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Moving Into Dangerous Territory

August 18th, 2009

Claiming that they are only “using their rights” as Americans, about a dozen men–at least one carrying a military-style assault rifle–populated the crowds outside the Obama event in Phoenix today. As I remarked before, the one guy outside the event last week went far too far, so a dozen should be that many times more chilling. What seems to have tempered the display is that none, at least as far as I can tell, were bearing signs that intimated that they wanted to actually kill Obama, as was the case with the armed protester in Montana. Nevertheless, the display was chilling.

The protesters simply contend that they were exercising their rights; Arizona, where the event was held, is an “open carry” state, where you can carry a gun in public so long as it is out in the open. If these gun advocates are worried that Obama is going to take away their gun rights (which they really have no reason to be, as Obama has not only made his stance on this clear, but has actually loosened some gun laws), then one might understand a display. However, there is a difference between a display and a threat. If the men had shown up, displayed their weapons for some cameras, made a statement, and then packed away the guns–in other words, made the point about bringing guns and then demonstrated that they meant no ill will–that would be a display.

However, when a president travels, assassination is always a primary concern. To simply have men bearing guns, including assault rifles, milling about crowds of protesters making rather outlandishly hostile rants about the president, some signs even advocating his death, goes beyond simple protest and enters the realm of real security issues. Most surprising to me is the apparently lax attitude the Secret Service is taking to all this.

There is also the question of right in context. One has the right to free speech, but you cannot endanger others; I can shout “Fire!” at a gun range, but not in a movie theater. Depending on the context, one is perfectly appropriate, the other is criminally irresponsible. In the context of a presidential visit, bearing a gun is, in my opinion at least, criminally irresponsible. Bearing a gun is a right, freely speaking is a right, but bearing a gun while making death threats? I don’t think that’s a right. And bearing a gun to a political event definitely strays into that territory: there is a very real, implied threat being made.

Besides, if the real idea here is just exercising rights, then where were these people during the Bush administration? People were getting arrested for shouting non-violent anti-Bush slogans or even just wearing critical T-shirts near Bush events; had anyone then shown up with a gun, they probably would have been arrested on the spot. No one seemed to want to test their gun rights then, did they?

Add that to the fact that Obama has only been friendly to relaxing gun laws and you get the clear impression that the whole “gun rights” claim is not a reason, but an excuse to make thinly veiled death threats against the president of the United States of America. There is a difference between exercising your rights and hiding behind them.

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  1. Tim Kane
    August 18th, 2009 at 11:50 | #1

    I can’t remember a more revolting month in American politics.

    The right is flexing its bullying tendency and its bulldozing Obama’s presidency.

    Somehow, the 6% of the voting public known as ‘birthers’, are also the same folks now called ‘deathers’ – meaning Health Reform will create Death panels that sentence sick and elderly to death – are succeeding in destroying the material aspects of Obama’s health reform.

    The American Republic is in deep deep trouble.

    So is the Obama presidency.

    He may very well get over it, but he’s painted himself into a corner.

    His appeasement to Republicans hasn’t bought him any Republican votes, but is collapsing his support from the left, to the point where he may lose 100 house votes, making him a lame duck president with 3 and a half years left in his presidency.

    Clinton had things like this happen to him several times in his Presidency, but at the end of the day, he had a successful Presidency.

    Right now Obama’s bipartisanship looks like an enormously flawed strategy that is sinking him. Hopefully he’ll take a page from Clinton, shake off, and learn how to play hard ball.

    One of my favorite quotes from Franklin Roosevelt, was a speech he gave in regard to Republican attacks on the New Deal: “I am an old campaigner, and I love a good fight.”

    If Obama doesn’t like to fight, he’s in the wrong job. He want’s to get concessions from Republicans, he’s got to stand up to them and show some teeth, iron will and some steel, and put the fear of God in them.

    It doesn’t put much fear in Republicans when any idiot can show up at one of his events with an assault rifle. Someone should be putting these guys in jail.

  2. August 20th, 2009 at 16:54 | #2

    Actually Louis, the ‘open carry’ movement has been going on for some time, since well before the health care blow up or even Obama’s election. They are just using this issue to get national attention.

    The general notion behind it is the belief that one of the major problems facing gun rights is the emotional reaction people who are not used to being around guns have when they are around guns. People freak out. The idea is that it is hard to maintain a state of ‘freaked out’ when faced with constant exposure and no resultant problems. Eventually, it stops being a big deal, is no longer newsworthy.

    Opinions about this approach are pretty divided in gun rights circles.
    A pretty good roundup of reactions can be found here (http://www.saysuncle.com/2009/08/19/gunman-opens-ire/).

    For what it’s worth, I have not read anyone who thinks that guy with the “tree of liberty” sign was OK. Legal carry? Good. Implied threats to use a gun illegaly? Bad.

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