Today, let’s update a couple of topics that have been the subject of recent columns.

GUN RIGHTS

Three weeks ago, I wrote about advances in Second Amendment civil rights across the nation, leading off with testimony by former Portland Police Chief James Craig upholding the effectiveness of carrying a firearm for personal protection.

Now our own Legislature, in pondering centralizing concealed-carry permit records in Augusta, has turned down an amendment to make Maine the fifth state to do away with the permit system and allow any law-abiding citizen to carry firearms undercover.

Maine and 30 other states do not restrict the open carry of firearms, and advocates of no-permit concealed “constitutional carry” provisions — already the law in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona and Vermont — said it made little difference how a citizen who is not barred by law from owning guns carried them.

I’ve always thought that permits were acceptable, as long as they were affordable and easily available, and could be denied only under specific circumstances clearly stated in the law that offered no discretion to the issuing authority.

But with permits or without them, the presence of concealed firearms in citizen hands has an undeniably positive effect on crime rates.

That was shown in the most recent issue of the academic journal Applied Economics Letters, where an article by Quinnipiac University economist Mark Gius examined nearly 30 years of statistics and concluded that making concealed carry readily available demonstrably reduces gun crimes.

The article’s abstract noted that “states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates than other states. It was also found that assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level.”

In other words, states that have banned firearms because of cosmetic reasons (“assault weapons” are just ordinary semi-automatic rifles dressed up in black outfits) have restricted Americans’ constitutional rights for no reason.

Meanwhile, the presence of concealed weapons in the general population makes criminals think twice about using them themselves.

So the aphorism “more guns, less crime” just got proved all over again. It seems likely we’ll see constitutional carry laws reintroduced in a future legislative session.

E-CIGARETTES

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about the political left’s attacks on the “electronic cigarettes” that are helping many people quit smoking.

The writer of a guest column to the Press Herald complained that I had naively misconstrued the motives of the manufacturers, who were, undoubtedly from malice aforethought, flavoring their products with “a variety of sweet flavors, such as sour cherry, candy and pancake.”

Mmmm, pancake.

The writer’s concern was that such flavoring targets children (I guess adults don’t like flavorings), but even so, I also noted in the column that e-cigs could be made illegal for minors.

But there’s a larger point. In truth, the machinations of evil megacorporations whose world-conquering schemes are entirely contained in advertising aren’t all that threatening, as consumers can either accept or reject their products.

Recall that it is a truism of ad agencies that “a good ad campaign will ruin a bad product faster,” as catchy ads persuade people to try flawed items sooner and thus reject them more quickly.

If you‘re worried about being manipulated, I’d be less concerned about capitalists — who can only try to turn our pretty little heads with commercials — and more about government.

It directly affects our lives with taxes taken from the productive to be distributed to favored groups, backed up by an ever-burgeoning regimen of laws, regulations, police, courts, prosecutors and, ultimately, guns.

Which part of society more desperately needs strong and effective limits to keep us safe from its pernicious influence?

I pointed out that government is itself addicted to high tax revenues from tobacco sales, and noted that punitive levels of taxation on tobacco products will eventually make smuggling them much more lucrative and thus common, with all the harm increased illegal sales will bring.

(After all, smugglers not only don’t pay taxes, they don’t ask teenage clients for IDs.)

But I was wrong — about the timing, that is. Smuggling is already soaring in high-tax states.

On the day the column appeared, I read this on the CBS Money Matters website: “More than half of the cigarettes sold in New York State (56.9 percent) are smuggled in from other places to avoid the Empire State’s taxes on smokes, which have soared nearly 200 percent since 2006, according to a report issued by the conservative Tax Foundation (which used 2012 figures).”

Arizona came in second (with 51.5 percent), followed by New Mexico (48.1 percent), Washington (48 percent), and Wisconsin (34.6 percent). Maine’s untaxed cigarette sales are 11.2 percent.

What ties these issues together? Just this: Imagine how many problems we could avoid if liberals could manage to survive while taxing and regulating us less.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: [email protected]