Stop, Children, What's That Sound?

About a dozen openly armed protesters showed up while the President was giving a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Phoenix on Monday. CNN reported that two of the demonstrators toted assault rifles, tentatively identified as AR-15 semi-automatics.

The obvious question: Why bring along that kind of firepower to a public demonstration? The response from one unidentified demonstrator: because he could. "In Arizona, I still have some freedoms," he told the Arizona Republic.

True enough, the state has an open carry law. But an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine? It's not as if Red Army commandoes were about to jump out of the sky. I spent a good amount of time lugging around this Colt semi-automatic during my army service and, truth be told, you don't need to be an especially skilled marksman to inflict severe damage on a target. (And for the record, I was a lousy shot.)

From the video, it's unclear which side the guy filmed with the AR-15 slung over his shoulder belonged to. He was standing with the pro-Obama demonstrators. The CNN reporter said another rifle-bearing protestor identified himself with the anti-Obama protestors. (Check out the CNN report below.)



This is turning into a trend. (Read Declan McCullagh's Q&A here with William Kostric, who turned up outside President Obama's town hall meeting in Portsmouth, N.H. last week.) Maybe bringing weapons along to political protests is turning into the new black. Or maybe someone spiked the water supply and people are high on acid and don't recognize they're tripping. Either way, packing heat to events where emotions already are approaching the boiling point sounds like an invitation to trouble. Michael J.W. Stickings makes the correct observation that bringing guns to an event where the President is scheduled to appear is anything but an expression of freedom. It's a threat.
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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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