NPR logo Obama Town-Hall Gun Toters May Have An Upside


Obama Town-Hall Gun Toters May Have An Upside

There's been much sound and fury recently about people bringing guns to the public viewing areas set up outside President Barack Obama's town-hall meetings.

Yesterday, one fellow drew a lot of attention by bringing an AR-15, a civilian version of the military's M-16 , to an area outside the Phoenix venue where the president spoke. He was one of about 12 people who were obviously packing outside the event.

CNN reported today that the man with the rifle who appeared to be interviewed by a reporter was part of a staged event by supporters of Rep. Ron Paul.

Staged or not, however, the sight of average citizens carrying weapons at these events disturbs many an observer.

In part, it's because of the nation's history of presidential assassinations. Add to that the particular worries for the president's safety related to his being the nation's first African American president and the concerns are understandable.

But there's another way to look at these gun-toters outside presidential events. They are indeed protected by the Second Amendment and state laws that allow them to carry their weapons.

So there's no constitutional way to ban those who would cling to their guns outside Obama's town halls.

Since metal detectors are used to scan people who actually enter the halls where the president will be, chances are slim that someone could get a gun or knife into a presidential event undetected.

Rick Sanchez of CNN interviewed a retired Secret Service agent today who lamented that the gun carriers distract the attention of the local police who could be better utilized by keeping their eyes peeled for higher level threats against the president. He opined that the presidential protection team might have to push back the perimeter around the events.

By openly carrying their weapons, the gun toters are at least easily identifiable to law enforcement, including Secret Service sharp shooters who, for all we know, are watching them intently through the cross hairs of their scopes.

So there's an upside to the "open carry" types, even though they cause a lot of other people great unease. Since they can't be prevented from appearing outside the events, the rest of us will just have to learn to live with them.