Last month, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals declared Illinois’s ban on carrying a weapon in public unconstitutional, leaving the District of Columbia as the only place in the country that does not allow the concealed carry of firearms by civilians (and D.C. is being sued to allow this).
The morally purblind pro-gun lobbyists have been so successful in saturating our society with firearms—from national parks to Amtrak trains—that public libraries across the country are also finding themselves having to grapple with Second Amendment radicals.
For example, the Boulder Public Library, until November, had a policy that read: “No person may bring a weapon into or possess a weapon in any library facility except this rule shall not apply to library security personnel or police officers carrying service weapons.”
In light of Colorado’s concealed weapons statute and a Colorado Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that said the University of Colorado could not ban concealed-weapon permit holders from bringing guns on campus, the library, as the Denver Post reported, had to change the rule to read: “No person may bring or possess a weapon, except as expressly permitted by state law.”
Clearly, the library prefers to limit the presence of guns, but the library also wants to respect the law. Unfortunately, our gun laws (and their interpretation) are increasingly misbegotten and take insufficient heed of the need for reasonable restraint in certain places. But even mild attempts at regulation raise the ire of the pro-gun crowd.
Virginia’s Richmond Public Library posted a rule this summer saying “carrying concealed weapons of any type is prohibited by State Law,” according to the Richmond Times Dispatch. The Virginia Citizens Defense League Inc., a pro-gun group, correctly told the library that this information was not accurate, and the library changed the rule to read “carrying concealed weapons is prohibited, except as permitted by law.”
Yet the defense league’s members found even this posting unacceptable, and 30 of the group’s members showed up inside the library in August with openly carried guns to protest the rule.
Guns, particularly openly borne guns, do not belong in libraries, which thrive on an inviting environment.
Still, in a closely watched case in Michigan, the state Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on October 25 that the Capital Area District Library (CADL) was exceeding its authority when it barred patrons from openly carrying firearms in library branches.
Michigan Open Carry challenged the ban in 2011 after library security guards asked armed Open Carry members to leave the downtown Lansing library branch (including the teen area) on several occasions. The library’s attorney said the administration still believes it has the authority “to ban the open carry of weapons in its branches in order to protect library patrons of all ages and CADL staff.” The library board voted in December to appeal the decision.
Henry Saad and Jane Beckering, who wrote the majority opinion, showed in their ruling that they were interested more in being judges than in being just:
“We are obligated to interpret and apply the law, regardless of whether we personally like the outcome. Certainly, at a time where this country has witnessed tragic and horrific mass shootings in places of public gathering, the presence of weapons in a library where people of all ages—particularly our youth—gather is alarming and an issue of great concern.”
Given our recent bloody history, of which Newtown is the pluperfect example, the court’s ultimate ruling is legalistic at best and far from ethically astute.
Michael Kelley, Editor-in-Chief