Guns and Speech, Gunslingers and Writers

Samir Chopra

Patrick Blanchfield examines some of the troubling constitutional questions raised by the gun-toting folks who showed up to protect Cliven Bundy in Nevada:

According to open carry advocates, their presence in public space represents more than just an expression of their Second Amendment rights, it’s a statement, an “educational,” communicative act  — in short, an exercise of their First Amendment freedom of speech. (See this, from the group Ohio Carry, and this Michigan lawsuit.)

This claim bears serious consideration.  The First Amendment has historically been much harder to limit than the Second, and so extending the freedom of speech to the open display of weapons raises several urgent questions about how we understand the relationship between expressing ideas and making threats, between what furthers dialogue and what ends it.

But are guns speech?  Is carrying a weapon as an act of public protest constitutionally protected under the…

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