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The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs, and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians.

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  • 1.  Interesting Read--Aryah Neier Thinkpiece on Guns as Speech

    Posted Jan 06, 2023 09:52 AM
    "The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the display of weapons during public protests. I have no idea how the Court will resolve that tension if and when it considers the issue. But regardless of any eventual legal outcome of this debate, the display of arms at a political rally or demonstration has a chilling effect on those with different views. It damages the culture of free speech, and people will be less willing to speak their mind or engage in counter-protest."

    Guns Are Not Speech

    Had this discussion a few years ago when the local Libertarian Party caucused in our library and the caucus leader had a pistol on his hip. At the time, guns were not allowed in public buildings in Iowa (they are now) and I had to talk to him about depositing it elsewhere, like his automobile. The man said that the open carrying of a weapon was a form of "performative speech" not unlike carrying a sign. He lost the argument back then, but this piece speaks to it a bit more philosophically.

    Darryl Eschete
    West Des Moines Public Library

  • 2.  RE: Interesting Read--Aryah Neier Thinkpiece on Guns as Speech

    Posted Jan 10, 2023 08:40 AM
    I agree this is an interesting read although I don't think all nuance is accounted for.

    For example, at the risk of being pedantic, what about the case of a peaceful assembly for the purposing of advocating for the right to display firearms? In such an instance, wouldn't the display of firearms be performative speech, as well as civil disobedience?

    Additionally, the law differentiates between brandishing and legal display. The definition of brandish under the Federal criminal code (18 U.S. Code Chapter 44 - FIREARMS § 924 - Penalties) includes the clause "in order to intimidate that person" [to whom the firearm is visible], which speaks to motive on the part of the displayer. Many states differentiate between lawful display (like open carry) and brandishing. The USConcealedCarry.com site has a decent state-by-state guide (your mileage may vary).

    Further, the author does not take into account all objects which may be used as improvised lethal weapons. Again, at the risk of being pedantic, a hand towel can be used with lethal force by an aggressor with the proper skill.

    Finally, I share the author's concerns about the chilling effect. While they don't use this exact phrasing, I think they are speaking to the issue of intent vs. impact, in that not every display of a weapon is intended to intimidate, although that might be the ultimate impact. However, a government edict on display of firearms, where firearm display could constitute speech, would also create a chilling effect, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the mode or message of the speech.

    I would simply amend the essay title to "Guns Are Not Always Speech" or "Guns Are Sometimes Speech."