If the phrase "Second Amendment audit" has you puzzled and wondering what it means, continue reading for an explanation of how it led to the arrest of a YouTuber for carrying a firearm into an Oklahoma City restaurant.
Prosecutors eventually dropped the felony charges, but the case offers an opportunity to discuss the interplay between state laws and the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. It also gives some insight into the profit motive behind some of the videos appearing on YouTube.
YouTuber conducts an "audit"
After his arrest, the 53-year-old man acknowledged that the act of openly displaying a firearm as he walked around the city (and subsequently entered the restaurant that resulted in his arrest) was part of an "audit" regarding how police respond to such displays. He claimed his motivation was to educate law enforcement and the public about gun rights. Still, he also conceded that at least a portion of his income came from posting videos he creates displaying similar activities on YouTube.
An interesting side note to this incident is that the YouTuber may have been on to something in his efforts to educate people about the Second Amendment. Regardless of how much it is mentioned on the news and YouTube, the Constitution’s effect on Oklahoma gun laws may not be quite as straightforward as it should be.
Unlawful carry law in Oklahoma
Oklahoma state law makes it unlawful for a person to carry a concealed or unconcealed firearm in public except under specific circumstances, including the following:
· Educational or recreational purposes.
· Police or other peace officers in the performance of official duties.
· Judges in a courthouse with valid handgun licenses.
· Living history reenactments.
The statute includes language making it lawful for a person who is 21 years of age or older to carry a concealed or unconcealed firearm. Someone who is at least 18 years of age may qualify to carry a firearm provided the person is a member or veteran of the armed forces.
Consequently, you may be wondering about the arrest of this particular YouTuber who was in his fifties and apparently in compliance with the open-carry law. The answer in this situation (and many others like it), in which apparently lawful activities result in an arrest, is a direct result of how laws are enacted.
It’s common for legislators to realize a need to change, or add to, laws they previously enacted. In the case of the open carry law, the legislature followed up the initial enactment with another statute prohibiting the carrying or possession of a weapon in bars, restaurants, and other establishments where low-point beer and other alcoholic beverages are consumed. That is the specific law the YouTuber was charged with violating.
“But, what about the Constitution?”
The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. It contains only the following sentence: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. "These few words have been the subject of debate and interpretation ever since the states ratified the amendment.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2008 sought to settle the debate in regards to the rights granted by the amendment. The Court ruled the Second Amendment protected the right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes.
The High Court ultimately held that the Founding Fathers did not intend to limit the rights granted in the amendment exclusively to members of a militia. It was noted in the majority decision that, as with most rights secured by the Bill of Rights, the right to bear arms is not without limits, though.
The 2008 decision left open the ability of the states to enact laws imposing "presumptively lawful" limits on Second Amendment rights. Included among those possible limits states could impose were prohibitions against possession by felons and individuals suffering from a mental illness.
States may also restrict a person’s right to take firearms into what the Court referred to as "sensitive places." Examples mentioned explicitly in the decision were schools and government buildings, but it wouldn’t be that great a stretch for a state to enact a law, as Oklahoma has done, prohibiting guns in places where alcoholic beverages are consumed.
Know your rights
The YouTuber thought he knew his rights under the Second Amendment, but the incident could have ended quite differently for him had the district attorney chose to move forward with the charges. Understanding criminal laws and your rights protected by the Constitution can be complicated without a criminal defense attorney’s assistance in interpretation.