Questions for gun-rights advocates

A group called “White Lives Matter,” carrying firearms and Confederate flags, gathered outside NAACP headquarters in Houston today. Presumably the place was closed on Sunday, so there don’t seem to have been any confrontations with NAACP staff.

This raises some questions for advocates of “open carry”:

  1. Is it appropriate to come armed to a political demonstration?
  2. Would it be appropriate for counter-demonstrators also to come armed?
  3. When two groups of armed demonstrators confront one another and start shouting and shoving, and someone opens fire, how could a jury possibly find, beyond reasonable doubt, that whoever fired first was not in reasonable fear of his life from the actions of the armed people on the other side? Texas is “stand-your-ground” as well as “open-carry,” so there is no legal obligation on either side to back off.
  4. If the demonstration happened during business hours, would it be appropriate for NAACP staff to come armed? If one of them were to kill an armed Confederate, and testified that he saw the Confederate going for his gun and felt in reasonable fear of his life, how could a jury convict? Conversely, if one of the Confederates were to kill an armed NAACP staffer and gave the same testimony, how could a jury convict?

Or, if you like, you can flip any of these questions around and imagine a bunch of anti-Trump demonstrators coming armed to a Trump rally.

My prejudice here is clear enough: I don’t think weapons have any place in political demonstrations, and I favor old-fashioned laws against the display of firearms inside city limits.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

26 thoughts on “Questions for gun-rights advocates”

  1. Two comments that violate site commenting policies, and the replies to them, have been deleted.
    Anyone who wants to offer a serious, non-trolling answer to a set of serious questions is welcome to try.

  2. My answer was completely serious, made my retort in the same ridiculous manner as the questions were asked, and non-trolling. Unless you consider disagreement trolling, as most regressives do.

    If you have a commenting policy for this site, it is not readily apparent. Please provide a link.

    1. Before commenting at any site, it's always good manners to read a bit to get a feel for the prevailing standards. While you typically frequent chat rooms where smarm, entitlement, and willfully obtuse childishness are appropriate, you should be aware that not all communities are organized along those lines.

      It's embarrassing for everyone when someone tries to join an adult-level rec league game and they're only prepared to play tee ball.

      1. The context of the ridiculous article set the tone. If you don't like that tone, take it up with the author who wrote it. I am in no way obligated to conform to your unwritten rules.

      2. – "While you typically frequent chat rooms where smarm, entitlement, and willfully obtuse childishness are appropriate…"

        I'm just going to sit back for a moment and drink in the hypocritical irony of that comment.

  3. 1. Yes. It is as appropriate to bring a gun to a political event, as to any other event. It is legal do so in almost all states, people are entitled to exercise their legal rights. And, though you may not want to confront this, there has been a great deal of violence committed at political rallies this year, rendering them hazardous places to be.

    2. Yes, for the same reasons. But it is very relevant to this whether you are there to cause trouble, or are just anticipating trouble. And, though you may not want to confront this, most of the causing trouble has been done by a particular party this year. And it's not the party you'd like it to be.

    3. Cameras are everywhere, and you don't show much sign of having a solid grasp of the relevant law. Perhaps not your fault, it is frequently misrepresented for political reasons. You might want to take a class on this, if you're going to be commenting on the matter.

    4. The last confederate died decades ago, having a confederate flag doesn't make you one. That aside, sure, it would be appropriate. Again, see #3.

    Yes, your prejudice is clear, glad to see you recognize it for what it is.

    1. Not much time today, but… rallies are *so hazardous* now that people need to bring guns? Please.

      Re 2: do you agree that the people bringing guns to a rally in front of a NAACP office were "looking for trouble?" I'm just curious. Why would they pick that particular location to rally?

      As to 3: cameras are nice to have, but don't kid yourself that they will answer that many questions. Unless every person in the crowd wore a body camera, and really even if they did, it would be hard to know what really happened. If people are that scared of the other people, maybe they should stay home or seek treatment.

      1. Perhaps Mark will let you see this: If you want to discuss the matter further with me, my email address is in my profile. Mark has reinstated the "Brett and only Brett is limited to one comment per post" rule.

        This invitation is extended to anyone who thinks I don't have a response to their remarks.

    2. 1. You're confusing "legal" with "appropriate." A great many things are entirely legal but grossly inappropriate. Sometimes it's appropriate to break the law. Your argument here, that appropriate behavior is coterminous with the law, is one of which a teenager ought to be ashamed.

      2. I am just anticipating trouble. You are there to cause trouble.

      3. Your point about cameras is irrelevant, and leads one to suppose that you haven't carefully read the question you've set out to answer. Cameras would help answer the question of who fired the first shot, but the question is phrased such that there's no uncertainty about who fired first. Rather, the question is about whether such a person, having been the victim of battery by an angry person holding a deadly weapon could claim to have reasonably feared for his life. (Spoiler: He obviously could.)

      4. Before today, I'd have supposed that this sort of quibbling was beneath even you. Grats on that new personal worst.

    3. Brett,
      It appears the author of the article does not know the #BlackLivesMatter in Texas have been carrying firearms at almost all of their rallies including political. None of them were shot when they were protesting.

    1. Silly AnBheal — #BlackLivesMatter has been open carrying firearms at their events in Texas for a long time.

      BTW: It was Progressive Democrats that denied Rev. MLK and other minorities their 2A Rights.

      1. Aw, that's adorable! The single most selective reading of both firearms history and civil rights history I've ever read in this space. Go get 'em, Tiger! We know how you feel about both minorities AND guns now, and we read you loud and clear.

  4. Heavens to Betsy, another area of overlap with Brett! I'm a big fan, Mark, but please don't call them "Confederates." Stop indulging them. It's over, the South lost.

  5. I agree, don't call them Confederates. It's more accurate to just call them white supremacists.

    1. The Confederates in the Civil War had a coherent, if repellent ideology, articulated over several decades by Calhoun and others. It pays Duke et al too much credit to assimilate their knee-jerk racism with that of Alexander Stephens. What is their view of the proper place in American society of the descendants of African slaves? AFAIK they have no proposal to reintroduce slavery. There is no doubt a Jim Crow feeling that blacks should be kept in their inferior place as cheap and disenfranchised unskilled labour, and that the Civil Rights movement was a disastrous mistake. But what's the plan? Reintroduce segregated lunch counters? How will that prevent another black President? It looks to me like shouting into the winds of change.

  6. The word "appropriate" is doing quite a lot of work in those questions. As Ron Gibson notes, it doesn't mean legal. It can mean "in line with prevailing social norms," but in that case, questions 1 and 2 are trivial and depend on who's making the judgment. However, the word can also mean something much more general like "a good way to do something under the circumstances." Thus, I am perfectly within my legal rights to carry, on my non-carry campus, a water pistol that looks, from a small distance, like a real weapon, and it doesn't violate any social strictures to do so, but I'm fairly sure that, if I were to wave it, from that small distance, at a campus police officer, the consequent discussion of my behavior would include the word "inappropriate."

    So, taking that meaning of "appropriate," the answer to 1 is no, if the point of the demonstration is "white lives matter." With firearms, the point becomes at least partially "look! we have firearms!" Furthermore, those who come prepared to show a level of force beyond what is needed for their peaceful intentions are easily manipulated by agents provocateurs or simple mischief-makers.

    For question 2, no, for pretty much the same reasons. And, if the other side has weapons, you want it to be abundantly clear that anything that got started got started by them not you. And, if you're carrying weapons and the other folks are carrying weapons, you're more likely to be shot, not less.

    I'll leave question 3 alone, except to note that much will depend on who is the judge, who is the prosecutor, who handles defense, and who is on the jury. The jury can't reasonably make that determination, of course, but that doesn't mean they won't.

    For question 4, no, NAACP staff should not come armed. If they really feel the need for "a good guy with a gun," and if the police aren't an appropriate resource for them (there's that word again), they might be wisest to find a couple of members who have training in the form of police or military experience and make them the designated "good guy/gal with a gun." Concealed carry if possible.

    And in response to the last paragraph, I'd argue that, whether or not one thinks firearms can be said to have any place in demonstrations, showing up with them is counterproductive. And thus inappropriate.

    1. I'm curious, would you make the same statements if you knew that #BlackLivesMatter carries firearms at their events and rallies?

      1. "if I knew"? I too am curious. On what basis, given what I wrote, did you make the assumption that I didn't?
        Sincere question.

  7. No one has mentioned what happened in Dallas recently when 5 police officers were killed at a demonstration. A number of the demonstrators were openly carrying weapons. It is reported that the presence of such people confused the police response to a lone gunman. Also, so far as I am aware none of these armed people were in any way of assistance in subduing the gunman.

    1. The presence of people wearing red shirts hampers the police when a suspect is reported to be wearing one, should red shirts be outlawed as well? Are those wearing red shirts obligated to do the work police are paid to do?

      1. Some suspects wear red shirts, others don't. But attacks are usually carried out with certain kinds of weapons, so the two sorts of risks are different.

      2. In a potentially contentious demonstration, displaying optimized human killing machinery is just a sartorial choice, says the gun-fanatic. In an active shooter situation, such as the Dallas police kilings during the demonstration, a non-uniformed person displaying a human-killing-focused Glock is no different than a person displaying colored fabric. Right.

  8. Mark,

    Perhaps you are unaware that #BlackLivesMatter usually carries firearms at all their events. Would that change your position on the topic?

    1. Yes.

    2. Yes.

    3. Seriously? Could you possibly build a bigger straw man argument? The answer is simple, who initiated the violence? Shouting and shoving is not violence, just as Stand Your Ground and Open Carry are well defined legally; so please stop trying to redefine them in order to justify your irrational fear.

    4. They would be well within their rights to exit the building armed just as the LEOs were armed when they came out of the jail to confront an armed #BlackLivesMatter protest. I would highly suggest you actually research and learn about the issue instead of making hypothetical scenarios based on ignorance of the law.

    1. 3. It's your position, then, that when an enraged man holding a gun is shoving you and screaming at you, you can't reasonably fear for your life?

  9. Question #3 is either an intentionally dishonest misrepresentation of both SYG doctrine (as well as the statutory implementations thereof) and open carry law, or a demonstration of abject ignorance regarding both. The claim that SYG means that you can open fire just because you "feel" threatened is utter nonsense. And what in the world does the legality of carrying a slung long gun have to duty with a legal obligation (or lack thereof) to "back down"?

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