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  • Writer's pictureDavid M. Rubin

Time To Name The Gun Anarchists

For all its many faults, the Republican Party gets one thing right: messaging. It knows how to boil down a complex issue to its emotional essence. The Republican Party is expert at bumper sticker politics.

Although Republicans rarely have logic, precedent, or history on their side, they often have the slogan. Sadly, slogans triumph these days, when Tweets pass for discourse.

Republicans are sloganeering now in attacking President Biden’s plan to roll back some of the many tax favors handed to the rich and to rebuild the crumbling American infrastructure. They label this “Radical Socialism.”

They have succeeded for years at messaging on abortion, co-opting the phrase “Right to Life” to end any discussion of a woman’s right to choose. This ignores the fact that the Supreme Court has made the right to choose Constitutional under the Fourth Amendment.

Now the Republicans are doing it again over whether a person can openly carry a weapon in public, even if that person has no permit to carry even a concealed weapon. This bumper sticker reads “Constitutional Carry.”

For those who don’t closely follow gun politics, what this means is the following. Until this session of the state legislature, no one could openly carry a gun in South Carolina. One could carry a concealed weapon only if one had a permit and the required training.

Earlier this month, however, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a law making it legal for those with concealed carry permits to now carry their guns openly in public, except in specified areas such as hospitals or schools.

But that was not enough of a victory for some Republican gun zealots. They introduced a second bill to permit ANYONE who legally owned a gun to carry it openly in public. No permit was required. No education on gun safety was required. Their sloganeering name for this bill was, as previously noted, “Constitutional Carry.” That term is now part of the Republican lexicon, soon to arrive on a bumper sticker near you.

Fortunately the Constitutional Carry bill, also named the Second Amendment Preservation bill, failed to make it out of the State Senate, although it passed the House. But, like a zombie, it will be back.

Democrats can no longer fight these battles with just facts, logic, or history. Instead of challenging these Republican Gun Anarchists----for that is what they are----with the facts of Sandy Hook or Las Vegas or dozens of other mass shootings, Democrats need a different approach.

The way to begin is by pointing out that no civil liberty is without limitation. None. We accept limits on freedom of speech. While Donald Trump may not know it, one cannot use the First Amendment to incite a riot or plot an insurrection. Libel laws limit defamatory speech. Just ask Rudy Giuliani. A group cannot hold a parade on a major street or bridge at rush hour. Permits are required. Ask organizers of Black Lives Matter events. Permits are a legal limit on the freedom to assemble.

Determining these limits to civil liberties is what Constitutional Law is all about.

The same is true of the Second Amendment. The bare bones argument that Americans have a right to bear arms answers none of the questions surrounding that right. We are still very, very early in fleshing out the contours of that freedom, which is the job of legislatures and the courts, particularly the Supreme Court.

“Constitutional Carry” as proposed by South Carolina House Republicans is actually unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has never said the Second Amendment embraces this so-called right. In short, it’s bogus, Republican bumper-sticker law.

How should Democrats fight back against this? In two ways.

First, they must state as fact that all civil liberties are limited. Therefore, what limits on the Second Amendment do Republicans accept? That is question one, and until that question is answered, no further debate should be acceptable. Every gun-toting Republican should be put on the record by journalists and Democratic opponents. Ask them: “What are your own personal limits on the ‘right to bear arms?” I want to hear their answers.

Second, Democrats need some bumper stickers of their own. it’s time to label these Republicans as the Gun Anarchist Gang (GAG, if you like). Here are the names of the Republicans who represent parts of Dorchester County in the House who voted for the lie of “Constitutional Carry” for all gun owners: Linda Bennett; Mandy Kimmons; and Chris Murphy. Take a bow.

The Senate, fortunately, failed to take up this bill. For the moment it is a dead letter. But the Gun Anarchists will bring “Constitutional Carry” back for another vote. When that happens, Democrats must ask Senate Republicans from Dorchester County----Brian Adams and Sean Bennett---what limits on the Second Amendment they accept, if any.

Republican Senator Sandy Senn voted against the open carry bill that did pass into law. She recognizes, apparently, that the anarchist position on guns is increasingly unpopular in Dorchester County.

Now Democrats have to turn up the heat on the rest of the Gun Anarchist Gang. Seize that bumper!

Blogger David M. Rubin is the former Dean of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He is a former columnist for the Syracuse Post-Standard and an expert on First Amendment law (speech and press). He lives in Summerville.

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