How Sensitive Is Your Park?


Yesterday a federal judge rejected a constitutional challenge to Seattle's ban on guns in city parks, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has not said that the Second Amendment applies to cities and states as well as the federal government. That will almost certainly change after the Court decides McDonald v. Chicago, the handgun ban case it heard last week. But since McDonald involves a blanket ban rather than restrictions on where guns can be kept or carried, the Court's ruling still will not resolve the question of whether regulations like Seattle's are consistent with the Second Amendment.

Even the challenge to the District of Columbia's ban on carrying guns in public, which I discussed in my column last week, concedes that governments may bar guns from "sensitive places such as schools and government buildings," a policy the Supreme Court has indicated is "presumptively lawful." Are parks "sensitive places," and does a ban on carrying guns in them qualify as a reasonable limitation on the right to keep and bear arms? Robert C. Warden, the Kent, Washington, attorney who challenged the Seattle ban, argues that "the purported interest, to protect children from gun violence, has no substance and no objective facts behind it." I agree that the policy seems half-baked and gratuitous. But the Court has not begun to address issues like this, and it will be interesting to see how the case law develops: What level of scrutiny will the Court apply to gun regulations, and what sort of justifications will it deem adequate?

This is like being around when the federal courts started to define the contours of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Eventually a whole body of law developed that indicated, among other things, which restrictions were most odious, what kind of danger was necessary to justify punishing people for speech, and what "time, place, and manner" regulations were constitutional. This is the sort of guidance George Mason law professor Dan Polsby had in mind back in 1996, when he wrote an article for Reason about what it would mean to treat the Second Amendment "as normal constitutional law." Since it was only two years ago that the Supreme Court clearly stated for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms, we are only beginning to find out.

The Seattle ban, in any case, is inoperative. Last month a King County judge ruled that it violates a state law pre-empting local gun controls. More on the challenge to the ban here.

[Thanks to Paul in Seattle for the tip.]

NEXT: Noted Homophobe Named Norway's "Role Model of the Year"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The Seattle ban, in any case, is inoperative. Last month a King County judge ruled that it violates a state law pre-empting local gun controls.

    Exactly. State law in WA states that a locality cannot pass any gun laws that are more restrictive than the state laws. Seattle has tried repeatedly to do so and the state has smacked them down every time, but they keep trying.

    It was a completely toothless ban anyway; it had no criminal penalties. All they could do was ask you to leave. I suppose if you didn’t, then they could have you arrested.

  2. One thing I’d like to point out (and this goes further than just the gun ban issue), but I find that liberals are increasingly adopting the conservative mantra with the first amendment regarding “community standards”.

    This is essentially a ‘community standards’ argument– where constitutional rights- or exercise thereof are restrained or limited by ‘community standards’.

    This is 2-live Crew all over again, but with guns.

  3. I’ve read that many liberals oppose restrictions on pit bulls as “breed specific bans” that overgeneralize and overstate the danger from pit bulls as a group. But they suport gun control like the law in question here. You can bring your pit bull to the park but not your gun, that seems daft to me. It seems to me that a pit bull is more likely to “go off” and harm someone than a gun…Just an observation…

    1. I recently experienced this when a pit bull named, “Lady,” came running at me in a city park. Luckily I was on my bike and she couldn’t grab a hold of one of my limbs (although she tried for a solid 5 minutes).

      I don’t support breed-specific bans but would appreciate a fucking leash on your vicious dog. But this could also be a reason to support the carrying of self-protection in parks.

  4. As to the scrutiny I’d like to see strict scrutiny of course. However given the nature of this issue the courts will nearly always find the “compelling interest” part in favor of the state. It’ll be the “narrow tailoring” part that will be interesting. How will laws banning concealed weapons, or exotic weapons, or bans on certain people owning firearms (like felons), or “one gun a month” laws fare under these? I’m betting that since all of these laws involve things that are, in fact, rarely harmful to the community they might not fare well….But that’s likely being very optimistic…

  5. And I guess it hardly requires mention that the only people with guns whom anyone would ever need to worry about in a city park aren’t really going to give a soft shit about the law.

    1. It’s like as soon as you move T-Rex sees you and you’re done. The gun knows to go off, killing any children in the park, as soon as a pants-wetting progressive senses it’s presence.

      In other words, logic/reality need not apply.

    2. We have already had someone suggest shooting a dog (and whatever people are near/behind it), for approaching someone and causing no harm.

  6. Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL!

  7. LOL, the Supreme Kangaroo Court has spoken, what a joke. I doubt anyone who wants to seriously protect themselves is going to care about waht some stupid pompous judge says. I mean seriously.


  8. Where do we get some of these judges. Can states and cities restrict free speech now? What about voting rights?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.