by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I don't know whether visible guns make it easier or harder for Secret Service agents to do their job, but I do know that standing next to an angry person who is carrying a gun tends to be an uncomfortable experience for an unarmed citizen like me. Even though I've lived a relatively quiet life, I can think of at least half a dozen shooting incidents that have affected people I know, sometimes fatally. And not one of them was a deliberate, thoroughly planned, I'm-gonna-get-that-asshole type of shooting; all of them were impulsive or even accidental, occurring in a moment of fury, despair, machismo or simple clumsiness.

People who are angry don't always think clearly. I suspect that most protesters go to townhall meetings determined to speak out forcefully and eloquently, like Jimmy Stewart in an old movie; they don't actually plan to scream obscenities at total strangers, embarrass themselves on camera and maybe hit someone with a chair, but in the heat of the moment bad things can happen. Carrying a gun to a public event is, beyond anything else, an act of rudeness. I don't see that it amounts to anything other than an attempt to intimidate other citizens and stop the conversation in its tracks.

Another reader makes the same point:

Is the person bringing the gun afraid for his life? No. Is he hunting game? No. Is he looking to fend off terrorists? No. Is he going to start a revolution at that moment?  No.  Is he hunting for quail?  No. In short, did the protester bring a gun to the protest with any intention of firing it? Not at all.
He brought the gun for one purpose- to scare and intimidate people who disagree with him. It is an implicit threat that, if health care comes to this country, him and his friends may have to get violent.  Or put another way, he’s hoping that by exercising his second amendment rights, he can scare people out of using their first amendment rights.  Even if this is legal, can’t we all agree that this is somewhat dickish?