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Recent developments on the Second Amendment front

Back in January we managed a pretty civil dialogue on new gun laws enacted in New Hampshire so given some recent developments I thought it was time to renter the murky waters of the Second Amendment while doing my best to avoid the quicksand. There are three things I thought I’d touch upon – the growing movement to promote open-carry, the upcoming April 19th Second Amendment March in Washington DC, and the recent judicial decision upholding the gun regulations introduced by the Washington DC Council after Heller

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Open-carry seems to be the flavor-of-the-day for gun rights enthusiasts. Except for the isolated incidents last summer when health reform opponents showed up at town hall meetings with guns on their hips, I first started to hear about this movement when groups in California began to arrange meetings at Starbucks and other venues with a single purpose in mind – to proudly exercise their legal right to carry in the open. An article in the NY Times suggested the idea “is to make the case for liberalized concealed weapons laws by demonstrating how uncomfortable many people are with publicly displayed guns.” An interesting idea but I doubt that is the intention of 95% of those participating in the events. Rather they simply want to carry publicly because they can and there’s an opportunity to exercise that right with like-minded people. And that strikes me as an incredibly short-sighted, dumb idea. To be clear, I’m not arguing against their right to do just as they’re doing; but is the goal to exercise that right in a cavalier fashion and the hell with the public response? Or is there a bigger goal for gun rights enthusiasts – specifically, to ensure that no additional gun control measures are enacted by state and local law? Do these people think open-carry makes the people around them feel more or less safe? The answer, in case you have any doubts, is a resounding LESS SAFE. And when people feel less safe by seeing private citizens carry guns openly they are more likely to support initiatives to more severely restrict those rights. Further, if I’m not mistaken, in many states that require permits for concealed carry a gun may often be owned and carried openly by any jerk with a drivers license, no training required. The whole idea of this is totally counterproductive to the cause of unrestricted Second Amendment rights. Flaunting it just scares people. 

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On April 19th there will be a major rally in Washington DC called the Second Amendment March. This will be the culmination of many state and local events in recent weeks promoting gun rights especially among supporters of open carry. Last week, for example, some 300 gun rights advocates showed up at the state capital in Lansing, Michigan to exercise their right to carry and to oppose any future efforts to introduce gun control legislation (though to the best of my knowledge there is nothing in the works in Michigan on this front). The state legislature does not permit guns in the state building but they waived the rule for the day. Many participants carried holstered handguns and several had rifles slung over their shoulders as they watched the proceedings from the visitors gallery. According to the Detroit Free Press “the event was organized over the last year in response to concerns that President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress might seek tighter gun controls.” However, according to the event organizer, since those fears had not been realized the event became “more of a celebration.” But doesn’t it seem more than a little odd to allow demonstrators opposed to gun regulations to appear in the state house armed? Isn’t there an implicit threat to any legislator inclined to propose or support gun control legislation? If the subject was gasoline taxes and opponents of a gas tax stood armed in the visitor gallery watching the debate….well, I don’t get it. 

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Anyway, the “celebration” is scheduled to continue next week in DC though to what purpose I don’t know. The argument is to make clear to our federal government that they shouldn’t pass any laws that may infringe on the right to bear arms. Uh, okay, but is there any chance of that happening anytime soon? Maybe assault weapons but Obama clearly took a pass on that issue despite campaign promises to the contrary. So what’s the big fuss? None I guess – it’s a celebration! Whatever. At the same time, however, across the Potomac in gun-friendly Virginia an anti-government rally organized by those likeable folks at Oath Keepers (remember them? The group of patriotic, Constitution-loving servicemen and law enforcement officials who vow not to follow any order that in their humble opinion is unconstitutional) will take place and all are urged to attend with weapons in tow. These events have been scheduled for the 235th Anniversary of “the shot heard round the world” that started the battles at Lexington and Concord. It is also the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Once again I must ask, are these people stupid or what?? You want to have rallies in support of gun rights and against our government on the anniversary of the day Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 people, many of them government employees?? Unbelievable!!! 

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Last but not least is the recent ruling by a Federal judge upholding DC gun regulations enacted following the Heller decision in 2008. Second Amendment March participants will be going to Washington unarmed because DC law still does not permit open carry (Heller only allowed for gun ownership in ones home for personal protection). Among the laws enacted by the DC Council and challenged in the recent case (brought by Mr. Heller himself and others) were a one weapon per month purchase limitation, firearms registration with a three year renewal, required ballistics tests, and prohibitions on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The judge said the limitations were reasonable given an important government interest in public safety as well as consistent with the SC ruling from Justice Scalia. The decision will certainly go to the Federal appeals court but not before the Chicago gun case ruling expected from the Supreme Court in June. 

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Stay tuned.

About Mike Fields

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Michael Fields has written 65 posts in this blog.

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  • Great post Mike. I agree that it may be counter-productive to be flaunting it. It makes people nervous when they feel like they have little control. This leads to a push to gain control through legislation.
    .-= John Carey´s last blog ..Restoring the Republic by restoring a table =-.

    • Thanks for commenting, John. Mike may not see it until tomorrow sometime, as he is on the road. He really did a good job, as usual.

  • william neal

    Under the constitution we as legal citizens have the right to own and bear arms. You state that most people would disagree with the assumption people would feel safe or comfortable around gun carrying citizens. I do agree with that assumption and personally feel that most people would be very uncomfortable around open carry. Yet our constitution says we do have the right to possess and bear arms. I very much believe in our constitution and would therefore have to agree with gun advocates. If you question our right to own and bear arms then you as a concerned individual should ask for a check of the person or group that worries you. If a person has a clean record then they should be allowed this privilege guaranteed by our constitution. One day you might change your views when your freedom is being challenged and the gun advocates defend your constitutional rights against socialist government.

    • William,
      I honestly do not see where Mike was questioning our 2nd Amendment rights in this article. I thought the main theme he was trying to impress was that a little common sense needed to be used in expressing those 2nd Amendment rights. Personally, I strongly believe in the 2nd Amendment and Mike is aware of that belief, but I am not a fan of open carry. I think it is foolish and unwise to do so, as it serves only to display the weapon and nothing to further cement our 2nd Amendment right.

  • Laurie

    Thanks, Mike, for the post.

    I believe strongly in the 2nd Amendment-all of it, including those three words “well regulated militia”. What, exactly does it mean? I’m no Supreme Court justice, but for me, that speaks volumes about the Founding Father’s intent with this fundamental Amendment. It is, however, frustrating to me that extreme activists like the ones you describe claim to cling to the Constitution but apparently have never read this, one of the shortest Amendments in the entire document.

    I believe-and the facts bear this out-that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are law abiding and reasonable. But the disturbing and dangerous actions of a few are making it difficult for people to remember that. And these few-along with the majority who should do a better job of policing their own as far as rhetoric is concerned-would do well to understand that almost every single industry regulation in our country has been because of a threat to public safety. The Starbucks crowds et al may not like the end result of their brazen actions.

    The fear mongering of the extreme right drives these groups. You continue to point out the most important fact that the perspective media and gun activist groups want us to forget: President Obama has in no way moved to infringe upon the 2nd Amendment. But there is BIG money to be made by playing to the fears of the people. More people watch and listen to the screamers, which means the stations and networks get more advertisers at a higher rate. As more people watch and listen, the hosts of these shows also get bigger personal appearance fees and sell more books. And the gun activist groups also collect big in the form of more donations to their cause.

    • Your question, “what does this mean?” is a bit more complicated that it would seem. Here is the definition of militia:

      § 311. Militia: composition and classes

      (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
      (b) The classes of the militia are—
      (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
      (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

      BTW, this law is current.

      Also, the founders were clear on it as well…

      “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”
      — George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on
      Ratification of the Constitution, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788

      The term “regulated” meant, at the time of its writing,”trained.” It does not, however, specify who conducts the training.

      • Leif Rakur

        If you read a bit further you find out that Mason, in referring to the militia as “the whole people,” had in mind every class of the people, not every individual. According to the governor of Virginia, Edmund Randolph, the Virginia militia at the time consisted of 50,000 men. That was a large force, about 1 in 7 if only whites are counted, but not “the whole people” in the sense of every individual.

        The word “regulated” as it appears in the phrase “well regulated militia” in 18th-century America meant “governed.” When a militia was said to be a “well regulated militia,” it was generally in conjunction with a reference to militia law. Pennsylvania’s militia act of 1777, for instance, was titled, “An Act to Regulate the Militia of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” It was full of rules and regualations.

  • Steve Dennis

    Mike, I think that you are correct in you accessment that most people would feel more afraid if they saw a person openly carrying a gun than would feel safe. I also believe that this is because there is now a stigma attached to gun ownership and gun owners because of all of the years that the gun conrol advocates have been pushing their agenda while aserting that people who own guns must have something wrong with them.
    But the reason really isn’t important, what is important is the reality. And the reality is that is people see someone walking down the street with a gun strapped around his waist, they will be scared and most likely will call the authorities.
    New Hampshire is an open carry state, while I was researching New Hampshire gun laws a while back I was reading the FAQs on one website, and while they said that it was perfectly legal to carry openly in New Hampshire, you would be better off carrying concealed so that you wouldn’t be harrassed by the authorities because someone called the police.
    In New Hampshire once you become of age you can walk into a gun shop and after a background check that takes about five minutes, you can strap that weapon to you waist and walk out of the store. You just can’t conceal that weapon without a permit.
    Much like the Heller decision stated, I believe that some reasonable gun control laws are acceptable, especially at the state level. I would not be opposed to a person being required to take some type of training course before they were allowed to purchase a weapon, to me that soundls like common sense. It is a little scary that any eighteen year old can walk into a gun shop with no safety training and begin carrying.
    I myself would not feel comfortable carrying open, and in fact I have only actually carried a few times, I keep my gun in my house for self defense, just in case. But I have taught both of my sons how to handle it and we have gone target shooting on many occasions. When we are not target shooting, the gun is locked away and only I have the key. While this might be detrimental to self defense, it would not be responsible for me to leave it unlocked in the house, even though I trust my boys would never decide to “play with it.”
    While I do understand why someone would feel afraid if they saw someone carrying open– and I would probably keep my eye on that person as well– the logic is slightly backwards. At least if the person is carrying open you would know who is carrying, while if the person is carrying concealed you would still be at the same “risk”, you just wouldn’t know it.

    • Laurie

      Mr.Pink Eyes:

      Great point:

      “At least if the person is carrying open you would know who is carrying, while if the person is carrying concealed you would still be at the same “risk”, you just wouldn’t know it.”

      The problem we’re faced with now is the increasingly hostile and paranoid public posturing – almost entirely devoid of factual reality of what’s actually occuring – of the minority of gun owners who are pushing their agenda. Groupthink can be very dangerous. It’s not individuals carrying that make me nervous. It’s groups of individuals who carry and give as a reason “facts” that are nothing but rising rhetoric.

  • Mike

    Thanks for all the comments and to Larry for responding to William exactly as I would have. With Heller established law and very likely to be followed by the Chicago case extending Heller to the states, the years to come will be interesting ones as Second Amendment cases work their way to the Supreme Court for interpretation of what state and local gun regulations are permissible and which are not. The argument will center around “shall not be infringed” and whether each regulation constitutes an infringement. It is hard for me to envision many of the regulations imposed by the DC Council (as noted above) being considered an infringement. An inconvenience (registration, waiting period, ballistics test) doesn’t strike me as an infringement. Limits on quantity and weaponry (assualt weapons, large clips) will be interesting. If anybody hears any other cases on this front please chime in.