I read an interesting post by Mr. Pink Eyes on America’s Watchtower about a Second Amendment victory in the New Hampshire House, coming on the heels of a Second Amendment defeat, that got me back to thinking about gun rights. With apologies to Larry for returning to this controversial issue (and a promise to engage in spirited but not acrimonious debate) I thought it was worth revisiting. Just to be clear I will state my position up front: I support the Second Amendment and agree that it confers on Americans the right to bear arms; but I also believe the states have the right and the obligation to establish reasonable limits to protect their citizens. The question of what is reasonable is a legal one and should be left to state legislatures, and state and federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, to decide.
Last week in New Hampshire the state legislature voted to ban bringing guns into any state building. Mr. Pink Eyes saw this as “an infringement on the Second Amendment.” I prefer not to get into the constitutionality of the decision because that will surely get us nowhere. I believe the states can establish reasonable limits on carrying weapons and many of you do not. Fair enough, an honest disagreement. But I would hope most of you would think there are some limits that are reasonable? For instance, can we agree that nobody should be allowed to carry a gun into the Oval Office? How about carrying a gun into the Senate or House chamber while they are in session (clever responses not required)? How about into a courtroom? Or on an airplane? There are many physical locations that are quite secure and where all visitors must go through metal detectors before entering the premises. If those security measures exist then, by definition, those places are infinitely more secure than walking down the street in broad daylight or having a drink at a local bar. So my question is, doesn’t the availability of security provisions at state buildings in New Hampshire (if they exist!), or anyplace else, make the banning of guns substantially improve the safety of everyone inside? I suppose a corollary to that is whether the safety of the people in the building is paramount to the right of an individual to carry a gun? I’d most definitely say it is. By the way, if there are no security measures in place at the state buildings and the lawmakers passed the ban because they felt threatened then the hypocrisy of that vote is amazing especially in light of the vote that followed.
Now what about the Second Amendment “victory”? Here’s what Mr. Pink Eyes wrote about HB160:
This bill revises New Hampshire self defense laws to ensure that nobody who brandishes a weapon when they feel threatened will face charges no matter where the incident takes place in the state.
OK, I’m no expert on gun law and I know next to nothing about New Hampshire gun law but this strikes me as about the lamest “victory” I’ve heard about on Second Amendment issues in a long time. Here’s the actual language from the bill:
A person who responds to a threat which would be considered by a reasonable person as likely to cause serious bodily injury or death to the person or to another by displaying a firearm or other means of self-defense with the intent to warn away the person making the threat shall not have committed a criminal act.
So if somebody threatens you or yours this law allows you to pull out your gun and say “see how big my gun is?” but it does NOT give you the right to use it! If you shoot somebody who is physically threatening your children you are still going to be arrested and charged. If I have this wrong then please correct me but this seems like a law with absolutely no teeth – and this from ME of all people! The law does not make clear what constitutes a situation that reasonable people would find appropriate for pulling a weapon so this by no means will stop criminal cases against those who display a gun in “self-defense.” Does a barroom brawl rate? How about a football dad arguing with the coach about his son’s playing time? What about a nasty fight following a car accident where one person pulls a baseball bat and bashes in the other car’s headlights? I’d hope that in all these situations the first person to pull a gun is the one considered to be making the threat that warrants the other party pulling a weapon – but of course all that second person can do is say “mine’s bigger than yours!” If this is a Second Amendment victory then I’d say the standards by which a victory is measured have deteriorated considerably.