Commentary: Guns at health care town halls are unnecessary

Protesters who bring guns to rallies where President Obama has been speaking are taking the national debate over health care and other issues to a new and dangerous level of concern. It's a frightening sign of how deep our divisions have become and what a bizarre turn our political debate has taken.

The presence of guns at a political event cannot be justified as a form of self-defense, freedom of expression or as a way to make a better argument. Guns at political rallies send a message of intimidation, or perhaps the bearer's political paranoia. Neither has anything to do with debating public issues.

How does packing heat at one of these events promote the free exchange of ideas? That's what town hall meetings are supposed to be all about, remember?

What message does it send for someone to show up at a site where the president of the United States is speaking with an openly displayed AR-15 automatic assault rifle, as one man recently did in Phoenix? At least a dozen people carrying weapons were in the crowd outside the arena where the president spoke.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.