The 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms, was the topic of a fractious discussion in a previous blog. However, the comments were so passionate and thoughtful, especially regarding the open carry of firearms, that I considered it worth revisiting.
But first some background on the issue. The federal government allows for the open carry of a firearm, at least the way the Constitution is currently interpreted, meaning a person can carry a weapon visible to the public. On the state level, Washington and many other states allow individuals without a felony conviction to apply for a concealed weapons permit. These permit carriers blend into society in a way that allows them to exercise their rights, while not alarming someone who might be anxious at the sight of a gun on someone’s belt.
A reasonable person could argue that there are secluded and dangerous places in our country, such as the sparsely populated areas along our southern border, where a visible firearm could act as deterrence as well as protection. But where does that same argument take us when discussing open carry in crowded urban areas, where federal, state and local cops seem to trip over eachother?
One reader responded that “Philly police have advised open carry practioners that they will be put on the ground, even though open carry is legal…these JBT [jack-booted thugs?] tactics are unconstitutional and illegal on your part.” While carrying a firearm openly may be legal, it can also create unsafe situations in public places. While I’m not condoning blanket policies for handling any type of incident, surely the above example is no different than the virtual strip-down we endure at the airport, all in the name of public safety.
I won’t speak for the passionate folks who champion this issue, but a lot of their comments in the previous blog seemed to indicate a need to exercise this right for fear of losing it. I can see the logic behind that reasoning. But such logic could also be applied to the racist who exercises his right to free speech by standing on a street corner yelling racial epithets at passersby who don’t share his skin color.
We’re not living in a bubble. We live in a country where everyone has rights–rights that sometimes smack eachother head on. For example, is someone’s right to openly carry a firearm more important than, say, someone else’s pursuit of happiness if that person stands fearfully aside as the armed person passes?
It’s not a simple question, and it gets answered differently depending upon whom or where you ask. I’ll leave you with a quote from a bank teller I spoke to just yesterday (keep in mind that a bank is private property and able to limit visitors’ actions). I asked her what she would do if a normal looking gentleman walked into her bank with a holstered gun at his waist. She looked at me as if I were stupid, and then she gave a simple answer.
“I’d call 911.”