President Donald Trump's oldest son is no stranger to creating controversy, especially on social media. In the most recent case, Donald Trump Jr. posted a photo of a belt on Instagram over the weekend — but it wasn't just any belt. It had a (small) firearm in its buckle, and Trump Jr. seemed pretty proud of it.
In the photo, a happy Trump Jr. can be seen modeling a Freedom Arms belt with a built-in .22-caliber pistol in its holder. He wrote in a caption that he "had fun getting a bit dirty today" and added, "I got to bust out the coolest belt ever. Taking open carry to a whole new level!" This may not shock viewers who have a general idea of Trump Jr.'s political stances. After all, the president's son is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment.
Examples of his support for the right to carry arms includes sharing memes from Gun Owners of America with text like: "Trump should tweet something anti-gun; I just want to see liberals defend the Second Amendment."
In the case of the Sunday photo, which has received over 45,000 likes at the time of this article's publication, the question remains: Was Trump Jr.'s gun belt legal? According to the Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit policy research organization on gun violence, "New York prohibits the possession of a 'loaded' handgun outside of the home or place of business without a carry license."
The center adds, "The state also prohibits any person from possessing a 'loaded' short-barreled shotgun or rifle or an assault weapon outside of his or her home or place of business." In other words, Trump Jr.'s fiery fashion accessory would be illegal in public.
For Trump Jr., who tagged New York's Catskills as the location for his photo, this state law could potentially pose a problem. But it's likely that the president's son wore the gun belt while he was at the private property he owns in upstate New York, where he may do as he pleases.
David Chipman, senior policy adviser at Giffords Law Center, as well as a concealed carry owner who served as a special agent in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for 25 years, tells Bustle that Trump Jr.'s display seems "sort of gimmicky." In addition to the legal issues that such a display may create, Chipman says it raises questions of ethics and social safety.
"We have a lot of rights under our Constitution," Chipman says. "But for me, as someone who has served this country, we have responsibilities as well. Patriotism is much more than just exercising your right to do something; it's considering your impact on everyone you live around. Carrying a gun openly is a big deal, especially if it's causing concern to other people."
"If it's a political statement [on the Second Amendment], I understand what he's doing," Chipman adds. Still, the senior policy adviser says, "I don't know if it's helpful."
Displays like Trump Jr.'s may garner fleeting attention, but Chipman says they could also lead to corroding kindness and connection in society, especially when it comes to the tense subject of gun violence in the United States. The nonprofit Gun Violence Archive reports that 101 mass shootings have taken place in 2018 alone.
"I wish we lived in a world where people could balance the right to keep yourself safe as long as you're trained and abiding by the law," Chipman tells Bustle, "but to also have respect for fellow Americans who might see things differently."