GUN DEBATE - As President Obama travels the country to promote his ideas about health care reform, he has been met with hearty debate. But he's also been met with something unexpected, gun-toting citizens who seem to be making a statement about more than just health policy.
Are these citizens merely expressing their second amendment rights or do they present a dangerous provocation?
We asked two experts for their take.
Opinion contributed by Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America.
Click here for Paul Helmke's opposing view.
SPRINGFIELD, Va. (OPINION) From New Hampshire to Arizona, Americans openly carrying firearms have been seen outside presidential appearances. The most remarkable thing about this is that some find this behavior to be remarkable.
American citizens are the sovereigns in our system of government. Indeed, We the People created the government which, at least in theory, only does what we tell it to do in the Constitution. Sovereigns are expected to be armed.
The Second Amendment was added to our Constitution to ensure that the individual right to keep and bear arms not be infringed. Infringement would impair the proper functioning of the militia which had been America's homeland security system all through colonial times and well into our republican era.
The armed attendees made it clear that they were exercising their right to keep and bear arms. Zero tolerance of firearms has become so extreme that even a picture of a gun can get a student kicked out of school. The presence of armed citizens helps correct the notion that guns are inherently dangerous.
Americans are increasingly deciding to go about openly carrying firearms even when they might legally carry them concealed. Some would like to say that this constitutes disturbing the peace. It is a strange view that accepts as normal a police officer openly carrying a firearm, but finds it alarming when a sovereign citizen – the cop's boss – does the same.
In addition to the educational value of going about openly armed, the presence of such citizens has another positive impact. Real homeland security is being maintained. The Secret Service is tasked with protecting the president and other select individuals – and nobody else.
For those who object to openly armed citizens being present near presidential events, do they have any concern for the wellbeing of those who do not benefit from Secret Service protection?
A few years ago, I was at a conference where the governor of the state of Arizona was to speak. Shortly before the appointed time a member of the governor's security detail came into the room from a service entrance, looked around the audience, which included at least a dozen people openly carrying sidearms, ducked out of sight and returned with the governor.
The governor's security was aware of the armed attendees, and was also aware that the guns were holstered and obviously under control. They evidently thought that was proper gun control.
There are those who don't like Americans owning guns at all, let alone carrying them openly. They can be counted on to run around squawking like Chicken Little that the sky is falling – a calamity brought about by the presence of an armed citizen in public. We are warned that: Somebody might grab the gun and do something bad! The armed citizen will intimidate others! Tempers will flare and blood will run in the streets!
These are the same alarms that are sounded when any measure designed to facilitate citizens keeping and bearing arms is advanced. And the alarms are always false. Before passage of Florida's concealed carry law, for example, we were warned that the Sunshine state would become the Gunshine state.
One would think that consistently being wrong would be embarrassing, but one would be wrong about those who assume that common citizens are untrustworthy and dangerous.
A tip of the hat to those who have stirred the debate. And, our thanks to them for exercising proper gun control and reminding us of how homeland security should be conducted.
Click here for Paul Helmke's opposing view.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Larry Pratt has been Executive Director of Gun Owners of America for 26 years. GOA is a national membership organization of 300,000 Americans dedicated to promoting their Second Amendment freedom to keep and bear arms. GOA lobbies for the pro-gun position in Washington, D.C. and is involved in firearm issues in the states.