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When 1st and 2nd Amendment Conflict: Protests, Guns and Double Standards

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Joanne98 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 01:21 PM
Original message
When 1st and 2nd Amendment Conflict: Protests, Guns and Double Standards

Let me state from the get-go that I'm no opponent of gun ownership (got my first rifle at the age of 12 and am still a crack shot). But something weird is going on when you have guys wandering around a political rally or protest site with pistols strapped to their thighs, or semi-automatic assault rifles strapped brazenly to their backs, as has been happening outside of venues where President Obama is speaking.


Before we get to the legal issues here, I just want to paint you a mental picture:


Take yourself back to the time when George W. Bush was president and Dick Cheney was Vice President. Both men were barnstorming around the country in those years, either ginning up support for their pointless war in Iraq or campaigning for Republicans in Congressional races, or for their own re-election. The response of police in charge of crowd control at these events--always the same--was dependent upon who was lining the streets. If there were people sporting signs that backed the administration, they were left alone. If, however, it was someone wearing something like an "Impeach Bush" T-shirt, or carrying a sign saying "US Out of Iraq" or some other critical statement, he or she was given a choice: move to a fenced in "Free Speech Zone" out of sight of the presidential or vice-presidential entourage, or face arrest.


I investigated and wrote about what was happening back then, and learned that the order to clear protesters away from wherever the president or vice president would be was being made by the Secret Service and the White House advance team. As I was told at the time by Paul Wolf, a deputy police chief for Allegheny County, PA, where Bush had come in 2003, the decision to pen in Bush critics at that event originated with the Secret Service. "Generally, we don't put protesters inside enclosures," Wolf said. "The only time I remember us doing that was a Ku Klux Klan rally, where there was an opposing rally, and we had to put up a fence to separate them."



Of the September, 2003 Bush event, he said, "What the Secret Service does is they come in and do a site survey, and say, 'Here's a place where the people can be, and we'd like to have any protesters be put in a place that is able to be secured.' Someone, say our police chief, may have suggested the place, but the request to fence them in comes from the Secret Service. They run the show."


Now I don't have to tell you that if those protesters who were being moved away from a political rally or motorcade back then had been visibly armed, much less armed with loaded assault rifles, they would not have simply been herded into a "Free Speech" pen. They'd have been arrested, probably tased into the bargain, their guns would have been confiscated, and they might well have found themselves on a flight to Guantanamo Bay.


What's different now?


For one thing, we aren't seeing the "Free Speech Zones" at Obama events. Clearly the Secret Service is not being instructed by White House operatives to have local police cart away protesters. That's a good thing. The Bush/Cheney tactic against protest was a gross violation of the First Amendment right of free speech and free association. For another, it seems like the Secret Service is letting local police make the decisions about who poses a threat to the president--and in some states, like upstate New York, Colorado and Arizona, for example--those local police seem perfectly comfortable with having armed citizens in the crowds.


Let me just state for the record that this is sheer madness.


I've been to a lot of demonstrations in my life, and one thing that has been pretty standard is that police have banned the use of wooden sticks for holding up signs. The reason is obvious: They are afraid that sticks might end up being used as weapons in any confrontation, whether with them, or perhaps with angry opponents of whatever is being protested. So protesters use cardboard tubes instead.


How is it that sticks or baseball bats can be banned at rallies and protests, but not guns?


I'm not talking here about the right to bear arms. People have the right under the Constitution to own guns, and various states like Virginia, for example, have passed laws even allowing them to be worn into public places like restaurants. But police also have a duty to protect the public, and the right to carry guns is not universal. They cannot, for instance, be carried near schools in any jurisdiction I know of. Does that violate the Constitution? Apparently not, according to the Supreme Court.


Why aren't people allowed to carry guns near or in schools? You tell me. Clearly it's because there have been some nasty incidents involving people with guns blowing away kids at schools. It's not that people haven't killed kids in other settings, but there's an emotional, visceral response to seeing an armed person near a playground, so we outlaw it. It would scare parents, scare kids and scare teachers, and that's not an environment we want for our kids.


So what about political events? Don't we want political events to be free from intimidation? The essence of a free society is the right to go to a public political event and express one's support for or to protest against some political figure or political policy. That can involve having to confront people with an opposite perspective, which can get tense and nasty, but the conflict is verbal, not physical, and of course if it gets physical, the police intervene, as they should--hopefully with even-handedness.


Guns at such events introduce a different factor. If police--and the Secret Service--allow guns at political events, then members of the public have to fear for their safety and their very lives. No amount of police scrutiny can prevent a gun-holder, whether based upon a plan of action or in the heat of the moment, from suddenly firing into a crowd. That reality is certain to deter some people from speaking their mind, and others from even showing up.


Furthermore, just as we've had plenty of gun violence at schools, which has led to state and local bans everywhere on gun-toting near schools, we've also had our share of political assassinations and assassination attempts, usually by people who brought guns to political events.


1 | 2

http://www.opednews.com/articles/When-1st-and-2nd-Amendment-by-Dave-Lindorff-090818-387.html

Good point. The left isn't even allowed to have sticks in their signs cause it's considered to dangerous. But THEY get to carry guns. Well what would happen if the left carried guns to political events too? They'd OUTLAW guns that's what. So if we want to stop the conservative terrorism all we have to do is wear guns too. End of problem.


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Wapsie B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 01:26 PM
Response to Original message
1. All good points.
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Uncle Joe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 01:28 PM
Response to Original message
2. Kicked and recommended.
Thanks for the thread, Joanne.
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kirby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 01:31 PM
Response to Original message
3. Obama respects constitution unlike Bush n/t
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 04:11 PM
Response to Reply #3
7. Yeah. that's Why We Are Having All Those War Crimes Trials
and traitors like those who outed Valerie Plame are repenting behind bars. And we've pulled out of two undeclared wars! :sarcasm:
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Gman2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 02:24 PM
Response to Original message
4. Any day now, I am expecting to see the call go out to all patriots to carry.
It is where we are going with this. They are armed. They have been hording ammo. The message is clear. We are going to see hundreds show up armed visibly. It will be their statement. We will live in fear to go to meetings. We will leave our children at home, as it is too dangerous. That is where they are headed, mark my words.
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caraher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 02:43 PM
Response to Original message
5. "Free Speech Zones" --> "Free Fire Zones?"
Under Bush/Cheney critics with signs had to "move to a fenced in "Free Speech Zone" out of sight of the presidential or vice-presidential entourage, or face arrest."

Perhaps there should be fenced-off special "2nd Amendment" zones. Well, forget fences; try bulletproof glass. "Step right up, folks, and exercise your right to keep and bear arms here..."

If it was good enough for the First Amendment, why not?
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cabluedem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:35 AM
Response to Reply #5
11. Yeap. Some gun-nuts will get fed up and open fire with thier guns. Wait and see. nt
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enola fay Donating Member (63 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 03:52 PM
Response to Original message
6. Why don't we
put together a petition and send it to SS? Encourage everyone to contact their local SS office and ask them to adopt a policy of not allowing anyone with firearms within a certain distance from the Pres.
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benEzra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 09:12 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. They already do that, and they are very good at it These people were OUTSIDE the secured area
Edited on Tue Aug-18-09 09:14 PM by benEzra
where they were absolutely no threat to the President.

From the CNN article today:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/17/obama.protest.rifle/index.html

Asked whether the individuals carrying weapons jeopardized the safety of the president, (Secret Service Agent) Donovan said, "Of course not."

The individuals would never have gotten in close proximity to the president, regardless of any state laws on openly carrying weapons, he said. A venue is considered a federal site when the Secret Service is protecting the president and weapons are not allowed on a federal site, he added.
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enola fay Donating Member (63 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-18-09 11:34 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. Thanks. That makes me feel a *little* better.
There's still always the possibility one of these crazies can pull out their weapon and start shooting into the crowd, though. I don't know what can be done about that.
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cabluedem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:32 AM
Response to Original message
10. I thought assualt weapons were already banned in NY state?
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benEzra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 07:12 AM
Response to Reply #10
12. NY state restricts the number of modern-looking features a newly manufactured rifle can have, yes...
as NY state basically retains the expired Federal AWB at the state level. However, under that law, a rifle can still have one listed feature (e.g., a protruding handgrip) and still be legal (so AR-15's and AK's in otherwise normal configuration, with smooth muzzles or pin-on brakes, are OK), and preban AR's and AK's can have as many listed features as you want (i.e., adjustable stock, flash suppressor). Only California restricts traditionally configured AR-15's, and even there AR-15's with the protruding handgrip removed, or with the magazine release disabled, are legal for sale.

My 2002 model AK would be legal to manufacture/import and sell today in NY, for example:




Because it has only one "evil feature", namely the protruding handgrip:




An AR-15 with no bayonet lug and a smooth muzzle or integral brake would also be legal to manufacture and sell in NY.
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Apollo11 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 09:39 AM
Response to Original message
13. I don't just want President Obama to be safe. I want everyone to be safe. Including me!
I want pro-healthcare, pro-labor and anti-war protestors to be safe from intimidation and threats of violence.

That's why nobody should be allowed to carry a lethal weapon at any kind of political protest or event. Period.

Screw gun rights. Public safety first.
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