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Can you Carry...Guns

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Gun rights advocates have been applying pressure to legislatures by exercising their right to openly carry firearms in 38 or more states. Businesses including Starbucks and California Pizza Kitchen, in an effort to keep customers from fleeing the establishments in fear, have banned guns in theirs stores.


For decades, the nation has been divided over the right to bear arms. In the 2008 case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. However, as that case concerned only the actions of the District of Columbia government, a federal entity, the Supreme Court did not rule that the right applied to states and local governments. As a result, one may legally carry a gun in one part of the country, but crossing the border into another state, county, or town may make it illegal. Further variation exists between whether one may carry a concealed or an exposed weapon. Gun rights activists now strive to push through pro-gun legislation and solicit favorable verdicts from courts in each state. Meanwhile, supporters of gun control are lobbying for their own agendas.


Gun control advocates have been fairly successful in deterring people from carrying concealed firearms. In all of the 36 states that allow the carrying of concealed weapons, permits are required, which can be quite difficult to acquire in many places. Additionally, concealing a weapon on one’s person without a permit may warrant a rather severe penalty, according to Associated Content. Gun rights activists have found that they can capitalize on more liberal open carry laws, which allow people to carry firearms in plain sight, to push for the right to carry concealed weapons. They accomplish this by strolling around towns, mostly in the Midwest, brandishing pistols on their wastes and rifles around their backs in a manner reminiscent of the Wild West. Those who are unarmed are, as expected, somewhat uncomfortable with the visible presence of small, citizen armies on the streets. The goal of the entire exhibition is to make people so fearful and uncomfortable that public sentiment shifts toward allowing concealed weapons.


Whether this method is effective or not is yet to be seen. The multitude of people strutting around with assault rifles is inarguably intimidating. However, people may be inspired to support more prohibitive gun control laws in order to keep the guns out of sight, rather than pass permissive concealed carry laws. The New York Times reported that the open-carry movement is a wild card and in some ways is to the N.R.A. what the Tea Party movement is to the Republican Party. And that open-carry groups are also less centralized, less predictable and often more confrontational in their push for gun rights. Some gun rights advocates see risks in the approach, such as Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, who said that “I’m all for open-carry laws… But I don’t think flaunting it is very productive for our cause. It just scares people.” Robert Weisberg, a gun law expert and a criminal justice professor at Stanford University, described the open-carry activists as “a liability.” It may be that these activists are portraying supporters of the Second Amendment as radical, violent, far-right, and not entirely sane.

Another issue is brought about when someone walks into a Starbucks with a holstered weapon. People have been flocking to the coffee chain recently, bringing with them loaded weapons, in an effort to promote the right to carry arms. In response, gun control activists mustered 40,000 signatures on a petition for the chain to ban firearms. Although Starbucks has not forbid open carrying of guns in its stores, other chains including California Pizza Kitchen have, according to the New York Times. Gun rights advocates insist that it is unconstitutional for a store to discriminate against armed customers. Jim Snyder for example, who drank a hot chocolate at Starbucks with a Browning Automatic Pistol around his waist, asserted that, “If businesses say you can’t bring in a gun, that’s discrimination against a person for doing something that’s legal. It’s like saying we won’t serve people with blue shirts,” according to The Times. However, it is not unknown for eateries to ban people from their restaurants that might upset other customers. A restaurant might for example ban people who are too casually dressed, loud, or people who have young children. Most people would agree that none of these disturbances are as frightening as gunshots. Stores can, and should keep people from walking in with assault rifles, for the safety and comfort of everyone else.
The actual value of allowing people to carry firearms is dubious. It is indisputable that gun violence in the United States is pandemic. In 2005, for example, 30,694 people in the United States died from firearm-related deaths, less than 3,000 short of the number of Americans killed in the Korean War. Most homicides committed with guns are not in self defense though, with there only being 154 justifiable homicides by private citizens using handguns in the United States. Meanwhile, the N.R.A. and other gun advocates use self defense as their most important point for legal possession of handguns. Others claim that many of the guns used to commit homicides are bought illegally and the legal sale of guns is not to blame. However, compared to countries with stricter gun control laws, the U.S. has an exponentially higher number of people killed by gun violence. In 2004, for example, firearms were used to murder 56 people in Australia, 184 people in Canada, 73 people in England and Wales, 5 people in New Zealand, and 37 people in Sweden. In comparison, firearms were used to murder 11,344 in the United States. (Statistics taken from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) Clearly the most pressing issue is not whether guns should be carried openly, or concealed, but whether they should be allowed at all.
Federal rulings and legislation on open carrying of firearms seems unlikely at the moment. The Supreme Court seems unwilling to make a definitive decision about how far a person’s right to bear arms goes, apart from the fact that they are entitled to do so. Therefore, perhaps the only federal legislation that could regulate the Second Amendment without being found unconstitutional is likely another amendment, something that there will probably never be enough support for. Consequently, there is no conclusion in sight to the gun control problem. Adding to the problem is the unwillingness of Second Amendment and gun control advocates to compromise. So far, both have had unrealistic goals, with gun rights activists demanding that they be allowed to carry AK-47’s into crowded urban areas and supporters of gun control arguing to make handguns completely illegal. Perhaps if the two could reach an agreement, such as one in which handguns would only be legal if kept in the home, everyone could be safer and happier. Whether people have a right to carry concealed, exposed, or any weapons at all will likely continue to vary between states unless one side somehow gains a spectacular amount of support. In the meantime, we unfortunately have little more to look forward to than a confusing mix of contradicting state laws and increased gun violence.





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dunder mifflin said...
Jun. 3, 2010 at 10:26 am

HOw can guns be used in this increasingly papperless world

 

 
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