Civil Disobedience

This morning I read the entire majority opinion from the Supreme Court striking down the D.C. gun ban. Then I walked over to the Malvern Police station and asked for a few minutes with my town’s Chief of Police.

The local cops know who I am; they haven’t forgotten that I installed some of the computers they use, and my wife is the Vice-President of Malvern’s borough council. Yeah, I know, politician married to an anarchist – it’s a running joke at my house.

Pleasantries completed, I explained to Chief McCann my history as a freedom activist. Notably, my role in helping defeat the Communication Decency Act back in 1996.

I told him that I had been intending to speak with him for several weeks, to inform him that I intend to begin exercising my right to open carry of a firearm (quite legal in Pennsylvania and in most other states as well). I explained that I thought it best he and the local police knew of this in advance in order to avoid any unfortunate misunderstandings. See opencarry.org for background on this fast-growing form of civil-rights activism.

I also told him that, in the wake of the Heller ruling, I intend at some future point to deliberately violate the Pennsylvania state law forbidding concealed carry without a state-issued permit. The Heller ruling does not enumerate those among permissible restrictions, and I would be happy to be PA’s test case on this point. As a citizen of the United States (I explained) I believe I have not only the right but the affirmative duty to challenge unjust and unconstitutional laws; and that since the founders of the U.S. pledged their lives and fortunes and sacred honor to sign the Declaration of Independence, merely risking imprisonment to challenge this law seems to me no more than my duty.

I was not entirely sure what Chief McCann’s response would be. In the event, it was to smile and shake my hand. This cop may arrest me for breaking PA’s gun laws someday, but at least he will do so knowing that civilian firearms are a solution rather than a problem and that those laws are ineffective and unjust — and looking forward to their annulment

Whatever comes of this, I will blog it here.

27 thoughts on “Civil Disobedience

  1. I would suggest that you not be the test case for unpermitted concealed carry. From my reading of the case law dating back to the period of the Founders, concealed-carry was the one sticking point in the general understanding. Concealed carry “while traveling” was accepted, but not during your normal workday. There was a split on that, IN THE FOUNDER’S TIME.

    This puts you on very shakey ground. See Kentucky’s Bliss v. Commonwealth (1822) vs. Indiana’s 1833 State v. Mitchell for instance.

    I respect the desire, I just don’t want you ending up like Hollis Wayne Fincher when you don’t have to. Disagree all you want, but pissing into the wind is counterproductive.

  2. Kevin: You may be right. However, I think it’s interesting that the majority in the opinion did not enumerate restrictions on concealed carry under permitted restrictions, even though they listed less onerous and intrusive ones like background-check requirements. It suggests that the Supremes themselves regard these as open to challenge.

  3. I also told him that, in the wake of the Heller ruling, I intend at some future point to deliberately violate the Pennsylvania state law forbidding concealed carry without a state-issued permit. The Heller ruling does not enumerate those among permissible restrictions, and I would be happy to be PA’s test case on this point. As a citizen of the United States (I explained) I believe I have not only the right but the affirmative duty to challenge unjust and unconstitutional laws; and that since the founders of the U.S. pledged their lives and fortunes and sacred honor to sign the Declaration of Independence, merely risking imprisonment to challenge this law seems to me no more than my duty.

    I read that out loud to my bride, I was so impressed. So was she.

  4. As a citizen of the United States, you may have the right to challenge unjust and unconstitutional laws, but the right to arms comes only thru your state citizenship. Read Amendment 10 of the U.S. Constitution again.

  5. There is zero chance that the Supreme Court or any other court will overturn a concealed carry permit requirement if the state of Pennsylvania will actually issue them in a timely manner. Don’t go to jail over nothing.

    What would be worth doing would be to apply for the permit and do concealed carry civil obedience if it gets turned down, or isn’t issued in a reasonable time.

  6. Couldn’t you challenge the need for a permit without actually violating the law? Do you have to break it before you can challenge it? If you lose and become a convicted felon, then what?

  7. I have to agree with Kevin. Now is not the time to challenge concealed carry. We have to be smart about how we challenge these things, and I think The Court is going to be very reluctant to take on this issue in a way that would be favorable to us. Remember, it’s not just the Supreme Court, but all the circuit courts you have to get through.

  8. Eric, welcome back.

    Part of me wants to join the folks who want to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of the law. However, another part thinks that this is one battle in a campaign. Are we better off pushing the envelope by focusing first on aspects of gun control that the average Joe can see (a) clearly don’t reduce crime and (b) are clearly no threat to him and his family?

    I want my kids to be able to walk down the street to the sand pit with their .22 without being hauled away by Officer Friendly. However, I don’t see it happening today, or tomorrow. If we build a series of victories, it might happen someday. If we lose early, it will take longer.

    Of course, Open Source wouldn’t be where it is today without folks pushing the envelope, but even the OSS movement started with battles they could win (e.g. Apache). ;-)

  9. Eric,
    I read “The Art of Unix Programming” 9 years back when I first came to America. It helped shape me as a Software developer. I am glad that you share all my other interests (Sex, Politics, Firearms) too! :)

  10. Welcome back.

    Often and often have I referred those new to shooting to “Ethics From the Barrel of a Gun”, which I believe to carry more wisdom than any ten self-defense videos or reloading manuals.

    I think it could have stood for all the words in Heller.

  11. Scalia’s opinion mentions concealed carry on page two and not in a favorable context for your proposed civil disobedience:

    “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.”

    Concealed carry is specifically listed as an example of something the States may validly regulate for themselves.

  12. Eric:

    What will you carry? Amusingly, I believe you could open carry the world’s largest (non-novelty) revolver, and have a tiny Rohrbaugh .32 in the heel of your shoe — and it would be the .32 which would get you in trouble. Obviously absurd. Having recently moved back out of PA to TN (three years of law school’s enough of Philly), I regret that I didn’t do more open carry there.

    Glad to see you writing publically here again, and on this topic.

    Cheers,

    Tim Lord (timothy at slashdot)

  13. Before you proceed, I strongly urge you to read a few of the postings at the Volokh Conspiracy. Especially this one:
    http://volokh.com/posts/1214522143.shtml
    Have a lawyer, or several lawyers, try to tear your plan of action, and legal arguments, apart before you start. You have to have a strategy that will win, not botch it up for the rest of us.

  14. Welcome back.

    Now I have another blog to read while I’m at work. Dammit.

    Regards,
    Rabbit.

  15. Ryon, you said – ‘As a citizen of the United States, you may have the right to challenge unjust and unconstitutional laws, but the right to arms comes only thru your state citizenship. Read Amendment 10 of the U.S. Constitution again.’

    However, the point of the Bill of Rights was to enumerate rights that could not be abridged or infringed by the federal government. There is nothing whatsoever that in any way limits any of them to being contingent upon state citizenship.

  16. I support your activism, but do brace yourself. Just because you have rights doesn’t mean they won’t be trampled and you made an example of: http://victimsoflaw.net/Stanley.htm (Visit Stanley’s site, linked from that page, for the whole story in exhaustive detail. In a nutshell: he got royally screwed, for simple open-carry.)

  17. Congratulations on standing up for your rights. As a fellow Libertarian (although not anarchist) I have to say that civil agreements meant to disarm us are not in our best interests.

    Also, I applaud the way in which you decided to address those issues. Not with the “progressive’s” loud zeal and in-your-face attitude. Instead, you addressed things as an adult by simply explaining yourself to the local authorities and allowing them to prepare a measured, reasonable response.

    Good on you, mate!

  18. Aren’t you a libertarian, not an anarchist? There is a big difference.

  19. >So, having skipped back here on an inlink, did you in fact ever end up a test case? :-)

    No. After I got my second death threat, I decided I didn’t need the problems of simultaneously looking over my shoulder for Iranian terrorists and legal troubles with our own government. So I went and got a legal CCW permit. Dammit.

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