Debate Forum 03/04

Debate Center: What does one wear to match the rifle strapped across his or her shoulder?

By Alex Culpepper
Earlier in February, motorists along a stretch of highway in Beaumont, Texas, were alarmed to see a man wearing a banana costume and holding a sign with an arrow on it. The banana costume and the sign were not what alarmed them – it was the AK-47 rifle strapped on his back. As it turned out, the man in the banana costume was performing a promotional stunt for a local gun shop and was attempting to draw customers. Local police eventually showed up and detained him, and then cited him for soliciting near a roadway, which is a violation of a city ordinance. He was not cited for displaying the weapon.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a man was toting an AK-47 while walking along a Dayton street. Like the man in Texas, he was temporarily detained, but not arrested. According to reports, he pointed it at no one and made no threatening gestures. Police intervened, but only long enough to confirm the man had no prior legal issues to warrant being detained further. In both cases above, no gun law was broken because it is not illegal to openly carry a rifle or shotgun in Texas or Ohio. In fact, most states permit some form of open and displayed firearms, with a few restrictions – and only California, Florida and Illinois prohibit open carry outright.

These incidents and others like them, along with what is known as the “open carry movement,” have prompted some debate about openly carrying firearms in public.

Those who support open carry privileges hold up Second Amendment rights as evidence and say further restrictions on gun rights just set precedents to chip away at those Second Amendment rights. They further claim the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule against open carry in a federal case. Other than being an issue of civil rights, supporters say open carry works as an added deterrent to crime. Supporters also believe as long as the carrier is not waving it maliciously or threatening to use it, he or she should have the right to carry openly in public.

Opponents of open carry say seeing a stranger publicly displaying a firearm is intimidating and causes alarm, especially considering the number of public shootings in recent history. They say open carry is a drag on law enforcement resources and forces police to respond to unnecessary 911 calls of individuals carrying guns. They say open carry is a public health issue, too, because it increases risk of accidental injury or death from possible shootings. Opponents reject the Second Amendment argument and say the Constitution does not specifically protect open carry.

Most of the talk about carrying guns in public focuses on the concealed carry permits, and, by most accounts, many people are unaware a person can legally walk a city street carrying a rifle. States have pretty clear laws covering concealed firearms, but state laws about open carry are not as well shaped, nor regulated. Supporters of open carry want them to be as open as possible, but opponents are not in favor of this openness and want the rifles to remain on the shooting range and on the hunting grounds.

 Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at 

Debate Forum Question of the Week:

Ohio is one of 47 states with laws allowing some form of open carry, and all states
have laws allowing conceal carry permits for qualified gun owners. Regardless of
whether or not conceal carry should be permitted in Ohio, should open carry continue
to be law in Ohio? Or is open carry now possibly an anachronism in our society?

Debate Left: Gun sadvocacy

By Ben Tomkins

Before I even begin talking about gun rights, I will offer a personal response to the news report about the individual walking down the street with an AK-47 on his back. I saw a picture of him being spoken to by police, and the caption below read, “Dayton police interview a man who was in public carrying an AK-47 rifle strapped on his back on Feb. 21, 2014.”

The first thing that gives me pause is the use of the word “man.” This is not a man, and by that I mean a fully-grown, socially responsible role model who happens to have a penis dangling between his legs. A man does not willfully create situations that frighten the public, particularly of this nature. The police indicated he may have been carrying this gun around in order to draw attention to himself, which is also an incredibly un-manly thing to do. Children and dogs do things like that when they want a treat, and most of us outgrow this ridiculous behavior by the time we make it to our early 20s. Perhaps you could argue neither the police nor I can ascertain what his reason was for carrying the AK-47, and the fact it’s none of my business is precisely why the Second Amendment exists.

Go ahead. I will argue I don’t believe it’s within a reasonable possibility a person walking down the street in a first-world country with a massive assault weapon strapped to their person like a Cuban guerrilla doesn’t have some internal acknowledgement every casual sip they take from the giant can of Arizona Tea in their porky little fist is a consciously orchestrated front designed to give the impression this is an everyday affair for your average, constitutionally-aware citizen/badass. And his penis is small.

This sort of thing tires me out. Nobody on the planet talks, whines, bitches, moans and grumbles about their rights more than the public-carry crew. I’ve noticed people who own guns for hunting don’t act like this. They talk about hunting all the time rather than the fact they own a gun, because their joy is hunting. They don’t care if anyone knows they own a gun, or if anyone thinks they are a badass.

However, the conceal-carry and open-carry movements seem to have a suspiciously high percentage of members who have non-utilitarian gun collections that, without these laws, would be otherwise unavailable for peacock-esque displays in front of members of the opposite sex, should the opportunity arise. I opted for investing a huge amount of time developing a witty personality and cleaning under my fingernails, so as to give the impression to women I posses something called “charm,” and as a result, I now have the pleasure of staring at my sexy wife who feels empowered to speak openly without having to tap dance around the china cabinet I have employed as a pedestal for my self-worth.

That, by the way, is exactly the ground from which I indict public-carry laws, if we agree to extend quarter regarding the undeniable and exhaustively repeated facts about gun violence in this country. Guns carry the distinction of being the object in our society that most fluidly transitions from fetish to entitlement. The speed and vitriol with which public-carry advocates spit their rhetoric in your face, or brandish their gun as a statement of solidarity at the slightest hint of cognitive dissonance, betrays their insecurity as transparently as homophobia and racism. When we repose ourselves, our principles or our society upon objects that can be broken or melted down like idols cast from gold or silver, we inevitably cause ourselves to become irrationally defensive of their security. There is a definite difference in this regard between, say, freedom of speech and gun rights.

My belief in the inherent truthfulness of a right to mildly limited freedom of speech has, in large part, to do with the fact that without it, the average citizen is castrated when it comes to effecting social change. It has to do with the moral ideal all men are created equal. The diminishment of my self-worth when it is squashed results from the fact another person, who is ostensibly no better than me, has arbitrarily declared I am inferior.

In contrast, the belief gun ownership has an inherent truthfulness comes from a far murkier corner of our subconscious. It is rooted in the fear someone is at all times trying to oppress us, and, without some recourse, this will inevitably occur. It is a form of paranoia, and one that imbues our society with an undeserved mistrust in the idea human beings coexisting in a society can share values. Once this is in place in the mind, it is but a hop, skip and a jump to all manner of insecurities ranging from the psychosexual to the apocalyptic. At the center of this morbid little play is the icon of the gun, which at once serves as a blinding light to a vision of social unity, and a prison wall against participation in that larger social order. It’s time to grow up, lose the guns and join society.


Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist, and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at


The battle over the meaning of the Second Amendment

By David H. Landon

The battle continues to rage over the meaning and the rights inferred by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Two federal court cases, one very recent and one nearly five years old, have supported the argument: the right to bear arms is an individual right. The question for this weeks’ forum, provoked by a story of a man walking on a Dayton street with an AK-47 strapped over his shoulder, is whether that individual right should continue to extend to both open carry and conceal carry laws in Ohio.

In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Supreme Court heard Second Amendment challenges to Washington, D.C.’s decades-old ban on handgun possession. They also reviewed the requirement firearms in the home be stored, unloaded and disassembled or bound by a locking device. In reviewing the meaning of the Second Amendment in Heller, the court examined whether the amendment protects an individual right to possess firearms, or only protects firearm possession connected to service in a state militia. The court’s decision affirmed the Second Amendment right not just to “keep” a gun, “as one might in the home, but also the right of individuals to “bear, or carry, arms.”

Anti-gun rights forces had argued for years the right could only be exercised in conjunction with a militia. Heller ended that misconception, as well as the ridiculous notion a gun that was allowed at home had to be unloaded and disassembled. The court agreed, it is very hard to protect your home from an intruder when first one must reassemble and load his or her weapon.

The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Peruta v. San Diego, affirmed the right of law-abiding citizens to carry handguns for lawful protection in public. In California, as in many other states, applicants for a permit to carry a handgun for protection in public were required to undergo safety training and a background check. However, unlike other states, the California statute also required the applicant have “good cause” for requesting the carry permit. This statute was interpreted by San Diego County to mean the applicant was faced with current specific threats, such as a stalker. The court ruled the requirement was overly restrictive and left out 95 percent of applicants who simply wished to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms.

The court ruled a government may not make it impossible for the vast majority of citizens to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The court ruled the “good cause” provision violated the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment, as ratified by the states and authenticated by then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, reads as follows: “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.” To argue the right to bear arms was not an individual right flies in the face of American political thought at the time it was written. Running throughout American political thought during the Revolutionary period, there was a well-justified concern about political corruption and governmental tyranny. The Founding Fathers expressed concern over the threat and risk of tyrannical government. Against that backdrop, the framers saw the personal right to bear arms as a potential check against tyranny.

Noah Webster, an editor of the Federalist Papers and supporter of the Constitution and the Second Amendment, made the following observation: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”

Who were the militia that was referred to in the Second Amendment? They consisted of the whole of the people, every last American. Because all were members of the militia, all enjoyed the right to individually bear arms to serve therein.

The Second Amendment was not written with a small group or small proportion of the population in mind as the members of the state militias. It was written, as were the other rights found in the Bill of Rights, as a protection for the individual against the tyranny of government. The first ten amendments tell the federal government what things it cannot do. These are restrictions against the federal government and then incorporated as restrictions against the state governments.

As such, there is no authority to restrict those rights to an “either/or” as our forum question poses: prohibiting open carry or the right to concealed carry. Everyone has the right to open carry if they otherwise qualify to own a weapon. So long as they have no criminal record, which would restrict gun ownership, and are not otherwise disqualified for mental health reasons, they can walk down Main Street at high noon while carrying their weapon in plain sight. Likewise, if they have applied for and been granted a conceal carry permit, they are within their rights to carry their weapon concealed upon their person. With the Second Amendment intact, we can protect the other Amendments that protect all of our other rights if they are ever threatened.


David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at

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Ben Tomkins
Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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