In the wake of Charlottesville our friend John Feinblatt wrote an op-ed piece last week calling for restrictions on the open carry of guns. He was obviously reacting to the dopes who showed up in their camo clothing lugging their AR-15 assault rifles which, according to Governor McAuliffe, made the local cops feel outgunned. On the other hand, insofar as Virginia is an ‘open carry’ state; i.e., the law allows folks to publicly tote guns, the cops just can’t tell someone to put their gun away.
Let’s get one thing clear right now: Anyone who wants to walk around with a visible gun in an open-carry jurisdiction can say that he wants everyone to know he’s carrying a gun, he may also say that he’s carrying the gun because he likes to carry a gun. Fine. But if he says he’s carrying the gun because he wants to protect himself against crime or help keep the peace, then he better make sure that he only uses that gun if he’s attacked by someone else. And this is where the situation in Charlottesville gets a little confused, because the only people who suffered any serious physical damage, up to the point of loss of life, were people protesting the fact that some of the neo-Nazi and white supremacist supporters of their President were walking around with guns.
And I really think that in the interests of honesty, full disclosure and an attempt to sort out right from wrong, it’s time to quit indulging the alt-white in their bullshit about how they showed up recently in Charlottesville, Boston, Austin and a few other spots demonstrating in favor of free speech. There’s no question that the 1st Amendment gives these jerks the right to march down the street with Nazi banners in hand. But the idea that a political movement which venerates Adolf Hitler would ever become a beacon of free expression is about as likely as the possibility that Fox News would ever be fair and balanced.
I agree with John Feinblatt that open carry is an invitation to violence or worse. But I think there might be a quick and easy solution whenever a so-called citizen’s ‘militia’ announces their intention to show up at a public meeting schlepping their guns. They can be told that their presence in or near the event will be illegal if they show up armed. And despite what you may think, such a temporary ban doesn’t violate their 2nd-Amendment rights at all.
Why? Because until and unless another gun case comes before the Supreme Court, right now the Constitution protects the right of Americans to keep a handgun in the home. That’s all it does. And the fact that this state or that state gives out permits allowing residents to take the guns out of their homes doesn’t mean that such licensing has any kind of Constitutional authority behind it. In fact, it does not.
Eugene Volokh is a noted Constitutional scholar at UCLA who has championed many of the legal cases removing or reducing gun restrictions over the last number of years. In a very detailed paper which was cited by Justice Thomas’s dissent when the Court refused to hear a challenge to California’s restrictive CCW permitting process (Peruta v. California), Volokh argues that gun bans in “places where people have a right to be” is a “substantial burden on the right to bear arms for self-defense.”
There’s only one little problem. The Heller decision limited where and how a gun can be used for self-defense, and it didn’t grant any Constitutional protection to someone who shows up armed at a public meeting, no matter why the idiot feels like showing off his AR-15. And even if we grant Volokh’s unproven assumption that having a gun on your person no matter where you are is the best way to defend yourself from a criminal assault, that’s not what happened in Charlottesville – that’s not what happened at all.