Casad ruling noted, “The statute does not and, under the Constitution, cannot prohibit the mere carrying of a firearm in public.”
Bellevue is home to two of the nation’s leading gun rights organizations, the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
This paper, according to the authors, “presents the first-ever comprehensive ranking of the American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres.”
Educational regulation is absurdly tight, with private schools needing state approval and under certain conditions teacher licensing, and home schoolers needing to meet teacher qualifications, annual standardized testing, and extensive recordkeeping rules, along with other requirements.
Which state has the greatest personal freedom? According to the authors, it’s Alaska. According to the report, “Reasons for its score include: fully legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana (accomplished through a court ruling), the best (least restrictive) gun laws in the country, recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships, and possibly the best home schooling laws in the country.”
However, Alaska does extremely well on personal freedom, scoring 1st on our ranking. Reasons for its score include: fully legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana (accomplished through a court ruling), the best (least restrictive) gun laws in the country, recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships, and possibly the best homeschooling laws in the country.
And the state with the least amount of personal freedom? Maryland. According to the report, “Maryland’s impositions on personal freedom include the second-strictest gun laws in the country.”
But overall, the worst state in the union for overall freedom: New York. The Empire State; home of the Big Apple. “On personal freedoms,” the authors note, “gun laws are extremely restrictive, but marijuana laws are better than average (while tobacco laws are extremely strict).” New York ranks No. 50 on economic freedom and No. 48 on personal freedom. Taxes are high, home school regulations are “burdensome” and “few New Yorkers seem to believe that anything can be done about the situation.”
The contents of this report may bother some Washingtonians – certainly the natives – and alarm others.
If this revelation doesn’t bother you, well, “you probably ain’t from around here.”