If the Secret Service and the White House don’t worry about armed-to-the-teeth civilians being in relatively close proximity to Barack Obama, why should we? Certainly no one who might disagree with what is going on inside one of those free-for-all forums on health care could be expected to use his Second Amendment privilege to harm the president or any of the rest of us who might be outside, hoping to get in.
In fact, it is a safe bet that if you asked the fellow chillingly pictured at one of these affairs with a semi-automatic assault rifle slung over his shoulder and a handgun on his hip why he felt the need to come so loaded for bear, he would reply that he was there to protect himself and the rest of us. From what or whom? It is a good thing, too. Obviously the several hundred police officers guarding the outside of the presidential venue couldn’t handle the job. Only a National Rifle Association-certified American could be trusted to do that.
Have we completely lost our collective minds? The answer couldn’t be clearer in the affirmative.
During the Vietnam era, Lyndon Johnson wasn’t considered safe much outside his Pennsylvania Avenue mansion. In fact, he was more secure on a visit to Vietnam than on a trip up to Capitol Hill or to his beloved ranch in the Texas hill country. Anyone carrying a gun anywhere near him would have been wrestled to the ground or shot without hesitation by his ubiquitous bodyguards who were quite sensitive about firearms in the hands of citizens, having lost his predecessor to a maniac with a gun.
But that was before the NRA took over Congress and then, with a boost from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, assumed control of the entire asylum we live in. Scalia was the main man in the vote certifying the right to bear arms that has made it increasingly more difficult to bring some sanity about guns into our daily lives.
We have been assured that state laws that permit carrying weapons must be obeyed and that there never is any real threat to the president who is brought in and out and maintained during his appearance with the strictest security. That at least is nice to know, although it is hard to believe that the current laxness in the brandishing laws doesn’t make that effort more difficult. And, of course, once again it says nothing about the dangers facing the rest of us who might not agree with the fellow who is armed or who find ourselves in the line of fire when someone else does.
But then we probably shouldn’t worry too much because once the man pointed the AK 47 or whatever he may be carrying at someone or makes like he might use it in any other way presumably the police would be able to act … if it wasn’t too late. One has to wonder about the mental stability of anyone who finds it necessary to arm himself in the course of a peaceful demonstration or in a crowd waiting to see a celebrity or during normal business hours unless he is carrying large sums of money. What is the purpose?
The psychology of passionate gun ownership beyond sport shooting or hunting can be debated endlessly with tempers frequently becoming so frayed that an ultimate duel seems always a possibility. All reason disappears and dialogue bounces between unintelligent babble and the most vile, name-calling threats. But even the most ardent defender of the firearm faith would have to agree that being near the president of the United States with an unauthorized weapon of any magnitude is probably not a good idea.
The gun lobby has put Obama high on its nemesis list as one who secretly wants to disarm the citizenry. By not protesting the nearness of firearm mayhem at his events, the White House obviously wants to avoid furthering these allegations. That could be sorry rather than safe. The perimeter at these affairs should be extended to at least a mile away.
(E-mail Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at thomassondan(at)aol.com.)