The debate over gun control has become increasingly heated and complex. An argument gaining prominence among gun control advocates and legislators is the concept of “sensitive places.” This argument is used to justify new gun control laws and restrictions on legal concealed carry.
In this blog article, we will delve into the trend of gun control advocates using “sensitive places” as a rationale for stricter gun control measures and examine the implications of this argument.
The “Sensitive Places” Argument
The “sensitive places” argument posits that there are certain locations where the presence of firearms poses an increased risk to public safety. Advocates argue that in these places, stricter gun control measures and restrictions on concealed carry are necessary to protect the public. Some common examples of such sensitive places include schools, government buildings, airports and public transportation hubs.
Advocates of this argument often point to tragic incidents of mass shootings that have occurred in these types of locations to support their case. They argue that by limiting access to firearms in sensitive places, we can reduce the likelihood of such events happening in the future.
It might surprise you that we agree with the concept of “sensitive places,” but more on that later.
The Legal Landscape
The legal landscape surrounding the “sensitive places” argument is complex and varies from state to state within the United States. While the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, the courts have recognized that this right is not absolute and can be subject to reasonable restrictions.
The Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) clarified that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms for self-defense. However, the Court also acknowledged that certain “longstanding prohibitions” on carrying firearms in sensitive places or sensitive times (such as government buildings or schools) are constitutional.
Later, in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case (2023), the Court established a new framework for assessing the constitutionality of gun regulations. According to this framework, modern-day gun control laws must align with the nation’s “historical tradition” to be considered constitutional.
The problem with the sensitive place doctrine is that of “historical tradition” standard established in Bruen. How far back in history do we need to go when considering a tradition? Many public places that exist today did not exist 100 years ago, making the definition of what a sensitive place is subject to interpretation. Naturally, gun control advocates seek a very broad definition while those defending freedom and natural rights want a narrow definition.
In response, several states have taken different approaches to defining and regulating certain locations as sensitive places to comply with both Heller and Bruen, but the criteria for designating a place as “sensitive” can vary widely, leading to legal disputes and challenges.
Implications and Controversies
The use of the “sensitive places” argument in the gun control debate raises several important questions and controversies:
- Effectiveness: Critics argue that restricting firearms in sensitive places may not necessarily prevent mass shootings or other acts of violence. They contend that individuals with criminal intent will not be deterred by such regulations.
- Second Amendment Rights: Gun rights advocates maintain that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to carry firearms for self-defense, even in sensitive places. They argue that overly broad restrictions may infringe upon these rights.
- Legal Challenges: The designation of sensitive places and the constitutionality of gun control measures are subject to legal challenges. Courts must carefully balance public safety concerns with individual rights, leading to ongoing legal disputes.
- Potential for Misuse: Some worry that the concept of sensitive places could be expanded to justify more extensive gun control measures, potentially infringing on Second Amendment rights more broadly.
Perhaps the most recent example of gun control overreach is the recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court to stay California’s “Ban Conceal Carry Everywhere” bill (aka SB2). As we previously reported in our article California Gun Law (SB2) Banning Concealed Carry in Most Public Places Faces Huge Legal Challenges:
In December 2023, Federal District Judge Cormac Carney suspended SB2 by issuing an injunction, deeming it unconstitutional and in violation of the Second Amendment. Judge Carney argued that SB2 essentially labeled nearly all public places in California as “sensitive places,” thereby infringing upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding and highly qualified citizens to carry firearms for self-defense in public.
Although Judge Carney’s decision was struck down by a three-judge panel, the Ninth Circuit quickly reinstated the stay, and the law is not in effect as of this writing. The final fate SB2 appears up to the Supreme Court, however, we note that when a law is stayed by a court, there is a strong likelihood that eventually it will be found unconstitutional.
The “sensitive places” argument has become a focal point in the ongoing debate over gun control in the United States. While advocates argue that stricter regulations in sensitive places are necessary to enhance public safety, opponents raise concerns about the potential infringement on Second Amendment rights and the effectiveness of such measures.
We agree there are sensitive places where people and kids are most vulnerable, and we further believe these are exactly the places where legally armed citizens, aka “good guys with a gun,” should be. Even so, we encourage those who legally carry concealed to stay current with all relevant laws and regulations and remain wary of legislation pushed with the “sensitive places” rationale.
*Second Call Defense is not insurance and does not sell or promote insurance products. Second Call Defense is a membership organization that provides its members access to the “Second Amendment Support Foundation, Inc.,” which provides the means necessary to protect Second Call Defense members from the legal aftermath of exercising their right to self-defense. For an overview of the differences between Second Call Defense Member Benefits and traditional insurance, click here.