If you go shopping in Huntsville, Texas, you’re likely to run into a local preacher with an assault rifle slung across his back. Beginning last week, Pastor Terry Holcomb started posting videos of himself wandering into local businesses with an AR-15 Bushmaster rifle — the same weapon used to kill 20 children and six adults in the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.
In one video, Holcomb wanders about a Walmart for several minutes before he is approached by two store employees and asked to leave. He argues briefly with those two employees until a manager approaches and threatens to call the police if he does not exit the store. Although Holcomb then agrees to leave the store, he refuses a request to stop videoing the engagement — at one point, his camera man claims the recording is for Holcomb’s “safety.”
Holcomb told a local news station that the purpose of his conspicuously armed visits to Huntsville businesses is to protest a Texas law which permits gun owners to openly carry long rifles but not handguns, which must be concealed and can only be carried by individuals with valid concealed carry permits.
Yet, while a legal regime that regulates handguns more strictly than assault rifles may seem counter-intuitive, it is entirely sensible to apply stricter regulations to handguns than to other firearms in light of the fact that handguns are so frequently used to commit homicides. According to the FBI, there were approximately 47,500 murders committed with a gun in 2001–2005. Almost 8 in 10 of these murders were committed with a handgun:
Yet, despite the unique danger presented to the public by handguns, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court gave them special protection under the Second Amendment. According to Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, handguns cannot be banned because they are “the most preferred firearm in the nation to `keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family.” Thus, the weapon that is most likely to be used in a gun murder is also the hardest weapon to regulate under this Supreme Court.