Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On Bringing Guns to Political Events

Can you bring a gun to a political event?

Apparently, political events in the US now have a "bring your own gun" policy, which seems a bit silly. Megan McArdle says "the hysteria about them has been even more ludicrous." Probably so. It seems to me that, if you're allowed by law to bring a gun to a public event, people eventually will bring guns to political events. Similarly, if you were allowed, by law, to come to these events in the nude, you'd probably see some shriveled willies. It might make some other people uncomfortable to see somebody with a glock strapped to their leg, but I don't see where just having a gun constitutes a threat. Cops have guns, which tends to make me uncomfortable, but they're allowed to keep them. So, I'm not keen on restricting yet another civil liberty.

Now, coming with a gun and a sign referring to Jefferson's line about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants? I'd imagine you'd spend the entire event in the secret service line of fire, but if that's your thing, hey, knock yourself out. That's the other thing- they have pretty good security at these events. So, if the asshat with the gun on his leg unholsters it, he's likely to do so in the last few seconds of his life. I'm not particularly worried about the open carry fan boys- it's the unlicensed-gun-under-the-coat guys you'd have to look out for. The statistics show that people who are licensed to carry guns are not generally the ones who kill people with them, although they will bore you to death if you ask them to talk about their shooting range experiences.

Should you bring a gun to a political event? Well, not if you're trying to convey some message, aside from "Hey, look at me! I'm an asshat". It's cruel and unfair, but many people are still uncomfortable with seeing guns at ostensibly peaceful public forums; the same is true of chainsaws, machetes, and flamethrowers. Let me put it this way- there are probably states where I'm allowed, by law, to attend a political rally with a bloodsoaked machete and a sign reading "It's not a bad time to kill our political leaders". But, were I to do so, with the intention of drawing attention to my larger point that taxation can be excessive, it would probably be drowned out by the louder message: I am a stupid asshat.

But, again, I'm not worried that the stupid asshat with the "blood of tyrants" poster is going to get a few shots off, or even try to. I'd be willing to bet money that none of the geeks showing off their guns at these rallies will try to use them. There have been a good number of assassinations in American history, but they were never done by people who came in telegraphing "Look at me! I've got a gun! Ask me about Ron Paul!"


Brian Dunbar said...

Similarly, if you were allowed, by law, to come to these events in the nude, you'd probably see some shriveled willies.

I take it you have seen pictures of political rallies in Berkeley? Graphic evidence that only about 1% of humanity are suitable for public nudity.

But - yeah. I would not carry to an event like that. I might bring guns _to_ the rally but would certainly leave them in the trunk. Carrying a rifle around? That's just asking for trouble.

Guys who carry like that are - as you noted - going to be the law-abiding majority. Also well-off: thanks to taxes, regulation and so on 'gun owning' is something only the well-to-do can indulge in.

Holly said...

I have trouble seeing a situation where I am at a political rally, and am endangered by someone who went there with a gun to illustrate what the 2nd Amendment looks like in action.

People who take guns to rallies to shoot at people are very unlikely there to shoot at the crowd, and doubly unlikely to pull anything in a crowd of armed upright citizens.

In this context... I'd feel so much safer at the rally drawing the gunnies than the rally drawing angry anti-abortionists.

rufus said...

Yeah, I wouldn't be particularly concerned myself, mostly just because I grew up around gun owners. Again, I'm fine with them doing it. My point was just that it's not much of a communication aid if you're trying to say anything other than "Look, I have a gun, and I'm not shooting anybody". I mean, there's a point to make there about the 2nd amendment, but my understanding was that these people were coming to discuss their concerns about health insurance reform and why they hate Obama. The guns seem to have distracted from their other points, although they did get attention, which seems to be a pretty big motivator at public events these days.

The armed guy with the wink-wink hey let's spill the blood of the tyrants Jefferson sign who was there to talk about the gold standard or whatever seemed to me particularly clueless about human communication. The guy in Arizona carrying a semi automatic apparently from some church that hates teh gayz was probably also not making his point very well, whatever it might have been.

In general, I'm thinking these health care public halls have been a national tour of fail. The administration still doesn't have a bill, so they're trying to sell people on what they'd like to see in the hypothetical future bill. That's a losing bet anyway, but they're also doing a really shitty job of it. Meanwhile, the protesters, who could easily ask genuinely tough questions, like: "If you want to control health care costs, won't this eventually mean price controls? And, if so, won't that mean that drug companies will have to sell generics and therefore lose much of their incentive to innovate?" Things like that. Instead, they want to talk about how Obama is Hitler, who they believe was a Communist, and that he wants to kill them when they turn 70.

In general, if you say crazy shit at a public forum, they will put you on television. But, if you're doing so because you want to make a non-crazy point, you failed. Yesterday, it was some guy whose academic point was that Obama is a little Hitler and he's going to go to Washington with his gun and take care of him, and who wants to come along? YA-HOO! I had to wonder if reasonable people who happen to also be opposed to the reforms watch things like that and then kick a hole in the drywall in frustration.

I understand that a lot of people are angry. They wanted the brainless old fart and the cocktail waitress to win the election, and instead, they got Mr. Hopey Change and Mayor McCheese. And now they're totally convinced that the country is being violently transformed into the socialist worker's paradise without their consent. So, there will be heated words. But, these groups like Freedom Works that send me weekly spam about going to the town halls really need to add a note about "Please stay home if you have no idea what you're talking about" because they're really screwing the pooch on this one. And, incidentally, some educated Democrats could stand to come out too. Why not? You might end up having intelligent debates going on. Instead, it's like Jerry Springer's Senior Citizen Week.

Holly said...

There are some pretty serious misconceptions about who/what Hitler was, huh? 'cause the way I remember history lessons, bearing in mind that I nearly failed every history class I've ever taken, was that one thing Hitler was NOT, was some kind of highly educated civic-minded do-gooder who went around trying to help the sick and oppressed get a leg up on the pile. I must have missed the lecture that day.

Brian Dunbar said...

one thing Hitler was NOT, was some kind of highly educated civic-minded do-gooder who went around trying to help the sick and oppressed get a leg up on the pile.

As long as the sick had the right ancestry and the oppressed were of good German stock, he was all about that kind of thing, yes.

One of the justifications for annexing the Sudetenland was that the Checks were oppressing the German minority there.

Which, to be fair, was what was happening.

The more I read, the more complex history gets. I want my 8th grade understanding of history back - it was so simple then!

Holly said...

Fair point, Brian. Maybe in the grand scheme, he was just a poor judge of who needed what kind of help.

rufus said...

Brian: yeah, I guess that's a way of looking at it. It reminds me of the old line about Antisemitism being the socialism of fools. Hitler was all about helping the Germans get a leg up on the Jews at any rate.

Holly: Part of the problem is that the Nazis were "National Socialists", which tends to encourage those people who obsess on the evils of the left to see them as characteristically left-wing. It was sort of the thing to do at the time to call your party "socialist", although their economic programs were more corporatist than anything else- there were still private companies and a lot of them worked with the state. There was some socialism too. It's actually hard to find states that don't wind up 'socializing' something- and obviously the Nazi state didn't take much of a hands off approach with anything.

More importantly, I'd consider Nazism- and fascism more generally- to be cultural/political movements, instead of economic programs. There isn't a Nazi school of economics for a reason. Culturally, they were the extreme right. But, honestly, it's probably better to see the spectrum as a circle instead of a line: in their extreme forms, the left wing and right wing sort of overlap.

Of course, while lots of people get a kick out of calling their political opponents Nazis or Fascists- and it's definitely not new. I remember seeing lots of Bush-Hitler stuff- it's also pretty fucking ghastly given the millions of people who were murdered by actual fascists and Nazis. So, hopefully there will be some sort of moratorium on that.

The Pagan Temple said...

The actual term was "Bu$Hitler". I thought it was way over the line, but weirdly enough I still thought it was funny. I guess it's just a screwy part of my nature, but how can you not love a term like "Chimpy MacFlightsuit" even if you think it's over the top?

I guess that's the thing with activists, including the guy with the gun and the sign. They seem to care more about sticking it to their opponents than they do making valid points and reasoned arguments. I think it hurts both sides, but then again, it does get the most attention.

Rufus said...

That's so funny that there's a correct spelling!

Yeah, it's sort of like dehumanizing the other side to make your point. Instead of explaining what they believe and why you disagree, you just try to argue that Bush is a war criminal, or Obama is a Stalinist, or liberals are fascists, or whatever, and so there's no point in arguing with other people- you're just supposed to meet them in the streets with brickbats. It's definitely rousing, but it's no way to run a democracy.