Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Carrying Arms: A Civil Right

I was going to keep updating yesterday's post on proposed carry laws, but I realized what I have to say really deserved a post of its own.

Why Carry?

Because ownership and use of arms is one of the most important civil rights in this country. The Second Amendment itself mentions both keeping and bearing arms. Keeping indicates ownership of weapons, what we often call "possession" in legal speak. Bearing indicates carrying them. The fourteenth amendment allows the Federal government to guarantee that the States do not abridge the civil rights of their citizens:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
That's section 1, section 5 indicates that congress can enforce this by enacting legislation. This means that Congress could enact legislation about carry that is binding on the states without overstepping themselves constitutionally.

In a timely piece, Ken Blackwell writes about why the use of arms is important by hearkening back to the Deacons of Defense and Justice, members of the civil rights movement.
As the nation reflects on the struggles and achievements of our African-American citizens, we must celebrate the actions of heroic civil rights activists known as the Deacons for Defense. In the fight for equality, these brave men utilized their right to bear arms to protect their families, possessions and liberties.
He also notes that gun control was a crucial element of segregation policy:
Access to firearms was understood by our founders and many early American jurists as an essential aspect of full US citizenship, and it was for this reason that the Black Codes established after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment -- which constitutionally abolished slavery -- prevented black freemen from owning guns.
By denying black men and women arms they created conditions under which those same people could be easily oppressed. An armed black populace was a threat. An unarmed black populace was simply a target rich environment.

Why Open Carry?

If a form of carry must be allowed, then which form: open carry or concealed carry? Or both. Since I'd like to keep federal meddling to a minimum, let's exclude both and pick just one. I choose open. Why? Because the original purpose of the 2nd Amendment was the use of weapons to defend liberty against other groups or even the government itself. Concealed carry is insufficient to fight major civil unrest.

With concealed carry you are limited only to concealable weapons. These are generally less effective than service arms whose size dictate open carry. Current Federal law (like it or not) is specifically written so that you cannot conceal most rifles or shotguns. Depending on your wardrobe, you may not be able to conceal a large handgun. With open carry, you can carry just about anything. If you must oppose organized criminals or the government, either of these groups could have access to any type of arms. Law abiding citizens must have parity to maintain deterrence.

You also cannot make an effective show of force with concealed weapons. They are concealed until the threat is so great that they must be drawn and used. Largely a show of force is all that is necessary to deter most aggressors. We can again turn to Ken Blackwells piece (which I came across through Instapundit):
Following a KKK night ride in Jonesboro, the Deacons approached the police chief who had led the parade and informed him that they were armed and unafraid of self-defense. The Klan never rode through Jonesboro again. ... The initial desegregation of Jonesboro High School was threatened by firemen who aimed hoses at black students attempting to enter the building. When four Deacons arrived and loaded their shotguns, the firemen left and the students entered unscathed.
The Deacons did not fight for civil rights by shooting Klansmen. Generally they didn't have to "fight" at all. The clan wanted easy lynchings, property destruction, and intimidation. The Deacons demonstrated that the black populace had the capacity to fight back and would not be intimidated. The Klan did not want a fight, especially not an even one.

This is why I believe the Federal government should uphold open carry in all 50 states of the union. It is necessary for the defense of fundamental freedoms.

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