Dale Norman, a Florida man arrested for openly carrying a firearm in 2012, has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his misdemeanor conviction on the grounds that it infringed his right to keep and bear arms as protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Norman — who possessed a valid Florida Concealed Weapons License — was arrested because his otherwise legally-carried handgun became visible as he was walking down a sidewalk in Ft. Pierce. He was convicted of a second-degree misdemeanor and fined $300.
Norman appealed his conviction, but as we reported, he was slapped down by the Florida Court of Appeals in 2015, and again by a deeply divided Florida Supreme Court in 2016. Backed by Florida Open Carry, Inc., however, he’s now asking for relief from the Supreme Court.
In this age of racially conscious politics, it’s seems surprising that Norman — an African-American pushed face-down into the pavement by police officer — hasn’t gotten more attention. Indeed, Norman’s attorney — the estimable constitutional law expert Stephen Halbrook (below) — spends some time in the petition describing the racist history of gun control in America.
At the Founding, no restrictions existed on the peaceable carrying of arms either openly or concealed. The open-carry restrictions invalidated in the above cases appeared in the nineteenth century. However, slaves were prohibited from carrying arms at all, and “Blacks were routinely disarmed by Southern States after the Civil War….”
Mr. Halbrook also references the Congressional debate for ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, which singled out 19th century Florida in particular. Much of which applies equally to all citizens in 21st century New York and California.
Florida makes it a misdemeanor for colored men to carry weapons without a license to do so from a probate judge, and the punishment of the offense is whipping and the pillory. South Carolina has the same enactments…. Cunning legislative devices are being invented in most of the States to restore slavery in fact.
I’m sure the California regulators think themselves quite cunning for their efforts to ban the so-called ‘bullet button’ rifles.
There’s also this:
A Florida enactment passed around the turn of the century making it unlawful, without a license, to carry a pistol or repeating rifle “was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers” and “was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.”
Open carry has not historically had the emotional and legal baggage that came with concealed carry. I say this not as an advocate, but as a historian — laws could often be found in the 19th century banning concealed carry, but not the open carriage of firearms across the several states.
Efforts to ban open carry typically were part of an attempt to disarm disfavored communities — newly freed black slaves in particular. For that reason, the Court might consider open carry bands to be more constitutionally suspect.
When you throw in the general optics of this case in particular, and the historical analysis of racist gun control laws from Mr. Halbrook’s brief . . . well, there could be a greater chance of Supreme Court review here than in Peruta, which focused on concealed carry.
Perhaps the Court will be slightly more willing to entertain the notion of a general right to open carry. Or perhaps not. The Court has disappointed gun rights activists before.