White House press secretary Robert Gibbs answered questions yesterday about people bringing loaded firearms to protest events attended by President Obama, and Gibbs apparently gave the green light to this crazy practice.
Gibbs said, "There are laws that govern firearms that are done state or locally. Those laws don't change when the president comes to your state or locality."
Hearing this from someone who speaks daily from the podium in the James S. Brady White House Briefing Room - named after a press secretary seriously injured in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan - is bizarre.
In any event, the president's security isn't decided by his press secretary. The President belongs to all Americans, and we all have a stake in protecting his safety by keeping loaded firearms (not carried by law enforcement) away from presidential events.
As for the Secret Service, their response to gun carrying protesters yesterday was also strange: "We're well aware of the subjects that are showing up at these events with firearms," a spokesperson reportedly said. "We work closely with local law enforcement to make sure that their very strict laws on gun permits are administered."
Strict gun laws in Arizona? This is the state where two men openly carried assault rifles at a presidential event and didn't get detained. It's harder to get a job at a fast food restaurant than it is to get a gun in Arizona.
Gun permits? In most cases, people openly carrying firearms don't need permits, meaning that open gun carriers have no requirement to have their criminal backgrounds checked before they carry and no requirement even to have weapons training.
The Secret Service spokesperson should have said, "We work closely with local law enforcement to make sure that a state's weak gun laws don't lead to shooting injuries or deaths at these protests." That would have made some sense.
As for being "well aware" of gun carriers at these events, I sincerely hope that's true. I hope the Secret Service knew exactly where the dozen or more armed people were in the crowd protesting President Obama's Phoenix speech on Monday - including two men with military-style assault rifles.
As it happens, news reports reveal that law enforcement knew of at least one of the individuals with an AR-15 assault rifle, because his media handler notified the local police department in advance of the stunt they were going to pull.
But what about next time, when law enforcement is surprised by someone openly carrying an assault weapon near the president? Will the reaction be the same? We should all hope not.
Robert Gibbs' cavalier response to protesters carrying guns to presidential events was tone-deaf. This isn't a political issue and it isn't about the Second Amendment. It's about open and honest debate, using common sense and protecting the president of United States.
People can shoot their mouths off all they want at these debates. We need to do all we can to make sure that's where the shooting stops.
(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.)