I am not sure whether it’s a plus or a minus for Americans that they can show up slinging guns at events where their President is making a public appearance. But this I know: In many other countries they would be shot.
About a dozen people carrying guns, including one with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle (photo at right), were among protesters outside an Arizona convention center where President Barack Obama was giving a speech to veterans on Monday. And last week, during the President’s health care town hall meeting in New Hampshire, a man carrying a sign reading “It is time to water the tree of liberty” stood outside with a pistol strapped to his thigh.
The quotation is part of Thomas Jefferson’s famous endorsement of revolution:
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
I can only imagine what would be left of an Iraqi protester who showed up outside the Green Zone carrying a gun and a sign like that. But, for reasons that escape me, some Americans assume they have a special dispensation to act recklessly and threateningly. They say they’re exercising their constitutional right to bear arms and to protest.
I say they’re being intimidating and provocative. Given the American predilection for assassinating their presidents, I wonder at the tolerance shown these armed protesters. It will be too late to do anything about them after some loon guns down President Obama in response to the incitement of right-wing agitators on the web, radio and TV.
No one was arrested at either event. Police said the armed protesters did not need permits. It is legal in both Arizona and New Hampshire to carry weapons that are openly displayed.
I suppose there is something to be said for the freedom to do and say foolish – and dangerous – things. I know the United States Constitution provides the right to do both. But I find it strange that in a country where motorists must fasten their seat belts, where youths are forbidden to drink alcohol, and where smoking is banned in public places, crazies can walk about in public brandishing lethal weapons.