With the Republican National Convention taking place in Cleveland this week, and on the heels of deadly police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the Cleveland Police Union is pushing for a temporary ban on that state’s open carry gun law:
“We are sending a letter to Gov. Kasich requesting assistance from him. He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point,” Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told CNN. “They can fight about it after the RNC or they can lift it after the RNC, but I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over.”
In preparation for the convention, the City of Cleveland has announced a ban on at least 72-items within the “event zone.” The list includes tennis balls, ice chests, metal-tipped umbrellas, and locks. The ban also includes a general provision against “any dangerous ordinance, weapon, or firearm that is prohibited by the laws of the State of Ohio.”
There’s just one thing: there’s not that much banned by the state of Ohio.
While the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” the Ohio State Constitution takes a somewhat differs tact:
The people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security; but standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and shall not be kept up; and the military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power.
While there are some restrictions on the use of firearms within a motor vehicle and establishments with a liquor license, Ohio State law generally allows for the open carry of firearms and does not require a permit or license for purchase.
For his part, Governor Katich declined to implement a temporary ban, arguing through a statement from his spokeswoman Emmalee Kalmbach:
Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested. The bonds between our communities and police must be reset and rebuilt – as we’re doing in Ohio – so our communities and officers can both be safe. Everyone has an important role to play in that renewal.
On the surface, I am inclined to agree. It may seem absurd that tennis balls are banned as dangerous while firearms are permitted, but state law is quite clear in this area. The City of Cleveland explicitly banned only those weapons which are banned by state law because they don’t have the power to ban anything further. The Governor may have state-wide purview, but he still doesn’t have the power to suspend the state constitution.
There’s an interesting argument that was made by gun rights activists during the debate on whether to prohibit people on the terror watch list from buying guns: the terror watch list is notoriously bad. Using it as a filter creates a dangerous precedent for arbitrarily restricting citizens’ constitutional rights.
If the government proposed restricting the 1st amendment rights of citizens named by some poorly formulated, clearly imprecise list that it is nearly impossible to get off of, I would be justifiably upset.
Quite frankly, when it comes to the 1st amendment and conventions, I’m not even a fan of so-called “free speech zones,” areas where protestors are pushed off to the side, hidden from media, and delicately repressed in the name of safety.
A temporary ban on firearms seems constitutionally quite similar to this – though the danger posed by free speech is quite less.
Also interestingly, firearms are explicitly banned within the arena itself – this area falls under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service which, from what I can tell, has the purview to ban whatever it wants.
All of this, however, relies on the argument that the 2nd amendment is the same as the 1st amendment.
If I would have a problem with the temporary suspension of the 1st amendment, I should logically have a problem with the temporary suspension of the 2nd amendment – or any other amendments for that matter. Just because I have a personal distaste for a certain amendment doesn’t give the state the right to treat the amendment differently.
This all makes sense and sounds rational on paper, but – here’s the thing: the 2nd amendment isn’t the same.
The Bill of Rights exists to protect me, to protect citizens, from an overbearing, centralized government. The Bill of Rights stands as a testament to the ideal that this government will never be able to strip be of my fundamental rights.
But the 2nd amendment doesn’t make me feel empowered, it doesn’t make me feel safe. It makes me feel scared of my fellow citizens.
I have to image that those who uphold the 2nd amendment feel much differently – that they genuinely see themselves as part of a well-regulated militia, ready to jump into action to ensure the freedom of the State.
But to me, the 2nd amendment is very different. I worry about a government which can strip our right to protest. I worry about a government which can have secret trials and which can unreasonably search its citizens.
I don’t worry about a government which restricts the ability of people to keep and bear arms – I’m more worried about the functioning of a government which can ban tennis balls but not weapons.