Since the the town-hall debates on health care reform have taken a violent turn, some opponents have gone as far as to carry weapons while demonstrating. Perhaps the most disturbing fact, it’s legal.
The most recent event occurred Monday when demonstrators outside Obama’s speech to veterans in Phoenix, Arizona brandished their unconcealed weapons. This was the second incident in which citizens have brought firearms to a presidential event.
One protestor in particular sent onlookers abuzz when he arrived with an assault rifle slung over his right shoulder.
About a dozen people toted their guns outside the demonstration, Phoenix police said they kept watch over the packing protestors while they peacefully demonstrated.
“It was a group interested in exercising the right to bear arms,” police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said.
As Arizona law requires permits for carrying concealed weapons, the state has no regulatory laws regarding assault rifles. Even though the man was in such close proximity to President Obama, he broke no laws and was not arrested nor charged. Hill said he had to explain the gun laws to people who were uneasy about the presence of guns at the protest, according to CNN.
“I come from another state where ‘open carry’ is legal, but no one does it, so the police don’t really know about it and they harass people, arrest people falsely,” the man, who remained anonymous, said. “I think that people need to get out and do it more so that they get kind of conditioned to it.”
Just last week, a man with a pistol strapped to his thigh protested outside Obama’s town-hall meeting in New Hampshire. The state also does not require a license for unconcealed weapons.
U.S. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donavon said he was not aware of any other protests in which demonstrators carried weapons, and also said there was no indication that gun toters planned the incidents.
When asked if the protestors posed any threat to President Obama he quipped, “Of course not.”
“We pay attention to this obviously … to someone with a firearm when they open carry even when they are within state law,” Donovan said. “We work with our law enforcement counterparts to make sure laws and regulations in their states are enforced.”