Second Amendment scholar Dave Kopel in the Wall Street Journal:
New York Giants star receiver Plaxico Burress is facing a mandatory 3½ years in prison and the end of his football career. His crime? Not having a license, which New York City never would have issued him, for the exercise of his constitutional right to bear arms.
To be sure, Mr. Burress got caught because of what appears to have been stupid and irresponsible behavior connected with the handgun. But he does not face prison for shooting himself. His impending mandatory sentence highlights the unfairness and unconstitutionality of New York City's draconian gun laws.
Mr. Burress had previously had a handgun carry permit issued by Florida, for which he was required to pass a fingerprint-based background check. As a player for the Giants, he moved to Totowa, N.J., where he kept a Glock pistol. And last Friday night, he reportedly went to the Latin Quarter nightclub in midtown Manhattan carrying the loaded gun in his sweatpants. Because New York state permits to possess or carry handguns are not issued to nonresidents, Mr. Burress could not apply for a New York City permit.
This seems about right. Burress was stupid with his careless handling of the gun. But he's being charged and facing mandatory prison time for merely carrying the gun, not mishandling it. Kopel concludes:
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.
The Burress case also shows why mandatory sentences are a bad idea. He was careless but had no malign intent. Legislators and mayors like to appear tough by pushing through such draconian laws. Yet the victims are people like Mr. Burress whose conduct may have been improper, but who do not deserve the same sentences meted out to robbers and burglars.
Chris Sprow wrote about how pro sports leagues are more worried about their image than the safety of their athletes in reason in January of last year.