Will Wilkinson thinks people should be allowed to carry guns around the President. Commenter JK asks:
What do you think would have happened if an Arab-American citizen showed up to a GWB rally, visibly armed, with a shirt referencing the tree of liberty that must be cleansed with the blood of tyrants, the same shirt worn famously by Timothy McVeigh? The man would be in Guantanamo.
The problem really isn’t the cost of added security, or that it’s at all likely that the ratio of peaceful-but-armed would be smaller than the number of would-be-assassins in the crowd – the problem is that unlike most situations, gatherings near a president are uniquely dangerous.
Four out of forty-four presidents have been assassinated, and two have been wounded in assassination attempts. That means, as president, you have a 9% likelihood of being assassinated, and a 13% likelihood of being killed or wounded in an assassination attempt. There are reasons security is high, and never more so than in the past two presidencies, when the hate-to-sanity ratio has been rather skewed. Remember, even Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt and he was by and large one of the most popular commander-in-chiefs of all time.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t have a right to bear arms. I believe they should. But I believe that public and private security should also have a right to make their jobs easier and keep their charges as safe as possible by temporarily restricting where gun owners can bring their firearms. Yes, an armed society is a polite society, but I can’t quite fathom how having more armed people at a big political gathering would have that effect at all. Customers openly carrying guns in a Circle K might cause the would-be robber to think twice before holding up the joint, but for an assassin at a town hall meeting or rally, it would likely just provide cover. And once you’ve gotten to that point – where killing the president (or any public figure) is your goal – your concerns on getting caught or shot are pretty much dissipated. After all, would an assassin worry more over the gun-toting citizenry, or the Secret Service?
People should have the right to bear arms. The government should not be in the business of taking law-abiding peoples’ guns away. But is it so much to ask – such an affront to liberty – that we leave them at home while listening to our politicians give speeches? Unlike gyms or church services or gas stations, these events generally have security on the premises. If a shooter shows up, other guys with guns will be on the scene already. I totally understand having a gun in many, many other scenarios, where you might actually need it to protect yourself. But at a town hall meeting? I’m just not convinced of the need or that it is some horrible denial of our rights to be asked to please not carry a gun near the president. I’m not really convinced that letting people carry guns would increase the likelihood of assassination either, but I can certainly understand the fear that it would, and ideology alone can’t assuage those fears.
Last but not least, I think anyone who takes the absolutist view of gun-ownership rights ought to go work as President Obama’s bodyguards for a while. I imagine that for them, every gun they see gets their hearts racing.