The prospect of armed protests at state capitols this coming weekend should prompt a flurry of new gun control legislation, according to the editors of the Los Angeles Times. The editorial board claims that the potential for more unrest and violence is enough of a reason to crack down on the Second Amendment rights of Americans.
We take no issue with public protests or the right to freely assemble, agitate and even get a little loud. That’s part and parcel of the 1st Amendment right to free expression and to challenge government decisions. But it’s not a license to commit acts of violence or vandalism or to trample other people’s right to go about their daily business.
Or to amplify one’s speech with guns. Why do so many states allow people to walk around with semiautomatic rifles and other firepower in the first place? Such displays are not based on a desire for self-protection, as many proponents argue. As we’re seeing more and more, armed men — and they are overwhelmingly men — strutting around in pseudo-military gear carrying guns are intent on intimidation, not protecting themselves from an armed robber or whatever imagined threat their feverish psyche has cooked up.
No, this is not an editorial from 1967, though the arguments were very similar in California back then after a group of Black Panthers entered the Capitol building in Sacramento with rifles and shotguns. As a result of that armed action, California’s ban on open carry, known as the Mulford Act, sailed through the legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law by then-governor Ronald Reagan. Even the National Rifle Association was supportive of the legislation at the time, according to then-Assemblyman Don Mulford.
Now the Los Angeles Times is calling for every state to adopt a Mulford Act of its own and ban the open carrying of firearms.
States must reject this romanticized notion that somehow the open carrying of firearms makes us a safer society, and policymakers must act as if public safety matters more than gun zealots’ warped view of the Constitution. We know tyranny when we see it, and it’s not when the government tries to slow the spread of a deadly disease or honor the will of the voters.
Warped view of the Constitution? Look, you don’t have to like it, but the text of the Second Amendment is pretty clear. We have the right to both keep and bear arms, though there is precedent for state legislatures to regulate the manner in which guns are carried. In the 19th century, several states banned the concealed carrying of firearms and required open carry. Starting in the 1980s, however, the Right to Carry revolution kicked off and now concealed carry is far more common than open carrying.
As far as carrying guns at lockdown protests and other non-2A events, I’ve said before that I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to the cause, but that doesn’t mean it should be illegal. I’d remind the editors of the Times that they’re supposedly in favor of sweeping criminal justice reforms, yet they’re calling for the creation of new crimes that would lead to more people facing criminal charges for non-violent, possessory gun offenses. The editors, as enlightened as they believe themselves to be, have apparently decided that putting more people behind bars is actually a good thing… as long as they believe the law will be directed against those they oppose politically.