Some Kansas cities and the Libertarian Party are locked in a dispute, as you may know, over whether cities can legally prohibit people from openly carrying loaded weapons in public places. The party says an open-carry ban would violate both the U.S. and Kansas constitutions and state law.
They may be right on the law, but the constitutional picture is cloudier. Let’s see why.
Kansas has guaranteed an individual the right to possess weapons since its founding more than 150 years ago. The state’s original constitution included this: “The people have the right to bear arms for their peace and security.”
Curiously, however, late 19th century Kansans interpreted that language rather loosely. Dodge City, Wichita, and Abilene openly restricted firearms possession, and in 1905 the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a Salina gun control law by finding no individual right to carry a weapon.
“It was the safety and security of society that was being considered when this provision was put into our constitution,” the court ruled.
Winds blow and laws change, of course. In 2010, Kansas voters amended their constitution to more firmly create an individual right to bear arms, and the same year the U.S. Supreme Court said the U.S. Constitution contains a similar guarantee.
But conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, made a crucial point: “No fundamental right — not even the First Amendment — is absolute,” he wrote.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
The Safety and Security of Society
from The Kansas City Star