How not to protest: with guns

| Forum Editor

Aviya Lanis | Student Life
Monday’s Washington Post ran an article about an “open carry” demonstration whereby dozens of protestors gathered on the Virginia side of the Potomac River with a variety of loaded and unloaded weaponry to protest what they view as violations of the United States Constitution. Interestingly enough, their grievances have nothing to do with the Second Amendment or gun rights whatsoever. Instead, according to organizer Daniel Almond, the group is upset about health care reform, bank bailouts, climate initiatives and other presumably unconstitutional government initiatives.

If the protest were about gun rights and gun rights alone, their demonstration would have be rather fitting. Like it or not, lining up with guns to protest is a pretty logical response to infringements on gun rights. Lining up on the banks of the Potomac with guns simply because you’re not a fan of anything Barrack Obama has done, conversely, is a horrendous idea.

The more radical elements of the political right have taken guns and elevated them to an iconic representation of liberty. Instead of considering guns as simply another right, in their minds guns are the embodiment of their resistance to the government. Their own paranoid belief is that weapons are the only thing keeping the big, bad government at bay. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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What these increasingly dangerous gun nuts are doing is undermining their own credibility and future ability to demonstrate. Right now, they stand on the verge of crossing the line into criminal territory. Do not get me wrong, the U.S. Constitution provides for “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The problem is not that they’re lining up with guns trying to intimidate the government. Instead it’s a question of what’s next. What actions will the rampant paranoia of these people lead to?

The Second Amendment clearly states, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” People ought to be free to purchase a gun to hunt with or use for their own defense. Where rationality diverges from the thinking of these people is the notion that we need guns to defend ourselves from the government. That sentiment will only lead to some mentally unbalanced person causing the gun mob to become violent at the worst possible time: while they’re parading their loaded guns around the borders of the capital.

These so-called defenders of guns and liberty ought to do a little more research into the actual law of the land before they go pushing the boundaries of peaceful assemblage. The Insurrection Act of 1807, twice amended and now restored to its original language, provides the President of the United States the power to use armed forces to suppress demonstrations or rebellious groups who interfere with the ability of the government to carry out the law. So far, the paranoid, gun-toting right wing has yet to break any laws. They just stand in armed opposition to Federal law. But what happens if or when they go too far? Violent acts against congressmen have already happened in retaliation to voting for or against various pieces of legislation. It’s merely a hop, skip and a jump until these people do something really stupid while they’re waving their weapons around and the military is called in.

Demonstrating against the government is a freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, but it must be peaceful. Trying to intimidate Congress and the President with weapons is a recipe for disaster. People need to start thinking with their heads. They may not like what the government has been doing recently—half of America hates what’s going on—but they need to be smart enough to realize that shaking an angry fist and a loaded weapon at the White House is a futile and dangerous idea. Daniel Almond’s gun nuts need to step back a bit. Waving a Sig P226 around in the air will at best accomplish nothing and, at worst, get someone arrested or killed. If people want to protest the government, they need to be rational and non-threatening about it. Right now, the only thing their guns are doing is blowing holes in their credibility and making our nation a little less secure.

  • Tony Meatball

    Carry a gun or be prepared to be abused by police

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  • Jim in Houston

    “1. So, you can’t point to one example in the US where armed citizens have been instrumental in protecting first-amendment rights?”

    Well, you said post-Revolutionary, so I stuck with your terms. However, the Revolution itself was just such an event. If I wished to expand to more of history than post-RA US history, then I imagine more incidents might be brought to light. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the readers, as that’s not my schtick.

    “I can’t even think of a reasonable hypothetical situation where that would happen. But maybe you have a stronger imagination than me.”

    Well, I guess I just did.

    “2. How many of those countries were developed nations and stable democracies?”

    Irrelevant, as inability of citizens to have physical security, either by stable gov’t or by their own means of defense, can be the cause of under-development or instability.

    “Do you think freedom of speech is vulnerable in countries like the UK, who have much stricter gun control?”

    Potentially, yes. Look at British libel laws. Look at laws that inhibit speech that might anger Muslims. The Brits aren’t there yet, but they’re slowly moving in that direction…they sure aren’t heading in the freedom direction.

  • C

    Jim:

    1. So, you can’t point to one example in the US where armed citizens have been instrumental in protecting first-amendment rights?

    I can’t even think of a reasonable hypothetical situation where that would happen. But maybe you have a stronger imagination than me.

    2. How many of those countries were developed nations and stable democracies? Do you think freedom of speech is vulnerable in countries like the UK, who have much stricter gun control?

    (Context matters.)

  • Jim in Houston

    C:”Can you point to one example, post-Revolution, that supports that cliché?”

    Not in this country…which shows just how effective the putative “cliche” is.

    However, there are many examples where disarmed peoples have been silenced, tyrannized, and killed. I can’t think of a single country in which citizens have the right to be armed in which this has happened.

  • C

    This comment thread right here represents (one of) the scariest thing(s) about America for outsiders looking in.

    RE: “Our second amendment rights protect your first.”
    Can you point to one example, post-Revolution, that supports that cliché?

  • Philip Christofanelli

    We should all confine our political speech strictly to the level which Richard finds most comfortable, lest we hurt his delicate sensibilities.

  • BK

    I thought about mentioning the ironic circularity in your logic or that this itself is a paranoid throwaway article, but instead I will merely say:

    Who would ever include “The Second Amendment” and “clearly states” in the same sentence? I guess you can do that with partial quotes.

    Daniel: If they have license in DC, then they can do the same thing there.

  • Anonymous_983298

    Maybe if Obama hadn’t made that comment about “clinging to guns and religion” then people wouldn’t be quite so vocal about it.

    Besides, it’s a good way to get noticed. The guy who did it in New Hampshire got multiple interviews. Any protester who can pull that off is doing something right.

  • Jim In Houston

    “It’s also worth pointing out that the only reason these people can carry guns in national parks is because of President Obama and the federal government–the same President Obama and the federal government that they’re showing up to protest.”

    That’s pathetic. Obama signed the bill because of the major credit card portion — the gun rights portion was against his will. Do not pretend that he is a proponent of 2A rights. Furthermore, the bill was a REINSTATEMENT of rights that were briefly rescinded by an activist judge.

  • a student

    It’s also worth pointing out that the only reason these people can carry guns in national parks is because of President Obama and the federal government–the same President Obama and the federal government that they’re showing up to protest.

  • Daniel Engel

    Richard,
    As usual, your comments are right on the mark. However, I would like to point out that they are within their legal rights to carry their guns in protest in Virginia, but not in Washington, D.C. Should they do that in DC, they would be arrested under local gun bylaws, and potentially also be charged in federal court for preventing the US government from carrying out its duties, something that you pointed out is also illegal.
    Good luck to these nutjobs – I hope that they get arrested and shoved in a cell to rot away.

  • Aaron

    With due respect, your psychological projection of your fears does nothing but discredit your own ideas. I am a Wash U alum and I support both the First and Second Amendments as well as the rest of the Constitution.

    The demonstration was peaceful and the firearms were unloaded and had empty chamber flags as clear evidence that the firearms were unloaded.

    If people demonstrating with unloaded weapons is a threat to peaceful demonstration, then what about those who use violence, at the other end of the spectrum, protesting the World Trade Organization meetings? Or what about Greenpeace or PETA using supposedly “non-violent” means to express themselves?

    You have nothing to fear from firearms owners. You do have something to fear from a government that does not listen to its people whom are then forced to collectively assemble and peacefully show that they are fed up and quietly express that they are willing to fight for what they believe in if the government will not listen.

    Better that we peacefully protest now than actually be forced down the road to actually carry out a real revolution.

    Freedom of expression and assembly does not only apply to your personal views of how to express your beliefs alone Mr. Markel. I support your right to express yourself, please have the courage and respect to understand that we are simply expressing ourselves as we see fit.

  • anon

    Richard- You have a constitional right to free speech, and can frame your views any way you choose, however you have not completely quoted the second amendment. The last time I looked, the amendment reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The part about being neccessary to a free state is specific to our federal government, as made clear in the preamble to the bill of rights.
    To quote ” The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent starts of its institution.
    Please appreciate that your first amendment rights are still protected by our second amendment, even if you choose to let someone else exercise the right to bear arms for you.

  • Koni Hawley

    Blah, blah, blah. Whine, whine, whine. Was anyone shot? Why do you think you have the right to lay out appropriate props for a demonstration? If I demonstrate any constitutional right. Uhhhuum I will probably bring my personal weapon of choice. I might not have an intention to call on that weapon of choice, but by God this is my right!!! Get over it!!!