Bills to ban firearms from the grounds of state capitol buildings in Washington State and Virginia are still advancing, but as we detail on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, several other states are moving to protect the right of citizens to bear arms, even under the statehouse domes.
First, the bad news. In Virginia, it looks like a near certainty that a ban on legally-owned and lawfully-carried firearms in and around the state Capitol will get to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk. There have been plenty of lawmakers in Richmond objecting to the proposal, but unfortunately they’re all in the Republican minority.
“Every session for years, the Second Amendment rights people have had the opportunity to come down and address their delegates and senators, make speeches right there at the Bell Tower on the capitol grounds,” said Del. Tommy Wright (R-Lunenburg Co.). “There’s never been an incident that I know of.”
“I find it concerning that literally we are passing a bill because we are afraid or some people happen to be afraid of the VCDL (Virginia Citizens Defense League) Lobby Day,” said Del. Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach).
Democrats in control of the state legislature, meanwhile say that people should be able to visit the state Capitol without “fear of weapons,” though as Del. Wright pointed out, there hasn’t been an issue with any of the gun owners attending Lobby Day rallies in the nearly 20 years that the event has taken place.
Still, anti-gun politicians and gun control activists are using the attack on the U.S. Capitol last month as ammunition for their own gun ban wherever they can, including in Washington State, where Everytown for Gun Safety is billing a ban on open carry at the state Capitol in Olympia and all political demonstrations as a tool to disarm white supremacists.
Everytown, where's the bill state only white supremacists civil rights will be violated?
Currently people of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations and backgrounds can open carry.
Equality to Everytown is removing everyone's civil rights. pic.twitter.com/DZ28ZDAGT3
— Tony Simon (@2nd4Everyone) February 22, 2021
As my friend Tony Simon points out, we’ve seen plenty of folks who don’t bear any resemblance to “white supremacists” carry firearms at political demonstrations over the past year, including Black Lives Matter activists and members of the Not F*cking Around Coalition. Everytown for Gun Safety and other gun control groups could really care less about who is carrying; their goal is disarming as many people as they can in as many circumstances as possible.
I believe that if these carry bans do end up passing and are signed into law, we’ll see court challenges to them crop up almost immediately, and the broader the ban, the less likely it is that they’ll be upheld. A ban on openly carried firearms inside a state Capitol could very well withstand a court challenge, unfortunately, but bans on lawfully carried guns at or near political protests are going to run up against our First and Second Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and our right to keep and bear arms.
Thankfully, not every state legislature is taking steps to declare their buildings gun-free zones. In Montana and Utah, constitutional carry bills signed into law do not restrict carrying inside the state capitol buildings, and several other states are considering similar language guaranteeing that the right to keep and bear arms doesn’t stop at the statehouse door.
In Montana, though, Republican Rep. Seth Berglee said the U.S. Capitol riot didn’t affect his thinking about the law he sponsored.
“People that have a permit are extremely law-abiding, and they are the type of people I would want to have around. I see them as being a deterrent to bad things happening,” he said.
There’s a similar proposal this year in Oklahoma, where gun rights advocates are again pushing to allow people with a license to carry firearms inside the Capitol. It hasn’t yet had a hearing.
“A person needs to be able to protect themselves, no matter where they are,” said Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association.
A gun-free zone offers no protection against those with evil in the hearts and murder on their minds. Instead, they simply disarm the law-abiding while those intent on violence will only laugh and ignore the prohibition on bringing a gun or other weapon inside the gun-free zone.
These carry bans won’t save any lives, though they might offer lawmakers the illusion of security at the expense of individual liberty. In a perfect world they’d be rejected outright, but it’s likely going to be up to gun owners to challenge these bans in court to try to undo the damage done.
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