First, the hat-tip to Mike W. at Another Gun Blog for covering it, even though a lot of what I write here will probably severely anger him.
Let's start here:
This is soccer mom Melanie Hain, obviously photographed at a five-year-old game, proudly wearing her Glock 26:
Hain has a PA permit to carry a concealed weapon, but on September 11 at Southwest Park in Lebanon PA she was carrying the piece openly, which I need to state clearly at the outset is completely legal.
According to the Lebanon Daily News, Hain was unprepared for the complaints that followed:
“I’m just a soccer mom who has always openly carried (a firearm), and I’ve never had a problem before,” she said. “I don’t understand why this is happening to me."
What happened was this:
Parents were upset by the presence of the weapon at the game being played by 4- and 5-year-olds, said Charlie Jones, who coaches one of three under-age-6 teams, known as U6, in the Lebanon Recreation Youth Soccer program.
“More than one parent was upset,” he said. “I did not see it, but it was brought to my attention.”
Jones, who is also the county’s public defender, said he wasn’t certain if Hain was breaking the law by wearing the gun, so he did not ask her to remove it. However, he explained to her that its presence was making parents upset and asked her to view the game from the other side of the field, away from the sideline were the kids were standing. She complied but continued to wear her holstered weapon, he said.
There was no confrontation, and police were not called to the park, Jones said.
Hain’s version of events is roughly the same as Jones’. However, she claims he raised his voice and talked over her when they spoke after the game. He denies that.
“His basic message to me was that if I was not carrying it because I was concerned about the other parents, then I should leave it off the field and keep it in the car,” she said.
Of course, that wasn't the end of it:
The end of the game was not the end of the incident for Hain. In the days following, she received two notices about her decision to wear a firearm at the game.
The first came from the Lebanon soccer-program director, Nigel Foundling, who had been contacted by Jones.
A former district judge from Jonestown, Foundling sent an e-mail to Hain the day after the incident advising her that carrying firearms was against the program’s policy. Foundling told Hain any future attempts to do so would cause her to be banned from attending her daughter’s games. He also said he would inform police about the matter.
“A responsible adult would realize that such behavior has no place at a soccer game,” Foundling wrote....
A few days after receiving Foundling’s e-mail, Hain received a letter from county Sheriff Mike DeLeo, the local authority in charge of issuing gun licenses. A parent of another child contacted him about Hain.
In response, DeLeo revoked her concealed-weapons permit under a statute of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act that denies permits to any “individual whose character and reputation is such that the individual would be likely to act in a dangerous manner to public safety.”
Although DeLeo has never met Hain and does not know her, he based his decision on what he considered a lack of judgment in bringing an openly worn weapon to a youth soccer match.
“That is my personal opinion,” he said. “I believe that, and that is why I revoked her permit. She has the right to pursue an appeal, and if the court rules that I was not justified I will be required to give her permit back.”
Magee [Hain's attorney] said he is preparing to file an appeal.
“There is a provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution that specifically prohibits any government agency from interfering with the right of an individual to openly carry a firearm,” he said. “He’s basically punishing her for doing something she is permitted by law to do.”
DeLeo said he was well aware of the irony that his revocation of Hain’s permit to conceal a weapon will actually force her to wear it openly if she chooses to carry her firearm. He said he wanted to bring the matter to the public’s attention, but he did not have the right to take away her gun, so revoking the permit was his only option.
“I felt some action was needed, and I do believe that something like this should be brought to the public’s attention so the public is aware of what took place,” he said. “The public has the right to complain about the issue, and if the Legislature wants to do something, then so be it.”
This case has drawn considerable attention in the gun blogs and bulletin boards, which you can access if you're interested through Mike W.'s blog, but Mike sums up the feelings expressed there pretty succinctly:
Absolutely stunning logic there huh? Some pants shitter complains about open carry, so they revoke her concealed carry permit, thereby requiring that she open carry from now on.
She should continue to open carry at the soccer games. If the league complains she should hand them copies of the letter she received from the sheriff and explain to them that she now must carry openly because of the revocation.
Also, can the league really "ban" her? Around here the soccer fields aren't private property, even if they are being used by a particular soccer league. I believe the ones near me are public property under the jurisdiction of New Castle County Parks & Recreation. They're certainly not owned or operated by any soccer league, and the league can't ban someone from a public park.
OK, here's the first thing you need to understand about my position: I do not advocate changing the laws to make open carry of firearms in PA illegal, and I think it was plainly illegal for law enforcement to void Hain's concealed weapon permit for not violating the law.
On the other hand, anyone who carries a pistol openly to U6 soccer games is arguably an idiot, and can legally be banned from attending games if such behavior violates league policy.
Let's unpack this:
1) Hain could have chosen to carry her Glock out of sight, but she didn't. Openly carrying the piece did not improve her level of personal security.
2) Hain in fact admitted that she wasn't carrying the piece out of any particular fear or threat, but out of habit.
3) Hain could reasonably have left the pistol in her car, with no real reduction in her personal safety and security.
Therefore, I conclude: Hain's behavior (which I emphasize again, was legal) represented a personal political statement rather than a decision based on security concerns.
Now, as to the league and the parents, who Mike W. so charitably derides as pants-shitters:
1) All of the referees and coaches in these leagues are volunteers; most are parents, but many are even teenagers. If you have ever been to these events--even at the U6 level--you will know that idiots and buffoons on the sidelines [read soccer moms, dads, and siblings] too often become abusive, intimidating, or even violent toward them. In U8 YMCA soccer and basketball in Delaware over the past year I have seen parents have to be removed for inappropriate behavior by Y officials or even arrested.
2) As a result of these overtly abusive behaviors, almost every league has enacted parental behavior policies, which parents are required to comply with as a condition of their children participating in the league. Parents know this when they sign up, and have the ultimate libertarian choice of either not signing up or starting their own league with different rules. That the league's rules may not specifically cover firearms, the intent of those policies are clear enough: behaviors that can be considered intimidating by the league coaches, referees, or officials are legitimate reasons to ask someone to leave.
3) Even if the behavior is legal, that certainly does not equate to being situationally appropriate, and the fact that other people objected to the behavior does not make them anti-gun or pants-shitters.
But, again, I need to emphasize that while the league arguably has the power to ban Hain, the law enforcement agency involved had absolutely no legal basis for suspending her concealed weapons permit.
Yet the upshot of all this is: idiotic if legal behavior by gun owners who demonstrate such poor judgment is one of the major reasons that attacks on the Second Amendment gain ground.
Being a Libertarian means that I stand up for the individual liberties of other American citizens, even when I disagree with how they choose to use those rights [as long as they are not harming anyone else].
It means I don't react to the non-harmful stupid acts of others by demanding that the rest of society be punished by new laws.
But it also doesn't mean that I give up the right to categorize and condemn idiotic or offensive behavior as idiotic or offensive, and seek to convince others that it's not a good idea.
It doesn't mean that I don't support the right of private associations like the YMCA or soccer clubs to set binding standards of behavior, and enforce them.
Sorry, Mike, as much as I support her right to carry, that right also entails responsibilities, and your shallow characterization of those who objected to her behavior is patently offensive.
She Fears Nothing may be Melanie Hain's blog handle, but maybe she should consider changing it to She's An Idiot.