TheÂ ChattanoogaÂ Times Free Press can’t understand the legal difference between a State Capitol and other public places [Link removed. The Chattanooga Times Free Press is owned by the unethical WEHCO Media, that is suing bloggers. They will get no link love from here].
[Quote removed about how this unethical newspaper company thinks it’s understandable for legislators to disallow guns in the Capitol, considering that gun violence can strike anywhere, thus making the case for restricting guns, well, anywhere.]
First off, someone deranged isn’t going to be stopped by a law or policy. I don’t know much about how Tennessee’s State Capitol works, but ours is similarly off limits because it’s also a courthouse, containing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But a courthouse or state capitol is a vastly different type of public place than restaurants, rest stops, parks, or other places where we’ve been demanding our right to carry be respected.
It’s not just different because politicians are there, but is really a distinct kind of public place. The Supreme Court ruling in Heller suggests that state capitols and courthouses are the kinds of government buildings where it’s constitutional to restrict possession of firearms, at least temporarily. Whether you think that was right or wrong isn’t really what I mean to discuss here. The ruling says what it does, and it’s now law, so let’s speak for a minute about which “sensitive places” and “government buildings” might be covered, and why.
A courthouse or state capitol would, under Heller, likely be the kind of government building where firearms could be temporarily restricted. But given that the Second Amendment protects one’s right to self-defense, under what circumstances can this be the case? I think three aspects can make the case, substitution, screening, and storage. Let’s call them the three S’s. Let me explain what they mean.
- Substitution. Is there an ample law enforcement presence in the building? In most state capitols and courthouses, the answer to this is clearly yes. In Pennsylvania, the Capitol is staffed by the Capitol Police, and courthouses in PA are staffed by the county Sheriff’s office. In both their presence is ubiquitous. There’s very few circumstances where they aren’t going to more ably to deal with a situation than an individual would be. If a gunfight breaks out in the capitol rotunda, I’m far more likely to leave it to the guys with the submachine guns than try my hand at dealing with the matter. There’s a reasonable substitution for your own side arm with the ubiquitous law enforcement presence.
- Is the building screened? In other words, does everyone go through a security checkpoint? This isn’t perfect, but it’s a pretty good protection against someone disregarding the rules with intent to shoot the place up. In most courthouses I’ve been in, and in state capitols, there’s a security checkpoint with metal detectors and x-rays.
- Storage is the third aspect. In Pennsylvania, the Capitol Police provide for checking your firearm as is required by state law. This means your Second Amendment rights aren’t infringed upon on your way to and from the building.
But how many public places even come close to passing the “Three S” test? Very few. If you believe in the right to self-defense, and believe in the Second Amendment, there might be reasons, as was mentioned in Heller, that you can’t carry a gun just anywhere, but there needs to be a higher level of concern than just “some random nut” as theÂ ChattanoogaÂ Times implies. The random nut is always going to have a gun. If the government is going to disarm citizens, it should be for a damned good reason, and in an environment where the government can provide a reasonable substitute for personal protection. The old adage “I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy” applies. It’s not surprising that media outlets don’t want to go into this issue in that level of detail, but if it’s really a right, it needs to be treated like one. You can’t just declare, “It’s a right, but what about whack jobs?” Â We don’t think of other rights that way, do we? “There’s a right to free press, but what about libel?”