January 05, 2021
Is a constitutionally protected right really even a right if a low-level politician can suspend that right at his or her own whim and convenience?
That’s the question many Washington, D.C., gun owners are likely asking after signs appeared around the capital outlawing carry of firearms, even by those with carry permits, just ahead of Wednesday’s scheduled rally in support of President Donald Trump.
At the direction of Mayor Murial Bowser, Metropolitan police have been posting signs that read:
“First Amendment Activities
All firearms prohibited within 1,000 feet of this sign
DC Code: 7-2509.07
Metropolitan Police Department
Effective: Monday, January 4, 2021, through Thursday, January 7, 2021.”
So, what’s the deal with this DC Code 7-2509.07? Surely, there can’t actually be a city law that allows the Second Amendment to be trampled just because citizens are practicing their First Amendment rights to peacefully gather, can there?
Actually, there is. And while I’m not a lawyer, I don’t see any way this statute could be considered constitutional.
“No person holding a license shall carry a pistol in the following locations or under the following circumstances
A gathering or special event open to the public; provided, that no licensee shall be criminally prosecuted unless:
(A) The organizer or the Distract has provided notice prohibiting the carrying of pistols in advance of the gathering or special even and by posted signage at the gather or special event; or
(B) The licensee has been ordered by a law enforcement officer to leave the area of the gathering or special event and the licensee has not complied with the order.”
Certainly such a city ordinance runs counter to the intent of the Founders, who specifically mentioned the right to “keep” and “bear” arms when penning the Second Amendment. And even though the First Amendment right of free speech is enumerated before the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights, even the uneducated understand that these liberties aren’t listed in descending order of importance, so a First Amendment-protected rally doesn’t outweigh the Second Amendment-protected carry of a firearm.
While many might ask what difference it makes given D.C.’s long history of denying Second Amendment rights, things have changed somewhat in the District of late. This move by the mayor comes at a time when more people are acquiring concealed carry permits in D.C. than ever before.
A Washington Post story from last spring reported that since a court struck down the city’s “good reason” provision for issuing carry permits, the number of licensed carriers had jumped to more than 4,000. And interestingly, more than half of those are held by people residing outside the District.
Does a mayor have the power to unilaterally strike down the constitutional rights of more than 4,000 people because she doesn’t think they need to be carrying a firearm in her city on a particular week? While the answer seems to be yes, it certainly doesn’t pass the smell test.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.