05 December 2008

Plaxico & the 2nd Amendment

You may have heard of the accidental self-shooting of New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. He was foolish and careless in his behavior, but is the law that may send him to prison for a 3 1/2 years even consitutional?

In the Wall Street Journal Dave Kopel argues that it is not. Kopel points out that Burress is not being charged with discharging his firearm, shooting himself, or using a firearm while consuming alchohol. He is being charged with carrying an unlicensed firearm in New York:

In 40 states, including Connecticut, law-abiding adults are issued permits once they pass a fingerprint-based background check and a safety class. In New Jersey, carry permits are virtually never issued. In New York City, carry permits are issued, but to applicants with some form of political clout rather than on the basis of his or her need for protection.
The Second Amendment might not require New Jersey or New York City to issue as liberally as Connecticut does. But with a population of several million and only a few thousand (consisting mainly of politicians, retired police and celebrities) able to get permits, New York City's licensing process is almost certainly unconstitutional on a number of grounds, including sheer arbitrariness.
Some commentators contend that Plaxico Burress should have hired bodyguards, instead of carrying a gun himself. Mr. Burress might now agree. But people who aren't as wealthy as he is also deserve to be safe, and they don't have the money for bodyguards. New York City needs to regularize its carry permit system so that law-abiding people can protect themselves, especially if their circumstances (such as being a witness to a gang crime) place them at heightened risk.
Burress was licensed to carry a firearm in Florida, where he was a resident. Was he foolish for carrying in New York? Yes. Could he have seriously injured himself or others? Without question. Is the law of New York constitutional? Only time will tell, but in my opinion Kopel makes a good case.

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