Sorry, but walking around with a gun isn’t ‘free speech.’

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.

charles             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.

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When It Comes To Open Carry Or Concealed Carry, Neither Protects You At All.

Considering the fact that Texas now joins 44 other states in allowing its residents to openly carry handguns into public venues like restaurants, shopping malls and so forth, why has the Texas open-carry issue become such a big deal?  I’ll tell you why.  Because the argument over the bill was loud and intense, and the opponents of the new law have vowed to vigorously pursue an opt-out strategy into the new year.  The Texas law, as opposed to other states, gives merchants and other property-owners the right to post a notice saying that open-carry is not permitted on their premises, and a new website has just popped up that carries an impressive list of businesses that want the open-carry nation to leave their guns at home.

open carry              Most of the now-45 states that have passed open-carry laws do not grant local option as to whether someone can openly carry a gun onto their property or not.  Just this week the Denver Museum of Science and Technology announced that they would permit OC to conform with the Colorado OC law passed in 2003.  The Colorado OC law, like most such legislative initiatives is very broad, granting OC just about anywhere – restaurants, educational facilities, shops – because it tacks OC onto a previous law that made it easier for Coloradans to acquire the right to concealed-carry (CCW) based on something referred to in the CCW law as the “constitutional right of self-protection,” which, as far as I can tell, happens to be a Constitutional right which doesn’t exist at all. You show me where the words ‘self-protection’ appear in that storied document and I’ll send you a gift certificate to Amazon, TJ Maxx or Best Buy, your choice.

The reason I raise this last point is because when you enter the world of gun laws, particularly laws which make it easier for folks to buy, own and carry around guns, you enter an Alice-in-Wonderland world of laws that purport to make it easier for Americans to defend themselves with guns, but in fact have nothing to do with self-defense at all.  What they have to do with is making it easier for the gun industry to sell more guns by promoting the utterly false notion that folks make themselves and others safer by walking around with a gun.

The notion that armed self-defense makes us all safer is false for the following reasons: 1) there is not a single, credible study which shows this to be true; 2) only a tiny percentage – less than 1% of all violent crime – is actually prevented by people walking around with guns; 3) not a single state which allows its residents to carry guns either concealed or openly requires lethal force training that would even remotely prepare someone to properly respond to any kind of criminal threat.

Of the 37 states which require some kind of training certification prior to owning guns, most of them mandate, at best, the gun safety training courses developed by the NRA.  These courses were designed to teach people safe-handling techniques when they are cleaning their guns at home or shooting them on the range.  They have nothing to do with training gun owners to use their guns for self-defense, and they do not require any real proficiency training at all.  I’m sorry, but shooting a few rounds at a paper target doesn’t qualify in my book for anything remotely connected to the use of lethal force.  If anything, it just gives folks a false sense of security because they now can walk around with a gun.

Most states that allowed OC did so as adjuncts to hunting laws when, by definition, you need to openly carry a gun.  But that was then and this is now, and now we face a gun industry that promotes OC because they want to sell more guns. It’s time to put away the Alice’s looking glass and base gun laws on common sense.

Texans Will Make A Big Decision On January 1st. Do They Want A Burrito Or A Gun?

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment gave Americans the Constitutional right to keep a loaded, unlocked handgun in their homes to use for self-defense, the pro-gun nation has been trying to push the notion of armed, self-defense beyond the home and into the street.  This strategy has taken two paths; on the one hand promoting concealed-carry licensing, on the other, bringing weapons into gun-free zones.  There’s nothing but anecdotal evidence supporting the idea that a gun can protect its owner from crime, but there’s plenty of serious research which shows the opposite to be true.

open               The latest effort to widen the scope of armed defense is about to be unveiled in Texas with the law allowing open carry to take effect on January 1st.  This law was the brainchild of a former Army Master Sergeant, C.J. Grisham, who parlayed an argument with a cop over how he was openly carrying a gun into a statewide movement which even made him briefly consider a run for the State Legislature until his campaign ran out of dough. Bottom line is that even though an earlier attempt to promote open carry in Texas was condemned by the NRA, those fearless advocates for gun rights in Fairfax, VA, eventually saw the light and lined up behind the bill that Governor Abbott signed into law.

Believe it or not, I’m really happy to see the open carry law go into effect in Texas, because I think the result is going to be exactly the reverse of what the pro-gun nation hopes to achieve.  First of all, the law has an opt-out procedure known as 30.07, which allows merchants to post signs at the entrance to their establishments stating that only shoppers who carry their guns concealed will be allowed on the premises after January 1st.  And I am frankly astonished at the extent to which major merchandisers in Texas have announced that they will not welcome folks openly carrying guns into their stores.

Take, for example, a company like Simon’s, which operates malls and discount outlets in 39 states.  They run 35 major shopping destinations in Texas, including such flagship locations as the Gateway in Austin, The Galleria in Houston (which includes the first Webster boutique outside of Florida), and the Shops at Clearfork in Fort Worth.  Simon’s is opting out of open carry, and so are major food chains, like H-E-B, which has supermarkets in 150 towns, and national chains like Safeway and Whole Foods.  Opting out of open carry is also now spreading through the religious community, with the Catholic Diocese in Lubbock, Dallas and other areas posting notices that guns aren’t welcome on hallowed ground.

The public discussion over this new law has also given GVP advocates like Moms Demand Action an opportunity to engage store owners and other operators of public venues with their unique message about gun violence, as well as providing 30.07 signage and instructions for opting out of the new law.  Anyone who thinks that Shannon Watts and her ladies aren’t playing a visible role in promoting 30.07 at the grassroots level will be in for something of a surprise as more signage denying access to open carry continues to appear.

I believe that wearing a gun in a public venue does nothing to promote public safety.   And the merchants who have opted out of open carry evidently agree, with most citing concerns about guns endangering rather than protecting their customers, particularly in places where alcohol is served. In that regard I am particularly interested in the fact that Gringo’s Mexican Chicken and Jimmy Changas, two of Houston’s most popular Tex-Mex restaurant chains, will be going 30.07, because if gun folks like to do anything more than argue about the 2nd Amendment, they love to eat. And when all is said and done, I predict that consuming a burrito will turn out to be more important than wearing a gun.

 

 

There’s Nothing Like Openly Carrying A Handgun To Protect Us Against Everything – Real Or Imagined.

In the weeks following the unspeakable gun violence in Charleston, there was one public voice notably absent, namely, the NRA.  As opposed to the belligerent screed from Wayne-o after Sandy Hook, this time America’s “oldest civil rights organization” kept their collectives mouths shut.  Well, almost all of them did, and the one exception was Charlie Cotton, a Board member from Texas, who quickly posted a statement blaming Clementa Pinckney for hastening his own demise because of his opposition to guns, and then just as quickly took the post down.

open carry                Good ol’ Charlie epitomizes the Mark Twain saying, “it’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.”  And if you don’t believe me, here’s a few samples of other Cotton comments obligingly sent to me by a friend.  In February, he supported a bill that would have eliminated corporal punishment in Texas public schools with this gem: “a good paddling in school may keep me from having to put a bullet into him later.”  He once referred to Black-on-Black shootings as “thug on thug,” and in case the readers of his blog didn’t get the not-so-veiled, racist comment he added, “cops know what I really mean.”

In addition to proving his stupidity on issues far and wide, Cotton has also been a driving force behind the NRA-backed gun legislation in the Lone Star State, including the recent law that legalizes “open carry” of handguns in public venues.  The open-carry question has a contentious history in Texas; just last year the NRA publicly scolded a group of Texans who were parading around a fast-food outlet with AR rifles in plain sight, but the ensuing uproar on the part of open-carry activists forced the NRA to back down.

For our boy Charlie, the zeal of open-carry proponents in Texas has been a difficult fence to straddle, given the ambivalence of the NRA towards the spectacle of open-carry demonstrations on the one hand, while not wanting to piss off the open-carry fringe on the other.  In 2013, when then-candidate Greg Abbott was willing to support whatever loony idea would get him a few more votes in the race for Governor, he endorsed the idea of open-carry of handguns, and ol’ Charlie pulled a classic on-the-one-hand-this-but-on-the-other-hand- that, by supporting the legislation but warning Open Carry Texas and other nut-job groups that sitting in Starbucks dangling AR-15s might lead to public “panic.”

Now that open carry of handguns is legal in Texas, our boy Charlie Cotton still finds himself in something of a predicament, because it’s not quite clear what mainstream America thinks about turning every American city into the O.K. Corral.  The NRA’s post-Charleston silence is a pretty clear indication that the whole notion of gun ownership may still be up for grabs, 2nd Amendment or no 2nd Amendment.  And this came home to me last night when a friend sent me ol’ Charlie’s latest comment about open carry on his blog, in which he claimed he was still in favor of concealed carry because letting everyone know that you own a handgun might result in you being “attacked or burglarized” if a thug who saw the gun decided to follow you home. For that matter, sitting in IHOP with an unconcealed handgun would make you an immediate target if a “6-man hi-jack team” hits the store intending to do something other than ordering waffles and grits.

Did Charles Cotton, who happens to be a licensed attorney, actually make a public statement conjuring up the image of an IHOP invasion by a “hi-jack team?”  Let’s not forget that Texas is where a serious internet discussion is being carried on by residents who truly believe that a Pentagon-directed military exercise called Jade Helm is actually the beginning of a federal invasion of Texas, followed by martial law and the seizure of all guns.  If Charlie Cotton and the NRA have decided they need such paranoid lunatics to promote the ownership of guns, the gun-sense movement is much closer to victory than they believe.

 

 

Want To Know Why You Should Carry A Gun? Ask Governor Abbott.

For twenty years I have been listening to the nonsense about how ‘armed citizens’ make us safe.  And alongside this fantasy has been the companion stupidity, namely, that it’s not just that carrying a gun is a good thing, but carrying a gun in plain sight is even better.  Be advised, incidentally, that there is not a single piece of credible research which proves either of these safety strategies to be true.  But where is it written that a public policy or the statements of a public official need to be backed up by credible research?  Or any research, for that matter.

Just this week the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, assured the good citizens of the Sovereign State of Texas that he would personally make sure that an upcoming military exercise called Jade Helm, was not, in fact, an “invasion” of Texas by Federal armed forces.  You can’t blame Texans for being worried about the Federal government coming in with troops to do whatever they are planning to do.  After all, remember Waco?  And since Abbott’s predecessor, Jim Perry, used to regularly shoot his mouth off about plans for Texas to secede for the second time, who knows?

         Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

Getting back to Abbott, as I said, he’s been a leading proponent of open-carry laws and just last month signed a bill that allows Texans to openly display handguns in most public places throughout the state.  The law exempts college campuses from open carry, but a bill that would close this loophole will probably be passed later this year. Earlier this year the NRA actually demonstrated a brief moment of sanity by advising its members to ‘stand down’ and stop openly carrying guns in restaurants and other public places; this brief display of fortitude, however, was reversed within two days with a public apology from the NRA to all its gun-totin’ members in the Lone Star State.

If Governor Abbott believes that pandering to the open carry crowd is going to keep Texas from moving politically from red to blue, he might be in for a big surprise.  The increase of Hispanics in Texas has become so great that they could represent a majority of the electorate in 2016 – assuming that every eligible voter actually registers and shows up to vote.  And when it comes to gun ownership, Hispanics don’t seem to be enamored of the 2nd Amendment in a way that bodes positive for the gun industry in Texas or anywhere else.  Despite an endless barrage of noise about how “new” shooters like women and minorities are swelling gun-owning ranks, the fact is that gun ownership is still concentrated in the same demographic where it has always lived, namely, older White men in rural areas, second-tier cities and smaller towns.

Which is why I found a tweet by Abbott sent to me by a friend last night so interesting and deserving of a comment today.  Because for the first time since the whole ‘armed citizen’ rubbish started being promoted twenty years ago, someone has finally come out and explained the real reason why the NRA and the gun industry want you to walk around carrying a gun.

Abbott’s tweet, pasted up on July 8, was in response to a message from a guy named Rupert Ellis announcing to the world that he was about to open his first gun shop in Texas, although it appears that the shop won’t probably be open to the public for another few months.  But sending an announcement to the Governor is a clever way to drum up some publicity, particularly when the Governor actually responds!  And here is Abbott’s response:  “Welcome to the gun business.  I hope open carry boosts sales.”

Bingo! Greg Abbott has finally done what no single pro-gun organization or gun nut has ever done, namely, admitted that the real reason for promoting the notion of the ‘armed citizen’ is to boost the sale of guns.  Congratulations Mister Governor, you’re the only honest one out there.

Want To Be Good Guy With A Gun? Join The Bandidos.

One thing we can say for sure about the parking lot in front of the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco – sure isn’t a gun-free zone.  When the fracas came to an end last Sunday, at least nine people were dead, another eighteen were injured and more than 150 biker gang members had either been arrested or detained for additional questioning, a number which kept changing as the cops ran out of usual spaces (read: jail cells) to stick all the guys who engaged in the rumble.

And if you think that it was only the parking that was an unfree gun zone, the Waco Police Department issued a list of all the weapons found in the restaurant before, during and after the gang members were being carted off to the hoosegow.  Ready?  Along with an AK-47, the cops found 118 handguns stuffed into potato chip sacks, flour bags, hidden on shelves in the restaurant’s kitchen and simply lying around on the floor. And here’s the best of all; someone actually tried to flush a handgun down a toilet.

motorcycles                I remember back in the 1980s when Glock first started promoting gun sales, the company ran a very clever advertisement called the Glock “torture test” which showed someone dropping a Glock from the roof of a building, then coming downstairs, picking up the gun and it still worked.  The test was a riff on Timex watches and how they take a licking but keep on ticking. So I’m thinking that maybe someone in the Waco Twin Peaks restaurant wanted to update the Glock test by first trying to flush the pistol down the toilet. Dumber things with guns happen all the time in the Lone Star State.

In any case, the Waco mess apparently grew out of a fight that started inside the restaurant and then spilled outside.  The melee evidently involved members of at least four biker gangs, including but not limited to members of the Scimitars, Vaqueros, Cossacks and Bandidos, the last-named bunch having been dubbed a “growing criminal threat” by the Department of Justice, even though their French subsidiary allegedly runs a Toys for Tots drive every year – in France.

Biker gangs have been around almost as long as motorcycles have been around, but they achieved their unique counter-cultural status in the 1960s when they were rhapsodized and condemned by “gonzo” journalist Hunter Thompson, whose relationship with the bikers ended when he got the crap beaten out of him by several members after Thompson rebuked one of them for punching out his wife.  Two years later the Angels and other biker gangs engaged in a slugfest at the Altamont rock festival, which both ruined the festival and stripped the biker gangs of any last vestige of romantic imagery in the media or the popular imagination.

Meanwhile back in Texas, a bill to allow open carry of handguns appears to be ready for passage which Governor Abbott has promised to sign. The bill’s supporters, of course, claim that what happened in Waco shouldn’t have anything to do with this law, but the mess outside of the Twin Peaks restaurant, it seems to me, does have something important to say about the NRA’s most cherished project, namely, to get rid of all gun-free zones.  Recall what Wayne-o said after Sandy Hook:  “Only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

But think about this:  There may have been more than 100 bikers at Twin Peaks, all of whom believed they were ‘good guys’ who needed to carry guns in case a ‘bad guy’ from another gang was also armed.  So if everyone can decide for themselves who are the ‘good guys’ and who are the ‘bad guys’ and back up this decision by strapping on a gun, the incident in Waco won’t be the last time that bullets and bodies go flying.  Do people become ‘good’ because they walk around with a gun?  The Bandidos and the NRA would definitely agree.

 

 

You Can Carry A Concealed Gun In Florida But It Better Be Concealed.

The movement to establish open carry of guns as a constitutional right, an offshoot of the Constitutional Carry movement and particularly active in Texas, took a big hit this past week in the gunshine state when the Florida 4th District Court of Appeals took up the case of Norman vs. Florida and ruled against the petitioner’s claim that denying him open carry was an abridgement of his 2nd Amendment right.  What basically happened was that a Florida resident named Dale Norman was arrested in 2013 because his handgun was seen and reported to the police as he was walking down a Fort Pierce street.  He was convicted of violating a Florida statute that prohibits open carry of handguns, his appeal was then handled by a group called Florida Carry, which appears to be a group of military veterans who evidently like to parade around showing off their guns.

In its unanimous opinion, the Court first noted that it was embarking on a voyage into the vast terra incognita of laws covering carrying guns outside the home, which was first acknowledged to exist in the 2008 Heller decision that recognized the Constitutional right of citizens to keep a gun only inside the home.  But since the SCOTUS also recognized that the 2nd-Amendment right to private gun ownership was based primarily on the use of a gun for self-defense, it wasn’t long until the issue of whether the self-defense boundaries would be extended beyond the home also came under judicial review.

open                Where jurisprudence seems to be moving is towards the recognition that concealed-carry is, indeed, a Constitutional right, but that the government can also restrict or at least regulate the issuance of CCW as long as the regulations are “reasonable and do not effectively destroy the right in practice by imposing a substantial limitation” on carrying guns outside the home.  And here is where the pedal meets the metal, so to speak, because what irks the pro-gun movement most of all, is the idea that government should be able to impose limitations of any kind on the ownership or use of guns by law-abiding folks.

Be that as it may, there doesn’t seem to be a judge anywhere in the United States who is willing to depart from the standard rationale for government regulation of firearms, namely (to quote the Florida 4th District) that “that the government has a substantial interest in regulating firearms as a matter of public safety.”  And this ‘substantial interest’ takes the form of a near-unanimous agreement by courts to apply intermediate, rather than strict scrutiny to deciding the constitutionality of laws covering ownership and use of guns.

If the pro-gun push for fewer restrictions on guns were ever to convince the country’s jurists that gun laws should be adjudicated only through the application of strict scrutiny review, then the gun-sense movement might as well pack it up and go home.  Because what strict scrutiny means is that a law can only be considered constitutional if it is narrowly tailored to achieve its result, whereas intermediate scrutiny means that the law only needs to serve accepted, general ends.  If regulating gun ownership was no longer accepted as a compelling government interest unless the government could prove that every gun law achieved some specific safety result, you could kiss gun regulations goodbye.

Which is exactly what Dale Norman and his attorneys and his supporters were hoping would happen in the 4th Florida District Court of Appeals in West Palm Beach. But it didn’t turn out that way at all.  And the reason the District Court upheld his conviction was because it found that, given Florida’s liberal issuance of concealed-carry permits, one simply couldn’t sustain the argument that Florida was in any way preventing its residents from using guns outside their homes for self-defense.  Believing that you are safer because you carry a gun is one thing, waving it around in public to scare off the bad guys is something else.