Liberty Activists Celebrate a New Day

On July 29, some bills that passed the state Legislature and were signed by the governor became law. Included in these was SB 1070. Of course, there was a SB 1070-related protest, and counter-protest, downtown.

I like a good protest as much as anyone, but I had a celebration—of other laws going into effect—to attend elsewhere.

As I walked through Himmel Park, I ran into a friend. We chatted briefly, and I continued on my way. If my friend noticed the Glock model 21 pistol worn openly on my belt, he made no mention.

I soon came to a grove of trees near Treat Avenue, where 40 or so men and women were enjoying an all-American cookout with hamburgers and hot dogs—the works! Most were similarly armed.

I knew I had found the “Take Your Pistol for a Walk in the Park” party that I sought.

I saw the host of the party, liberty activist Ken Rineer, refilling the grills with dogs and burgers to keep up with the demand. It was in October 1996 that he met with Libertarian lawyer Ed Kahn and Tucson Police Department officers to have himself arrested. The purpose of the arrest was to create a case to challenge a recently enacted city ordinance that prohibited firearms in city parks—thus making the parks all the more attractive to robbers, rapists and the like.

Ken was recruited by Brassroots, a civil-rights organization that specializes in firearms issues, to risk heavy fines and jail time to take the city to court. The law was clearly on Ken’s side. The state of Arizona has a pre-emption statute that limits certain authority to the state government, including laws regarding firearms. Alas, courts being as they are in these modern times, Ken lost after the city appealed his initial victory, and the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

OK, I know that many of you are thinking, “What the heck is it with these gun nuts? Is it so important that they have their guns in the park?” First, let me point out that many of my fellow party guests are not, in fact, “gun nuts,” or even enthusiasts. In fact, were you to ask Ken why there are as many as three different twist rates in AR-15 rifles, I doubt he could tell you.

The firearms issue lends focus to the greater issue of liberty, which is the issue we all hold in common. It is true that you could say that possessing a gun in the park is not in itself all that important, just as you could say that where you sit on the bus is not all that important—but only if you were ignorant of the greater issue at hand.

Activism goes on. When it became fashionable to post “no firearms” signs in the windows of businesses, Brassroots was there to point out that while it is certainly the right of a business to ban guns from the premises, in doing so, those businesses would lose a large block of customers. Most, realizing that customers are more important than fashion, came around pretty quickly. Phil Murphy, a past president of Brassroots, recalled addressing the issue with a specialty retailer that sold erotic paraphernalia and clothing. Exotic dancers, who shop there for clothing, were made particularly vulnerable during their late-night shopping and were ready to make noise about it. This situation was presented to the store’s manager, who contacted the home office, and within 40 hours, the signs came down.

Charles Heller—a radio personality, the secretary of Arizona Citizens Defense League (AZCDL) and an all-round good guy—spoke of the accomplishments in which the AZCDL (azcdl.org) played a crucial role. Though it was an impressive list, the most relevant to today’s celebration was the state legislation that strengthened the pre-emption statute regarding guns and knives, and legislation authorizing “constitutional carry,” meaning that you could carry your weapon discreetly or otherwise without a permission slip from the government, as the United States Constitution and Arizona Constitution guarantee.

It is not often that liberty activists have cause to celebrate, or that Ken, Phil, Charles and others actually see positive outcomes resulting from their efforts. Yet on July 29, while political theater raged downtown, men and women peacefully celebrated in the park, and remembered a 14-year-long struggle.

University of Arizona Clings to an Archaic Understanding of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Though the University of Arizona is an institution of higher learning, it appears that the students and faculty are decades behind in regards to the cultural and legal progress of the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA).

It was back in 1987 that the state of Florida took the lead in passing a new type of concealed carry law. Concealed carry permitting laws that existed prior to that time were actually remnants from the Jim Crow era; permit applications had to be approved by either the local sheriff, judge, or magistrate with no provision for appeal – good luck if you were a man or woman of color. The new permit laws were written so that anyone who met the criteria, “shall” be issued a permit. When the word “shall” is used in the law, it means it must happen, no discretion here, no denying people of color, political adversaries, mother’s-in-law, etc.

Opponents of such laws warned of never seen before running gun battles up and down the streets, they never happened. The idea caught on, and Arizona passed a similar bill in 1994. Opponents of the law warned of never seen before running gun battles up and down the streets, you know the rest. The phenomenon swept the country, and now 45 of the 50 states have “shall issue” laws of some type.

Intrigued by this wave of new laws, research scientist John Lott (University of Maryland, College Park, University of Chicago, Yale University, and the Wharton School studied crime statistics from vitually all the counties in the United States. He published the results of this work in the book More Guns, Less Crime. According to Lott, enactment of such laws leads to a significant reduction in violent crime, with a slight increase in property crime. Oddly, Lott’s research received no serious challenged by opponents; rather, they generally chose to attack him personally. Ad hominem attacks are like shooting heroine, it feels really good when you’re doing it, but regular use makes you dull, frustrated, and hollow.

The next milestone was the 2008 United States Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v Heller. The court ruled that outright bans on firearms are unconstitutional because the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution is an individual right. The case was followed by a wave of challenges to onerous restrictions on gun ownership.

It is interesting to note that the Obama administration, and the Democrat controlled congress, have made no attempt – to my knowledge, not even a mention – of any “gun control” initiatives or goals. Actions not taken are as telling as those that are.

So, both the people, and current legal thought, have evoled into a much more liberal (in the classic sense) view of the right ot keep and bear arms. Consistent with this new enlightenment, the Arizona Senate introduced SB 1011. According to the fact sheet, the bill, “Allows a faculty member with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon (CCW permit) to possess a concealed firearm on university or college grounds.” This seems like a rather mild adjustment in these enlightened times, particularly in light of the fact that the universities would still have a more oppressive environment that the state as a whole.

Alas, the University of Arizona is a couple of decades behind the progressive (in the literal sense) thought of today. It became a hot topic with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA). At a regular meeting, one day after the bill’s introduction, members showed up ready to pass a resolution against the bill. The Arizona Daily Wildcat reported Senator Daniel Wallace saying, “The overwhelming majority of students I’ve talked to are against having guns on campus,” and, “The faculty shares that opinion.”

Really? From where did this archaic mindset come? I think that there is a clue in Wallace’s statement, “The faculty shares that opinion.” Could it be that, for many faculty members, time stopped somewhere back in the late 60’s or 70’s when they entered academia as a career? Are students learning to pay attention, apply thought and reason, or are they being indoctrinated in politically correct thought that has been long abandoned by everyone from the courts, to the politicians, to the people?

We are well into the 21st century. For the benefit of the students, I hope the universities will decide to join us.