Florida legislators will soon introduce a bill legalizing open carry for firearms. If the advance information is correct, it will be legal to carry even in government buildings where we conduct the public's business. Can't one argue that a person who is obviously armed may well intimidate others who hold positions different from him/her? Put another way, those who carry carry an advantage in an arena where everyone, in theory, aspires to a level playing field. Should the aforementioned corruption of the political process be part of the conversation?

Excellent question. I am overwhelmingly sympathetic with the suggestion that this would count as illicit intimidation and there would be a presumptive case to ban guns in government buildings in which there are public forums, but I suspect this might put us on a slippery slope. I can imagine that persons might be threatened in government buildings by others who enter fully dressed up as black belt marshall artists or who come with military medals honoring them as expert killers (with knives, say, rather than guns) or simply a person comes into a building who has a huge reputation for physically harming (without using guns) those who disagree with him. Still, I think there are probably reasons for us to lower the standards of when a person might carry a firearm and be illicitly threatening (and perhaps subject to discipline, fine or expulsion). So, imagine that there is a debate on flag burning, and the person who wants to make flag burning illegal puts his hand on his gun and says something like "It would be a shame if something bad happened to those who want to legalize flag burning." I am inclined to think that such an act should be interpreted as a form of illicit intimidation, and even (technically) possibly a "terroristic threat" (in the legal sense) though it would fall short of an explicit, obvious threat. What I am suggesting is that, given the obvious function of guns, we should be more sensitive to when a person's carrying a weapon can be illicitly intimidating, as opposed to the other cases.

For the sake of protecting my suggestion from easy counter-examples, I can imagine cases of when someone carrying a gun in a public debate might be less intimidating and more welcome than a black belt, decorated killer who has a reputation for harming others. So, I would rather debate flag burning with someone carrying a revolver who tells us all that he would give his life for the sake of upholding the law and, with tears in his eyes, he professes to love free speech, the right to assemble and the full bill of rights versus debating with a black belt artist who, while talking, is constantly breaking rocks with his karate cuts, bragging about his silent killing as a mercenary, and he is shamelessly boasting about how he almost physically annihilated his neighbor in what he calls a "fair fight" when his neighbor tried to prevent him from setting his cat on fire. Lesson? Context is crucial. I still think that contexts that involve persons with guns should put us on automatic alert (and make us extra sensitive) about danger, but I recognize that cases can arise when persons without guns can be even more dangerous.

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