Friday, April 27, 2012

Armed Protesters

The Associated Press today reported the news, shocking to all who haven't ever bothered to think about it, that protesters at the Republican and Democratic national conventions might be armed. Then the article starts to raise my ire.

Various authorities in Tampa, site of the Republican convention, get my wrath first. For some reason they figure they need to disarm protesters. They've created a list of items protesters aren't allowed to carry, to include lumber and squirt guns, and claim it's state law that is making them look silly because state law prevents them from banning handguns. How about this for an alternative take on it: you look silly for trying to ban anything at all. Do protesters get the pleasure of a pre-protest TSA-style grope? Who's to say they're not packing explosive shoes or underwear? If protesters can bring more than three ounces of "liquids or gels" to the protest, they will be able to wreak havoc, right? According to a/the city attorney, "everything we are doing is based on something that happened at another convention or another national security event," and the article describes a few such events where protesters and police started mixing it up. Oddly enough, though the AP's list of convention protests gone wrong is certainly not meant to be comprehensive, neither does it include any conventions where individuals' right to bear arms made the problem worse. Nor, in fact, do the weapons described from previous violent protests include things on Tampa's list of banned items.

Apparently Tampa city leaders have asked Florida's governor Scott to "issue an executive order" disallowing protesters from carrying, saying, "we believe it is necessary and prudent to take this reasonable step to prevent a potential tragedy. Such an executive order would be no different from any despotic decree or imperial dictum. That Tampa's public officials would care so little about personal freedom to suggest such an action, while hardly surprising, certainly should give pause to anyone who considers the Constitution something of importance. The article explains in less detail how city leaders in Tampa also plan to abridge freedoms of speech and peaceable assembly.

Just as a refresher, the Constitution is the thing that 1) is the supreme law of the land, and 2) says that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Both cities are quoted as saying they're unable to establish decrees of their own because of state law, but it's the Bill of Rights talking here. The fact that various federal and state statutes already violate the second amendment in no way justifies further infringing on a natural right. Nor would it justify pretending that state governors have the power to establish themselves as kings and potentates at their own whim.

The crux of the matter is that freedom is a messy thing. It's all about trusting your neighbor not to infringe on your rights, not about using the government to infringe on your neighbor's rights because you don't trust him to leave you alone, and don't trust yourself to be able to take care of things if he does step on your toes.

The Associated Press gets my goose next, in particular for failing to point out that the same protesters could also be armed in the grocery store, the movie theater, or the city park. I don't know about how Florida or North Carolina law has infringed on the right that "shall not be infringed" to know if it's the same there or not, but here in Utah they could be armed in the public school. With children. Please try to avoid wetting yourself at that revelation. I imagine it must be shocking that we don't have Columbine II every other day here. The AP further describes Tampa and Charlotte as feeling "hamstrung" by state law. Perhaps they do (though the article fails to show evidence to that effect, simply including quotes from authorities in each city saying they're subject to state law. Dear AP, realize, please, that these state laws are the ones that have been implemented by the people, through a democratic process. They're not supposed to be rescinded simply because people get their shorts in a knot when they realize freedom applies to their neighbors too.

Charlotte's leaders have been less vocal about gun control, but they took an early lead restricting inalienable rights when they kicked out an Occupy Something-or-other camp months ago and restricted backpacks and other stuff in various zones. Police will apparently get to stop protesters who have failed to obtain a permit for their Constitutionally-protected peaceable assembly and the city has passed an ordinance allowing leaders to declare particular events "extraordinary" and thereby salve their consciences as they further enslave their subjects.

Finally, none of those who call for gun control among protesters has indicated on what basis they conclude a person already willing to murder another for his political opinions would be deterred by an ordinance banning concealed carry. Nor can they explain why they're so concerned, except that it's a "politically charged" environment and bad things involving items they haven't banned have happened at past conventions. Dear city leaders, if you could stop assuming that your subjects (and yes, disarmed sheep over whom the governor and city leaders have the power these folks are pushing for are subjects, not citizens) are all out to get you, and if you can stop assuming that others are always responsible for your own safety and doing your thinking for you, you'll find you wet your pants over stuff like this far less often.