Saturday, August 15, 2009

FALSE ASSUMPTIONS

A few days ago, the President held a town hall meeting in New Hampshire to discuss his proposal for health care reform. Among the many Americans that decided to protest at this event was William Kostric, who decided to open carry his firearm during the event.

MSNBC offered a fair amount of coverage on this event, and soon afterwards Kostric was interviewed by Hardball's Chris Matthews.

Some of you may agree with me when I note that Chris Matthews' demeanor appears a bit crazier than Kostric; the interviewee is patiently trying to answer questions, while the interviewer is practically spraying froth all over the screen.

In any case.

After the interview, Kostric did a small one-on-one interview with a friend. It's been posted on YouTube... fairly low vid quality, but the clip is good enough that the message itself is clear.

Several sites on the internet (such as Salon) have begun to delve into Kostric's personal life... posting his MySpace page, various forums that he's had discussions in, etc. Depending on your point of view (and your politics), he's either a level-headed FreeStater or a closeted wingnut.

But one thing I've noticed in all of this is the assumption by many in the media (reminder: I'm a member of the media) that merely carrying a gun during a protest automatically means that violence is going to follow. This has no basis in fact whatsoever.

One could assume that a man that was nominated and confirmed to be the Secretary of the Treasury would himself have a clean, pristine personal financial background. However, this isn't true... as Timothy Geithner failed to pay $35,000 in self-employment taxes for several years, and only did so after his confirmation hearings started.

One could assume that the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee - the committee which writes the tax code - would be not only familiar with tax law, but follow the law as well. This isn't the case.... as Charles Rangel failed to declare $75,000 in rental income, and owed back taxes for at least 3 years.

When the President of the United States attends a public function, he is surrounded by people with firearms - not only his personal bodyguards of the Secret Service, but local law enforcement as well.

Why does the press assume that each and every one of these LEOs presents absolutely no threat to the President, but a private citizen does? Why does a badge automatically remove any and all suspicion from a person's inner politics and motivations?

In other countries throughout history, leaders have certainly been killed by people they trusted to protect them; historically, being given a badge and label of bodyguard does not automatically ensure that their safety is guaranteed.

Please let me be clear on this: I am not questioning the motives of some unnamed police officer, nor am I implying that somewhere out there is an LEO with thoughts of violence towards our leaders. I'm simply pointing out that there's no factual reason to believe that a peaceful, armed citizen presents more of a threat to the President than a a cop that's pissed off how the Crowley/Gates situation was initially handled by the White House.

Merely carrying a gun doesn't make one an assassin.

3 comments:

Donovan Keith said...

I hate shows like Hard Ball for this reason. In no way does shouting a question at a person and then refusing to give them time to answer actually tell the story.

I think that wearing a pistol in public view to a presidential event was a fantastic way to spark debate on the 2nd amendment. Folks certainly talked about it.

That said, if I was in a public space and someone next to me had a gun strapped to them, I'd feel incredibly uncomfortable. This applies to cops and secret service agents as well. For me, a gun worn outside the context of a shooting range/hunting can send no other message than: if I feel the need to, I will put bullet holes in another human.

Why everyone in the media portrayed the guy as a wingnut, I'm not sure. In the initial coverage, no one knew anything about the man, and could only guess at why he would bring a gun to an event with the president. My instinct was that he wanted to bring up the 2nd amendment, but that doesn't make for as good a story as assassination.

As to why folks trust Cops and Secret Service agents more than your average Joe off the street to not assassinate the president? Secret Service agents are heavily vetted, and police officers prone to shooting folks because of reasons of temper are pulled off the force. They also exist in cultures where every member had to pledge to serve their country and fellow man, even if they don't always agree with the politics of that country - assassinating the president pretty much excludes you from an important social group in your life. Average Joe didn't have to submit to rigorous psychological testing, nor was he forced to be repeatedly trained in gun safety (including how to prevent someone from grabbing your gun from its holster), nor is he trained in martial arts which would give him an option to defend himself before escalating to the use of possibly deadly force.

Did this gentleman bring a gun to a public event to shoot the president? No. Clearly not. Should we be surprised that folks thought he did? No. Whether rational or not, everyone who voted for President Obama has been terrified he'd be assassinated.

thorn said...

I've mixed feelings on the whole issue of Open Carry. For me, it falls into that grey area category in which I find myself slightly horrified to agree with Matthews on this singular point:

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

I have open carried in the past; it was a matter of quick convenience (go out to the car at 3am... in that neighborhood, you'd have understood) and not to "exercise my rights".

My problem with Open Carry stems from the fact that it basically forces people to deal with your gun issue. And historically, such issues are dealt with by culling rights.

Scare enough of your fellow citizens with your displayed handgun, and you risk all those people calling their state senator and getting ALL methods of carry banned. Not so much a great way to advance positive points about firearm ownerships, no? ;)

As I said, it's a grey area for me. I do agree that one should exercise their rights; however, one should also be careful that doing so doesn't help someone else's efforts to take that right away.

Bethy said...

My .02~ If more pro-2nd amendment folks carried themselves the way this gentleman did, the public would be much more comfortable with open carry.