I am amazed (but not amused) by the hand-wringing and name-calling “inspired” by the armed militia defending the racists/Nazis demonstrating in Charlottesville. Headlines like Should Protesters Be Allowed to Have Guns? demonstrate the media’s failure to recognize that keeping and bearing arms is a natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right. Equally, these journalists don’t seem to know what the Second Amendment is for . . .
Over at huffingtonpost.com, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, one Geoffrey R. Stone, attempts to explain the legal issues involved when racists/Nazis seek to exercise their gun rights in the public square.
The Lessons Of Charlottesville: Speech And Guns is a convoluted piece, confusing enough to earn the admiration of his no doubt equally obtuse fellow academics. It goes a little something like this:
First, does the Second Amendment give demonstrators a constitutional right to carry their weapons in public? Although the Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment protects the right of private individuals to “keep and bear arms,” it has not gone much further in fleshing out the details of this right, and it has not yet considered whether the Second Amendment should be understood to guarantee individuals a right to “open carry.”
If the Court were to hold that the Constitution guarantees individuals a right to walk down the street carrying assault weapons – an outcome I think unlikely – then that would go a long way to resolving the question. But that is not the law, and I rather doubt it will ever be the law, so we can move on to the next question.
And the next and the next, all of which pre-suppose that the armed militia’s firearms were openly carried to either intimidate and thus silence their opposition, or as a form of symbolic speech (“to convey the nature and depth of their beliefs”).
The idea that the militia carried guns to protect themselves and their colleagues from a violent attack from their fellow Americans, or the government, doesn’t occur to Prof. Levy. Actually, it does, fleetingly.
Suppose the protesters are openly carrying their guns not for their own self-protection, and not to unlawfully threaten others with violence, but allegedly to incite counter-protesters to be violent themselves.
And that, folks, is the only time the good professor mentions armed self-protection. In fact, scanning the dozens of articles on the armed militia in Charlottesville, that’s the only mention of armed self-defense I encountered. The mainstream media assume the militia’s openly carried firearms were a form of intimidation.
To be fair, in a sense, they were. The militia’s guns may have deterred the state police from interfering with/stopping their lawful demonstration. Their firearms may have deterred [even worse] violence by the counter-protesters.
But one thing’s for sure: the militia in Charlottesville had the right to keep and bear arms for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Just as all Americans do.