The Right to Practice

I’m very pleased with this new SAF and ISRA lawsuit against Chicago. Though the earlier NRA-backed Benson v. Chicago lawsuit takes a kitchen sink approach, which would include this question, SAF seems to be taking a more narrow strategy. I think this is smart. Depending on what happens, on appeal the court it ends up before might not want a kitchen sink case, and I believe it’s beneficial for us to have a narrow case available as well.

Randy Graham, vice president of Action Target, said, “We believe that citizens have a constitutional right to use and train with firearms in a safe and controlled environment. As a leader in the firearms training industry, Action Target is committed to standing up for these rights.”

And we want the courts to say that the right to keep and bear is also the right to practice with arms. That opens the door to many possibilities in terms of expanding this right. The First Amendment angle on this is also interesting. It would appear that they are essentially arguing the ban on public ranges prevents education in firearms, which violates free speech. It almost sounds like a stretch, but when you think about it, would a ban on, say, chalk boards be constitutional if it interfered with teaching English Literature? What if there was no reasonable substitute? What if you could show the law was specifically intended to frustrate teaching of English Literature? In a different context it’s very plausible.

UPDATE: John Richardson notes that the Benson complaint has been amended, and is now less of a kitchen sink approach. He also notes which counts they dropped. This looks sensible. A lot of the dropped complaints still made sense, but probably not all for a single case.

8 thoughts on “The Right to Practice”

  1. Sebastian,

    I think you are missing the point here. Chalkboards aren’t fundamental to the right of free speech while firearms are fundamental to the right to keep and bear arms.

    A better analogy would be that Chicago is banning computers and or computer centers that are teaching blogging. Since a computer is fundamental to blogging (and handheld phones are just small computers), banning teaching of blogging is infringing on that right.

    Since almost all reasonable facsimiles of firearms are also tightly controlled (Air Soft, BB guns, etc), the right to practice is being unconstitutionally infringed.

  2. Yeah, but we’re speaking in a First Amendment context, not a Second Amendment context. The First Amendment argument is that banning firing ranges in Chicago infringes on the First Amendment because they are necessary to educate people on firearms use… so the law violates the First Amendment by essentially banning firearms education.

    My analogy to chalkboards is less than perfect though, since there are substitutes. Such a ban might be legal in a First Amendment context if it was a generally applicable law, like, if slate or chalk were a health problem or something like that. But if it can be shown the purpose was to frustrate the First Amendment right to teach reading and writing, etc, it would be unconstitutional. The blog analogy is better though. But a computer ban would be unconstitutional for more reasons than just banning teaching of blogging.

  3. Read the whole 2nd Amendment.

    If “A well regulated Militia” is necessary, how can the members of the unorganized militia be “well regulated” if they can’t practice their shooting?

    Rather than the blackboard analogy, I’d offer that it’s like allowing people to own an automobile, but banning driving. You can have it, but you can’t use it.

    What’s wrong with that picture?

  4. Banning driving has no First Amendment implications, although I could think of arguments that could be made in that context. It might have right to travel implications, but this is a First Amendment context.

  5. Careful with the automobiel analogies. The right to drive isn’t a protected right, and you can own automobiles that you are not allowed to drive on public roads (race cars, unregistered cars, etc).

    Right-to-practice *does* bring in the “well-regulated” (as in accurate, precise) clause, but too far down that road an we have mandatory practice to carry…

  6. From a First Amendment standpoint, wouldn’t shooting at an Osama bin Laden target, or even a George W. Bush or Barack Obama one, be considered to be symbolic speech?

    Flag burning qualifies, doesn’t it?

  7. The answer is probably yes… though for the former the Secret Service might have a few questions for you. Only one state has a law banning shooting at human depictions, and that’s Massachusetts. I don’t know if anyone has put that law to a First Amendment challenge or not, to be honest. I seem to recall someone did, but don’t remember details.

  8. Most of the ranges I frequent have rules against shooting at pics of people. Their property, their rules.

    Me, while I’ve occasionally used paper targets with a generic “thug” (male/female, depending) as a target carrier, I shoot at bullseyes or the various e-postal targets.

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