Seriously? Here's the claim:* If people feel afraid when they see an openly carried gun in public, that's the same as people fearing a black man or a gay couple holding hands. That claim was made in my diary yesterday, Reciprocity in Concealed Carry Law - Glossary of State Residency Rules. The claimed equivalence was repeated several times today and my rebuttals were dismissed with, "you just don't like disagreement" and "you haven't shown how they differ." I'm astonished that anyone can call themselves a progressive and make that claim. But there it is. If the comments are sincere then there is some serious confusion in our midst. I will attempt to translate this confusion for those of you who are aghast. For those of you who don't get why being black, being gay, and carrying a gun are not the same, this diary might give you a clue.
The right to keep and bear arms, (RKBA) is a right to own and use an object. It's a right to own and use personal property. Being black or being gay are states of being.
The difference is really that simple.
More below the fold.
Colloquial language may muddy the picture for some people; John owns a gun vs. John is a gun owner. But gun ownership and gun carry are not states of being, no matter how strongly some people identify as such when using the words, "I am a gun owner."
The problem originates from a desire by some gun libertarians to conflate personal expression of a 2A constitutional right to own and use property as if it is the same as many other civil rights, the rights that derive from a state of being. I've seen the conflation used in comment threads as a deflection many times. If one doesn't accept this false equivalence then one is accused of being disloyal to the Bill of Rights. A more subtle form, "I support the whole Bill of Rights," is used to imply that others fail to support civil rights. This is so common we should coin a term for it. How about, "Kitchen Sinking the Whole Bill of Rights"?
Carrying a gun across state lines is not at all like moving across state lines with your same-sex spouse. They are just not the same. How can this be confusing to people? The logical/philosophical leap is made when they equate the right to self defense with states of being that are the origin of other civil rights, and then conclude that armed self defense is equivalent to a state of being black, lesbian, gay, female, disabled, etc. I believe that error is the origin of the bigoted comments in Shamash's diary. The same error was in evidence in my Reciprocity diary.
The false claim in the title depends on a false premise that all rights in the Bill of Rights are equivalent and absolute. Yes, gun ownership and use are protected in the Bill of Rights. The right to keep and bear arms is a US Constitutional right, and because the Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, the RKBA is legally defined in American law as a civil right. But none of our rights are absolute. And the rights in the Bill of Rights are not all the same. Each has various limits. State Constitutional rights are in another category altogether.
To illustrate the issue let's consider some other rights enshrined in our beloved Bill of Rights and spell out the distinction between the right and a choice about its expression.
Basic Facts: American gun ownership is a constitutional right. It's in the Bill of Rights so that makes it one of our legally protected civil rights. Owning and using guns is a right to own and use an object, a piece of personal property. That's why it's fundamentally different than other civil rights. Carrying a gun across state lines is public behavior subject to both state and federal law. Owning or carrying a gun is not a state of being.
A civil right: Freedom of religion is a constitutional right.
A choice: Whether to attend public religious services and which church/synagogue/temple/mosque to attend is a personal choice.
A civil right: Freedom of speech is a constitutional right.
A choice: Which radio/TV/satelite/newspapers/internet to receive is a personal choice.
A civil right: Freedom of assembly is a constitutional right.
A choice: Whether to join a protest march is a personal choice.
A civil right: Freedom to petition your government is a constitutional right.
A choice: Whether to sign a petition/call your reps/write a letter to the president/file a lawsuit is a personal choice.
A civil right: The right to privacy is a constitutional right.
A choice: Blogging your vacation plans on twitter is a personal choice.
A civil right: The right to vote is a constitutional right.
A choice: Whether to register as Dem or GOP is a personal choice.
A civil right: The right to remain silent is a constitutional right.
A choice: Whether it's a good idea to answer questions from police before consulting a lawyer is a personal choice.
A civil right: The right to own and use guns for self defense is a constitutional right.
A choice: Whether to keep guns in your home is a personal choice.
A choice: Whether to own a shotgun or a handgun for self-defense is a personal choice.
A choice: Whether to apply for a concealed carry license is a personal choice.
A choice: Whether to carry a knife, mace or a handgun is a personal choice
A civil right: Joining your gay partner in court as they defend your home against foreclosure. You can't ask your gay partner to check their gayness at the security desk. But the court can require you to leave your gun there.
Bottom Line: Guns are deadly weapons. They are property. They pose a risk to self and others. Some people have a right to own and use them secured by state and federal Constitutions. Many others do not. A civil society can legitimately require gun owners to keep them secure. To form a more perfect union we all need to understand that owning, using, and securing property is different than being black or gay or female.
Disclaimer - I believe there is a universal human right of self defense that predates the US constitution. Specifically, I believe the US Constitution articulates an individual right to bear arms in self defense as defined in Heller. Many state constitutions do too, but most of the rest of the world has not included the RKBA in their constitutions. For these reasons I consider the RKBA to be an American constitutional right, rather than a universal civil right.
*A few weeks ago rexymeteorite wrote a terrific diary on being vs. choosing, titled Not a good way to make friends and influence people. It was in response to some very ugly comment threads in this diary. Like rexy, I'm not linking specific comments because I'm joining rexy and others speaking out against the false meme not the specific people who are making and defending it.