The gun Gavin Long used to kill three Baton Rouge police officers, and wound three more, is “the ultimate weapon of the 21st century,” its manufacturer boasts.
On its website, Israel Weapon Industries explains that the TAVOR assault rifle was “especially created” in response to “dynamic changes in the modern battlefield, the threats of global terrorism and the demands of ever-changing combat situations.” Developed in co-operation with the Israel Defense Forces, the TAVOR can fire 900 rounds a minute. It is popular with armies throughout the world.
The notion of putting such weapons in civilian hands would be regarded as insane in any other country. But then only we have the Second Amendment and the subtlety of mind required to construe it as conferring on any Tom, Dick and Harry the right to acquire high-tech military hardware. This is the one aspect of American exceptionalism that will always baffle the rest of the world. But then there would be no such thing as American exceptionalism if we were to fret about that.
As ominous a sight as it was, Gavin Long’s heavily armed walk down Airline Highway fell squa…
Long was spotted walking along Airline Highway toting the “ultimate weapon” and wearing a coat in the July heat, which must have made him an even more alarming sight. But police had no probable cause to make an arrest, for Louisiana has no law against carrying firearms in plain view. As State Police Chief Mike Edmonson put it, Long was “just a dude with a rifle.” If that makes it sound as though the sight of a heavily armed man in unseasonal clothing is nothing out of the ordinary, a passer-by saw it differently and a 911 call was made.
Had police approached him then, Long would no doubt have opened fire on the spot. A few minutes later Long launched his attack, and he was soon dead too.
The carnage has naturally spurred calls for legislation to outlaw open carry in Louisiana, but this would surely be a waste of time. Any gun-control bill is pretty much doomed from the start in Louisiana, and any that did pass would be vulnerable to challenge now that the constitution has been amended to make the right to keep and bear arms “fundamental.”
Seeing what Gavin Eugene Long left behind -- three dead officers, three more wounded and a d…
That means that any restriction is subject to “strict scrutiny” and must be “narrowly tailored” to meet a compelling government interest. A ban on open carry would tie up the courts for ages.
Besides the publicity would inevitably mean the streets would be jammed with Second Amendment devotees asserting their rights by brandishing lethal weapons. Any gun control measure will be denounced as a threat to liberty, and nothing would encourage open carry more than a move to ban it.
In any case, it is by no means clear that an open carry ban would make a discernible dent in gunfire deaths, which run about 30,000 a year in this country.
Pretty much Louisiana's only concession on guns is that you can't carry one that is concealed unless you undergo training and buy a permit. If you don't want to be bothered with all that, just make sure your gun is visible as you stroll down the street, and you'll be just another dude.
Concealment was presumably not an option for Long; even with his odd choice of apparel, an assault rifle must have stuck out somewhere. But if Long had been carrying a concealed weapon, legal or otherwise, he would have been no less of a threat, and there would have been no reason for anyone to alert the cops before he began his rampage.
Of course, as gun rights advocates are forever pointing out, only law-abiding citizens are going to get permits anyway. Still, it is an eccentric law that lets you walk along holding a gun that would require a permit if you had it in a holster.
But requiring permits for open carry would achieve little beyond spurring further debate about gun control. That has long been a barren debate; we have heard all the arguments from both sides a million times, and the NRA has prevailed with the slogan that guns that don't kill people; people kill people.
Still, the people who kill people must find it much easier with such weapons as the TAVOR assault rifle.
Note: Thursday's column explained that Gavin Long could not be arrested before he gunned down Baton Rouge policemen because he was entitled under Louisiana law to carry a firearm openly. State Police ask me to make clear that when Col. Mike Edmonson called Long “a dude with a rifle,” he was quoting a 911 caller.