Sounds Good to Me

MikeB, our token gun control blogger who doesn’t seem to be a paid shill, talks about a challenge to the Senate to take down the metal detectors.  Personally, I would have no problem if with the Senate allowing firearms, but can they constitutionally prohibit them?  He asks:

What’s your opinion? Would you feel unsafe in a highly secure building which disallows weapons? Do you think the same folks who favor guns in national parks and on college campuses would agree to allow concealed carry in the Capitol Building?

Generally speaking, in situations where security is done properly, I don’t feel unsafe having to leave my pistol at the door, though it annoys me when I’m forced to leave it at home or in the car.  Last April, at the Second Amendment Rally in Harrisburg, there were a few guys who lamented being disarmed in the Capitol building.  I generally don’t worry too much about my security in a place crawling with Capitol Police officers, who have a lot more tools at their disposal to deal with situations than I carry anyway.

The constitutional standard for “government buildings,” where the government may prohibit carrying of firearms should be based on the “sensitive” language in Heller, combined with being able to create a reasonably secure facility. For instance, the government may prohibit arms in a court house, because government has a legitimate security concern, and the security afforded at such facilities is a reasonable substitute for personally provided security.

That’s considerably less true if you’re dealing with a washroom at a campground at a National Park, or a remote ranger facility in a National Forest.  It’s also less true at a post office, or some other non-secured government facility like your local Social Security office.  Would the Senate qualify as such a “sensitive” place?  I could see the argument.  It’s been attacked by kooks before.  Does it have controlled entrances with metal detectors?  Check.  Heavily police or security presence?  Check, the Capitol has its own police force.  So yeah, I think the government can constitutionally prohibit people from carrying in the U.S. Capitol building.  The real question is should they have to provide checking facilities?  They do at the Pennsylvania Capitol, as is required by law.  I think there’s a good case to make that they need to, if they are going to restrict the building.

But I don’t think it’s serious to suggest that the Senate banning firearms within the Capitol building is equivalent to the entire state of New Jersey declaring me entirely unworthy of exercising my right to personal defense by carrying the arms of my choice, or New York deciding that I can’t even bring a pistol with me to protect myself at my vacation home in the Adirondacks (if I had one).  The challenge might be smart political rhetoric, but there’s a much better case to be made for restricting arms carried in the U.S. Capitol than, say, the entire state of California.

9 thoughts on “Sounds Good to Me”

  1. Well, at least you could advise everyone who’s carrying that if someone starts shooting within the confined area, its probably a better idea to start running rather than trying to engage the guy and confusing the officers, not saying that it happens though (blue on blue) otherwise you get charged with obstruction of justice

    All of these antigun freaks think we’re just automatons who just pull out our guns at any threat, well, we definitely can use them to some extent, but let’s show them that we’re human, and we have do have a choice whether to intervene or not.

  2. Sebastian, Thanks for the link and for your take on the article. As I posted it, I thought it was more tongue-in-cheek than serious even though the author said at the end he was serious. A couple of the commenters on my site pointed out that a completely secured area like the Capitol cannot be compared to a wide open situation like a national park, a point you made yourself. That makes perfect sense to me.

    About providing lock-boxes at the entrance, would that be necessary? Does DC recognize concealed carry permits from outside its borders? Wouldn’t you have to leave your guns at home if you were going there?

  3. The problem with government “Protected” areas is that the government (large or small) is still not responsible to protect the individual citizen. Plus governments are frequently lax in their security efforts. Remember the courthouse shooting in Atlanta a few years ago. Prisoner escapes from his guard, takes the guard’s weapon and kills the judge and several others. Plenty of cameras but no one was monitoring the cameras.

  4. MikeB:

    I’m speaking in the abstract rather than speaking of what the situation today is. Abstractly, the case can be made that a person is unable to protect himself to and from the federal facility, where the government can’t offer the security of the facility. In that instance, I think it’s fair to ask why the government can’t check weapons at the door, as Pennsylvania does. In that instance, they would be implementing the regulation in the least burdensome way, which strict scrutiny would require.

    That would extend to non government facilities which barred guns, obviously.

  5. Bill:

    It’s not perfect protection, but neither is my side arm. In the case of, say, the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, I feel it’s reasonable to presume the Capitol police are quite capable of handling the situation, and that if any situation did crop up, my response would just confuse the situation for them. Even if I were allowed to be armed in the Capitol, I doubt I’d insert myself into a situation, rather than just seek cover, and wait for the guys with the MP5s and body armor to show up, which in a small space like that should only be a few seconds.

  6. “That would extend to non government facilities which barred guns, obviously.”

    Would it? It’s a tricky balance, my rights against the property owner’s. While I think it’d be a better world if every, say, restaurant or bank that wanted to forbid weapons had to provide a secure gun check at the door, do I have the right to tell them they _must_, on their property?

    For me, it’s academic. I live in Jersey, so my gun check is a safe in my home. But the question of what obligation, if any, a property owner has to mitigate the impact of his policies on my rights in the time I’m _not_ on his property is an interesting one.

  7. Ah, that makes much more sense. Didn’t think the original comment sounded like you. :)

  8. Sebastian:

    I agree that my ability to protect myself with a firearm is not perfect and that an actively guarded facility is probably an acceptable substitute when I am required to be disarmed. I work in a federal facility. We have unarmed guards and cameras in my building. The cameras are frequently not monitored. We have guards at the entrances to the grounds of our complex. They have firearms, but are not allowed to load them until they are given approval. Plus their level of training is questionable. I would just like to have the option of providing my own protection.

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