Thinking Seriously About the Issue

The Chattanooga 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 the Chattanooga 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?”  We don’t think of other rights that way, do we? “There’s a right to free press, but what about libel?”

7 thoughts on “Thinking Seriously About the Issue”

  1. If you were to visit the news media offices you would find that most if not all have armed security. Of course, they are more deserving than us peasants.

  2. The Texas Capitol is NOT off limits to concealed carry. You can’t carry in the gallery above the House and Senate chambers when they are in session. Our state law allows private property to be “off limits ” for concealed carry only if there is about a 4 foot square sign, in English and Spanish, with the exact wording of the state law. That same law spells out where government may ban carry. And the Capitol is NOT on that list.

    A couple of months ago, a nut walked into the Capitol, went into a Senator’s office and tried to talk with an aide. Then he went back outside and fired off a mag into the air. Luckily for him, the state troopers tackled him when he tried to reload rather than emptying a few mags into him. Now some of the legislators prone to PSH are trying to get “metal detectors” put into place. But they still won’t ban concealed carry. The nut of course did not have a CHL.

    Of course we could always carry into places that served alcohol and the ban on church carry was removed after 2 years. And the PSH prone legislators are still trying to make it “harder” on CHL holders. But Texas being what it is, they havn’t even gotten a bill out of committee in the past 6-8 years.

    Of course there may be good reason that your state won’t allow concealed carry. The same reason that Illinoise doesn’t have concealed carry. Too many people prone to violence, unstable, etc.And that is just MEMBERS of the legislature.

  3. I think that it behooves the gun blogosphere (or other second amendment supporters) to get out there and define “sensitive places” sensu Scalia … before the “everywhere is a sensitive place” types get there first.

    Yes …

    1) Limited access points
    2) Screening (metal detection and searches of bodies and belongings)
    3) Armed security provided to ensure safety of those in the sensitive place

    The storage lockers for storing defensive guns of those inside is a somewhat related issue (but perhaps not part of the core of the definition).

  4. Courthouses in WA are required to have storage lockers in which to secure your carry piece. They don’t all do so, but they’re supposed to.

    And the State Capitol Campus is specifically listed as “GTG” for carry, concealed OR open; during recent hearings for some gun control measure (which went down in flames) the banners had some PSH when some pro-gun rights folks showed up carrying openly and the State Patrol shrugged and said “They’re legal.”

  5. Drang:

    It’s the same here with regards to checking facilities. Not all counties are following the law. The Capitol does, but the people who run that are a bit more accountable than the people who run county courthouses.

  6. Kind of reminded me of what an old man said to me back in 1993 when referencing the Assault Weapons ban. “I totally understand the ban. If I was if I was a President like Bill Clinton, I wouldn’t want the population to have guns either.”

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