Guns, Coffee, and Bodily Autonomy

Speaking of fundamental rights and Starbucks Locked, Loaded, and Ready to Caffeinate reports on the campaign by gun-rights advocates “to carry unconcealed weapons in the 38 or more states that have so-called open-carry laws allowing guns to be carried in public view with little or no restrictions.”  Open-carry advocates are “showing up at so-called meet-ups, in which gun owners appear at Starbucks, pizza parlors and other businesses openly bearing their weapons.”  Unlike Peet’s and California Pizza Kitchen, Starbucks has not adopted a uniform no-guns policy.  “The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores” said Starbucks.  Some gun-rights supporters criticize the open-carry movement.  The founder of the Second Amendment Foundation said “I’m all for open-carry laws, but I don’t think flaunting it is very productive for our cause. It just scares people.”  The National Rifle Association does not embrace open-carriers.  Its spokesman said the N.R.A. “supports the right of law abiding people to exercise their self-defense rights in accordance with state local and federal law,” and left it at that.

Expect this issue to create strange bedfellows.  Some liberal constitutional scholars interpret the Second Amendment to protect the individual right to gun ownership, in line with individual rights protected by the rest of the Bill of Rights.  A few weeks ago the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in McDonald v. City of Chicago, a challenge to Chicago’s gun ownership ordinances.   McDonald involves the issue of the whether the 14th Amendment applies the Second Amendment to the states, an issue with repercussions on individual rights far beyond gun ownership.  The linked Newsweek article puts it this way:

At the heart of the left-leaning dissenters’ argument is a plea for consistency. For decades, liberals have insisted that the Constitution assumes—even if it does not explicitly spell out—a right to bodily autonomy. This right, long disputed by conservatives, is a basis for arguments in favor of abortion rights and gay rights. Liberals who support gun rights find a similar implied right to own weapons: after all, they say, what is the right to bear arms but the ability to protect your body from criminals as well as the government? . . .  The [Constitutional Accountability Center’]s main concern in weighing in on the McDonald case isn’t to secure gun rights but to set a precedent that will expand individuals’ protection under the Bill of Rights to the state level. That would, they hope, bolster liberal constitutional arguments in favor of stronger due-process and abortion-rights protections.

Not all liberals adopt this position, arguing instead that the Second Amendment protects collective security through state militias.  Needless to say, conservative scholars arguing against restrictions on gun ownership are not eager for the McDonald decision to become a Trojan horse bearing liberal social doctrines.  The Court will decide McDonald before its term ends in June.

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