Guns in Public

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Yesterday, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that prohibits people from openly carrying handguns in public:

California has allowed weapons to be displayed in public, provided they are not loaded. Gun enthusiasts took advantage of that to gather at Bay Area Starbucks outlets last year with pistols on their hips. Police chiefs and sheriffs complained that panicked customers’ calls were diverting them from chasing real criminals.

Sam Paredes, executive director of the advocacy group Gun Owners of California, said the ban could lead, paradoxically, to more carrying of handguns….”This situation will be a catalyst to unite all of the gun community in lawsuits,” Paredes said. “The probable outcome is you will have far more people carrying concealed loaded guns as opposed to openly carrying unloaded guns.”

Handguns have never been one of my hot buttons, so I don’t have a big emotional investment in this issue one way or another. But here’s what I don’t understand. As near as I can tell, the gun community has won an all but total victory over the past couple of decades. Democrats have almost universally given up on gun control as a losing issue, there’s been no serious action on the federal front for years, and the Supreme Court in 2008 handed down the holy grail of gun rights, ruling in Heller that the Second Amendment guarantees a personal right to bear arms and then ruling a couple of years later in McDonald that this guarantee applies to states and local communities as well as the federal government.

So what’s been the reaction? Well Heller and McDonald have spurred a rash of lawsuits as gun groups try to force communities to allow possession of handguns. That’s entirely understandable, since this is their core issue. Beyond that, though, instead of basically taking a victory lap, gun groups have gotten ever more bellicose. Wayne LaPierre sounds like an utter lunatic with his talk of secret plans from the White House to take away everyone’s guns. Alleged UN plots to ban handguns are on every gun owner’s lips. And the latest front is for gun enthusiasts to swagger around with guns on their hips when they go to McDonald’s to order an iced latte. Hell, the leading edge of this movement is demanding the right to take their guns everywhere: bars, schools, courtrooms, you name it. Not because there’s any serious danger in any of those places, but just to show they can.

I dunno. Maybe this is just human nature. Maybe victory always makes people eager for more more more. But why don’t they just accept their victory and bask in it instead? Get Heller and McDonald enforced around the country and call it a day. None of them cared about carrying guns around in public twenty years ago, after all. And if there’s any way to get a sympathetic public to turn against them, demanding the right to have armed posses of obsessive gun enthusiasts marching around in supermarkets and bars and school corridors sure seems like a good way to do it.

Bottom line: you won. Nobody can take your guns away anymore, and once the Heller/McDonald rulings have been fully adjudicated, you’ll have broader rights about the kinds of guns you can own than the kind of car you can drive. Enjoy it.

UPDATE: I originally said Brown had vetoed a bill that allowed open carry. He actually signed a bill that prohibited it. Sorry. The text has been corrected.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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