Commentary: Gun-toting protesters show lack of sense

In this Aug. 17, 2009, photo, a man carries a military style AR-15 type rifle during a Barack Obama opposition rally in Phoenix. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Jack Kurtz)
In this Aug. 17, 2009, photo, a man carries a military style AR-15 type rifle during a Barack Obama opposition rally in Phoenix. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Jack Kurtz) AP

Last week, in an effort to sell his health-care proposal, President Obama went to Phoenix, Ariz. As with most things associated with health care nowadays, there were protesters, but there was something different about some of them: They were armed.

One black gentleman had an assault rifle slung over his shoulder. When asked by various media why he was carrying a loaded assault weapon, an AR-15, he said, because "he could." This guy was not alone. The Associated Press reported about a dozen armed people in a crowd gathered for and against Obama's plan. In Arizona, a permit is only necessary if the weapon is concealed.

I have no issue with the Arizona law. It is what it is. I do question anyone's sanity who carries a weapon openly near an event hosted by the president of the United States.

A Secret Service spokesperson, Ed Donavan, said armed demonstrators in states like Arizona and New Hampshire "have little impact on security plans for the president." Those security plans include snipers who are ready to take out a threat against the president in an instant. You can bet your last dollar that the sniper's sights were trained on those carrying weapons.

According to the black man carrying the assault weapon, he was not from Arizona, but from another state that also has an open carry law. So my question, why was he demonstrating against health-care reform with a weapon? He obviously was trying to make a different sort of statement.

Before you paint me with that liberal anti-gun brush, understand that I'm a card-carrying member of the NRA, thanks to the father of a former Telegraph intern. I own a weapon and I know how to use it — and understand — I will use it.

I believe the Second Amendment protects our right to bear arms, and that right is just as important as the First Amendment that gives me the right to say what I want in this newspaper without being carted away to the nearest gulag. But my senses would be abandoned if for a minute I thought it a good idea to take a loaded weapon to a presidential event.

That's my problem. It's not guns, it's the lack of good sense by some of the people who use them. If I were King, I would demand my subjects be armed — after training courses to teach them how to use their weapons. And, like teachers and other professionals, I would require periodic testing to make sure those skills are still sharp.

I'm not as good a shot as I was five years ago. My eyesight isn't what it used to be. My hand is not as steady, and I could use a refresher course (Hamp Dowling, that's a hint). I would be more comfortable if everyone carrying, open or not, was trained.

Unfortunately, there are nuts who would love to take down the president. That's not new. You can claim naivete, but you know what I'm saying is true. There are some who feel this nation is headed to Hell in a hand basket just because Obama is black.

I think it's shameful that gun dealers are using Obama to appeal to the baser instincts of their customers. Some are whispering they are preparing for another civil war. Those of such ilk should listen to an old Bill Withers song, "Can't write left handed" the lyrics say:

"You know we talked about fighting, fighting every day.

And looking through rosy, rosy colored glasses, I must admit it seemed exciting in a way.

"Oh, but someone that day overlooked to tell me, bullets look better, I must say, rather when they ain't coming at you, but going out the other way."


Charles E. Richardson is the Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached via e-mail at crichardson@macon.com.

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