More on Guns

By Megan McArdle

Jason Zengerle says that the idea of betting on an outcome like the discharge of a gun at another human being is "offensive".  Well, I'm betting on good behavior, which doesn't seem that offensive to me.  Zengerle et. al. are the ones claiming that people openly carrying guns have a significant probability of hauling off and shooting someone for no good reason.

I find that rather offensive, given how little the people saying this sort of thing actually know about the protesters.  They may, to be sure, be gun-mad lunatics dying for a chance to shoot some random stranger. Me, I'd expect the gun-mad lunatics are probably carrying their gun concealed somewhere on their person, the better to use it without being stopped.   But I don't know. The point is, neither does the other side.  All these confident predictions of impending violence do not, to me, seem to rest on much more than the belief that people who openly carry weapons near a rally must be gun-crazed lunatics who want to intimidate Democrats with threats of violence.  This is somewhat circular to say the least.

Zengerle also conflates this with presidential assassination, as have many other commentators.  As far as I know, only one chap has been near the president, and he was a publicity stunt.  The others seem to be at less august meetings.  If a gun nut wants to assassinate a minor Senator or Congressman, he doesn't need to carry a rifle to a protest somewhere.  They're not that well protected.  And also, not that frequently attacked. 

Do I think guns should be near Obama?  I think that is for the Secret Service to say, and I would support whatever decision they rendered.  But we don't know where this guy was, or if he ever even saw Obama. 

But if I had to guess, I would say that I do not think that anyone openly carrying a weapon is likely to pose much danger to the president.  Why?  Because the Secret Service knows he is there.  You can bet they have at least one guy watching the fellow with the AR-15, and that if he had taken it off his back and begun to raise it to firing position, he would have been immediately taken out.  The people who I worry about are the ones who carry concealed weapons, the better to get a shot off before the Secret Service notices.  Or the ones who have found a good hiding place with a sightline to the president.  Etc.

It is entirely possible that some nut will shoot someone at a protest, or try to shoot the president (indeed, I expect at least one assassination attempt, as that seems to be par for the course).  But I have no reason to think that the fellows brazenly carrying pistols on their hip will be among those nuts.  Nor, I think, do the people hysterically accusing them of some pretty evil intentions.

To be clear, as I said in my previous post, I think carrying a gun to a protest is at best stupid.  Whether or not they intend to provoke hysterical fear among a substantial portion of the population, they clearly are doing so, and that is not how you make your best case for the second amendment.  It's also not very nice, even if you didn't mean it.  So I think they should stop.  Meanwhile, I think that the left should also stop claiming, on little evidence, that they are crazed militia members.  Doesn't that seem like a reasonable compromise?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/08/more-on-guns/23926/