Oh yeah? Wanna bet? by mattsteinglass
August 26, 2009, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Conservatism

Are Guns at Protests Really Dangerous? – Megan McArdle .

Megan is right: the people carrying guns openly at anti-Obama rallies probably won’t fire them. I don’t think we should be complacent about any risk of people shooting each other at political rallies. I am confident that the possibility of a gun being discharged at an anti-Obama rally before the next midterm is greater than 0.5%. That is a risk I don’t see the point of tolerating. If Megan wants to take a 100-to-1 bet on that happening — $500 to me if it happens, $5 to her if it doesn’t — I’d take that bet.

Megan then asks that we stop calling the gun-toters “crazed militia members”. I don’t know who used that phrase. But both the “crazed” and “militia member” demographics are highly overrepresented among people who bring guns to Obama rallies, compared to the population as a whole.

The point of the argument, though, isn’t really about the likelihood of a shootout. The point is that a gun is an instrument of violence. People who bring guns to rallies may feel they are saying “I have the right to carry a gun, and that is an important value that I feel is part of being an American.” But liberals who see conservatives at rallies carrying guns think they are saying, roughly, “I am prepared to use armed violence in defense of my views.” And obviously since our views differ, that is a threatening message to get.

The politics of this issue are very heavily bound up with the fact that anyone who carries a gun openly in the US is at least 90% likely to be a right-wing white Christian heterosexual male. If there were large numbers of muscular black guys with Malcolm X or Black Panther Party t-shirts walking down residential streets in Phoenix carrying AR-15s, or lots of Wiccan diesel dykes showing up at anti-Sarah Palin rallies with abortion rights signs and Glocks in their belts, there would be some NRA members who had no problem with that. But the large majority of regular center-right folks who normally support gun rights and oppose Obama would be very uncomfortable with that sort of thing.


12 Comments so far
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But liberals who see conservatives at rallies carrying guns think they are saying, roughly, “I am prepared to use armed violence in defense of my views.” And obviously since our views differ, that is a threatening message to get.

Why do you think liberals are the only ones who feel that way? I think if you polled a representative group of conservatives, liberals, and independents, they’d all agree that it’s true. And more to the point, it’s not just the guns, it’s the circumstance in which they are being displayed and the message that’s coming with them. We’re not having a national debate about gun control; we’re having a national debate about health care and the role of government. Moreover, “watering the tree of liberty” and “forceful resistance” in the proximity of a president are fighting words. The guns aren’t an argument for the 2nd Amendment – they are an argument against everything that President Obama is pursuing in his policy agenda.

Comment by Michael Roston

The gun toters want to make sure they have theirs before Obama takes them away and only the black guys with Malcolm X T’s have guns. Gun shops are selling out of guns and ammo because of these scare tactics. Let Megan sit down with a roomful of the gun toters at the rallies and see if she still has this opinion.

Comment by fleetlee

The sudden upsurge in mind-reading ability among liberals is astonishing. How do you know that any of the–what, five, ten people?–who have carried a gun to an Obama rally was a militia-member? How do you know what they were trying to say?

The fellow I linked to is a Democrat who supports healthcare reform, a fact which seems to have escaped many of the people who read the post without clicking through the link. Was his gun carrying an attempt to indicate that he will shoot people who disagree with him? And if it is, doesn’t that make this alleged willingness to shoot your enemies a bipartisan vice?

Comment by mmcardle

Why do you hate freedom? Our president is the face and voice the greatest Democracy in the World. By supporting those who would dare to bring weapons of Death into the Presidential Sphere, you degrade the sacrifice of the many soldiers who have given their lives for our perfect Union.

Wiccan Diesel Dykes carry glocks? All the ones i know think guns are for pussies; they would rather kick-ass bare handed!

Comment by andygeiger

I posted this on your site as well, but here it is again.

Let’s turn the situation around a bit. Say I showed up to protest any issue dressed in a bright yellow speedo and high heels. I have the right to do this, as any American could attest. However, in showing up so flagrantly and absurdly exercising my “rights”, any point I could make, regardless of how well-conceived or thought-out, would be ridiculed, laughed at or ignored. And rightly so. I clearly didn’t take the debate seriously and I clearly wanted the entire business to be focused on me, rather than the public discussion.

This is how I see my fellow Americans who choose to aggressively display firearms at public rallies on health care. I don’t take their objections seriously, I don’t take them seriously and I don’t believe anyone else should, either. I think their comments or insights should be largely ignored and ridiculed, since they clearly aren’t sincere about whatever discussion is taking place, and have chosen to make the discussion about THEM and their own personal fantasies about “exercising their rights”.

Throwing a gun-displaying, 2nd amendment tantrum is not the best way to ensure your voice makes it into a public compromise on health care.

Comment by golikehellmachine

I also might mention that, realistically, no one’s talking about banning these people outright. Limiting their access to the President, maybe, but not banning their attendance. So, I’m not really sure why you or other writers have taken to defending them. It’s not as if this is a put-upon, disenfranchised group of any sort who needs people to step up and defend their “rights”.

In defending them needlessly, you make yourself look sympathetic to PEOPLE WHO BRING GUNS TO A HEALTH CARE RALLY, for the sole purpose of DISPLAYING THEIR WEAPONS AT A DISCUSSION ABOUT A BILL THAT HASN’T BEEN WRITTEN THAT THEY DON’T AGREE WITH. Look at how fucking insane that paragraph is and think about why, exactly, you’re coming to their aid.

Comment by golikehellmachine

The affiliation of Chris Broughton and Wililam Kostric with militia-linked groups has been established in reporting from a variety of outlets. And they’ve been encouraged to show up armed to health care rallies by Republican Members of Congress. I’m all for the 2nd Amendment, but not when it’s expression is intended to discourage other citizens from expressing their First Amendment right. And as Paul Helmke points out, when armed men show up at public events, law enforcement have to pay A LOT of attention to them, distracting them from other potential threats. Hunt, shoot skeet, train, protect your family and your person. Don’t bring a gun to a debate.

Comment by Michael Roston

The idea of this swaggering display is weird indeed, but I think it speaks to the point that the tole of government is at issue and gun ownership and use is a right that some gun-owners feel certain Obama will mess with; as you both may know, gun and ammo sales are way up since his election based on the fear he will radically alter access to both. It is absurd to show up showing off your guns and only inflames further the notion that all/most gun0owners are this crazy and aggressive, while this is not necessarily the case. I also doiubt there is a high probability of someone like this firing their weapon but the message they are sending is crude and, literally, out of place.

Comment by Caitlin Kelly

I think this awards the gun-toting protester far more logic and rationality then they deserve.

No one is currently proposing any gun control measures. At least, none that have any chance of passing, at all.

So, all of this fear (and, yes, it’s fear – what happened to the idea of these self-reliant, independent gun owners who can get by no matter what?) has absolutely nothing to do with gun control. It has nothing to do with health care – it’s been pretty clear that a large number of “protesters” don’t really understand what they’re protesting, don’t really know what is being discussed and aren’t interested in taking the time to learn about it. It seems to mostly be about showing up, being seen, making lots of noise and intimidating other people – because “it’s their right”. This is six-year-old behavior and I strongly disagree with awarding it any semblance of logic or rationality.

Comment by golikehellmachine

With America’s history of political violence and Presidential assassination attempts and successes this behavior is tolerated by the Secret Service? And people discuss it as though it’s like wearing an offensive t-shirt to the mall?

This is about intimidation and fear. To discuss it as though it’s some sort of serious constitutional issue is intellectual masturbation.

The real problem is that a lot of the same people who believe this behavior is OK and should be allowed because of constitutional guarantees are probably the same people who would have assaulted or harrassed peaceful protesters at George Bush’s town halls over the last 8 years. And then walked in the building and signed a loyalty oath to the worst President in the history of the country.

Call it what it is. Typical right wing lunacy where violence is the solution to everything, and then when somebody gets killed they accept no resonsibility.

See: Cheney, Dick; Iraq War.

Comment by fulcanelli

Man, I like the image of the “wiccan dykes” at the Sarah Palin rally strapped to the hilt! I’d go see that in a heartbeat – if it was within five miles of Redlands. I know several tradesmen who have a piece stashed under their truck seats as they deliver or repair in one hood or another. So Plaxico does twenty months – justifiably perhaps – for holding and shooting himself in the leg but a group of assholes carry weapons a few yards from our President? Makes no sense, it’s outrageous. Tom Medlicott

Comment by thomasmedlicott

Mr. Steinglass,

You wrote, “anyone who carries a gun openly in the US is at least 90% likely to be a right-wing white Christian heterosexual male”. I think you have seriously overestimated the heterosexual part (unless heterosexual means “not willing to admit to being gay”). These guys are seriously over-compensating for something.

Comment by davidlosangeles

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