Bob Franken

Presidential Events: White House Says It’s OK If Protestors Carry Guns Outside


Two questions come to mind: What would possess someone to carry a gun to an appearance by the president of the United States? And what would possess the White House to say such a person has a right to do so?

Oh yeah, here’s a third question: How crazy would someone have to be to carry a presumably loaded weapon just outside a hall where President Obama was speaking? In all probability, nobody approached to ask. They probably considered the likely consequences if they antagonized a gun-toting zealot. But, by golly, the White House, always eager to keep the right-to-bear-arms crowd happy, said it passed musket, er, muster.

The rationale, according to press spokesman Robert Gibbs, was that “there are laws that govern firearms that are done state or locally” and that “these laws don’t change when the president comes to your state or locality.”

They don’t? The commander in chief doesn’t get special protection? Then why is someone detained for carrying a threatening sign? As weapons go, is the sign mightier than the gun?

On Monday, a man with a semi-automatic assault rifle was among the dozen or so with weapons milling outside an event in Phoenix while the president spoke inside. By Gibbs’s reasoning, an AR-15 is A-OK. No arrests were made. Secret Service officials insisted he was not a threat. And they said so with a straight face.

It turns out it was a radio publicity stunt — quite a gruesome one, especially since at another Obama event the gunslinger not only packed heat but carried a sign with parts of a line from Thomas Jefferson that has become a rallying cry for the right-wingnuts. You know, “Water the tree of Liberty”? That one.

Does it not bother anyone that the full Jefferson quote is “The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”? Remember, we’re talking about guns and threats together — not far from a president of the United States.

We’re also talking about a highly charged atmosphere where people scream their outrage over “Obamacare” and flail about in frustration over the economy and losing control of their futures. Do we want to allow guns into that mix?

At the very least, do the big guys in suits who talk into their shirt cuffs really need to be distracted by those who, at best, are trying to intimidate with their deadly props — or might even act out with deadly violence?

No big deal, says the Secret Service. Inside the hall is designated a federal zone, where weapons are forbidden. And it’s all right outside? According to the White House, it’s OK. As in: the OK Corral.

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