NY TIMES: Ban the Open Carry of Firearms


New York Times – by John Feinblatt

When militia members and white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Va., last Saturday with Nazi flags and racist placards, many of them also carried firearms openly, including semiautomatic weapons. They came to intimidate and terrify protesters and the police. If you read reports of the physical attacks they abetted, apparently their plan worked.

They might try to rationalize their conduct as protected by the First and Second Amendments, but let’s not be fooled. Those who came to Charlottesville openly carrying firearms were neither conveying a nonviolent political message, nor engaged in self-defense nor protecting hearth and home. 

Plain and simple, public terror is not protected under the Constitution. That has been the case throughout history. And now is the time to look to that history and prohibit open carry, before the next Charlottesville.

Historically, lawmakers have deemed open carry a threat to public safety. Under English common law, a group of armed protesters constituted a riot, and some American colonies prohibited public carry specifically because it caused public terrorDuring Reconstruction, the military governments overseeing much of the South responded to racially motivated terror (including the murder of dozens of freedmen and Republicans at the 1866 Louisiana Constitutional Convention) by prohibiting public carry either generally or at political gatherings and polling places. Later, in 1886, a Supreme Court decision, Presser v. Illinois, upheld a law forbidding groups of men to “parade with arms in cities and towns unless authorized.” For states, such a law was “necessary to the public peace, safety and good order.”

In other words, our political forebears would not have tolerated open carry as racially motivated terrorists practiced it in Charlottesville. They did not view open carry as protected speech. According to the framers, the First Amendment protected the right to “peaceably” — not violently or threateningly — assemble. The Second Amendment did not protect private paramilitary organizations or an individual menacingly carrying a loaded weapon. Open carry was antithetical to “the public peace.” Lawmakers were not about to let people take the law into their own hands, so they proactively and explicitly prohibited it.

Today, the law in most states is silent on open carry — and because most states do not explicitly prohibit it, it becomes de facto legal. Because it is legal, open-carry extremists take full advantage of this loophole, typically operating up to and even past the limits of the law. They carry everywhere, and the predictable result is the open carry of semiautomatic weapons in Charlottesville.

All of this explains why some states sensibly and constitutionally reject the open-carry absolutists and prohibit open carry or regulate the carrying of guns at public demonstrations, or both. For instance, Alabama prohibits bringing a firearm to a public demonstration, and Maryland has a law prohibiting guns at demonstrations and similar public gatherings, after a warning.

When states tolerate open carry, they are only asking for it.

Taking to town squares to yell past your political opponents is a rich American custom. Those public spaces and our rights to peaceable assembly and free speech make democratic self-government possible.

Open carry is not part of that tradition, and its history is that of a tool used for specifically racist ends. It corrodes our public spaces and infringes on our rights. It introduces terror and intimidation, where dialogue and debate should prevail. And until we close the open-carry loophole in our laws, the armed intimidation we saw in Charlottesville will continue to serve as a tactic for more extremists in more of our cities and towns.

Rejecting open carry is not about guns. Rejecting open carry is about rejecting terror and honoring fundamental American traditions. In Charlottesville, we saw the dystopian alternative — the most un-American racist and extremist hatred, turning our First and Second Amendment rights on their heads and trying to intimidate the rest of us into silence.

6 thoughts on “NY TIMES: Ban the Open Carry of Firearms


  2. ha ha ha love it..sure got him all worked up

    hey suck it up buttercup, dont like it.. LEAVE!

    I aint changing and the 2nd amendment isnt gonna go anywhere with out a bloody battle , and still than it will prevail

  3. I had my firearm out the other day.

    I filled my generator with gas and some of the gas soaked my gloves.

    I started my generator and walked back to my trailer.

    I lit up a cigarette butt..and guess what..

    I had a firearm.

    If I had a facebook picture. ..

    It would be a Kingsford charcoal briquette with two white eyeballs smoking a cigarette.

    Now I have a new goal.

    I’m going to see if I can get fked up enough before winter to burn myself and my trailer down.

    Bada Ching

      1. Hey…Mark…if I get 110 octane…

        I’ll need to upgrade my liver.

        Keep an eye out for me on any used livers.

        I guess I could shop on eBay and find one.

        While I’m there …

        I could shop for some new lungs..kidneys.., colon and a new heart.

        I’ll work on shopping and ordering the brain parts later.

        Those are probably a little harder to find.

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