Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Gunning for President

Is it hypocritical of pro-gun Republicans to ban guns from the Republican National Convention? Here’s Mark Kleiman with an even-handed analysis:
Pro-gun forces have made a considerable amount of ill-natured sport out of the fact that some gun control advocates, including entertainers, have armed bodyguards. It's a fair point: if ordinary folks who can't afford to hire guards must go unprotected by guns, why should the rich be different? The business about the convention turns that around: if allowing guns to be present, even in the hands of people licensed to have them, is intolerably dangerous to the President -- even protected by the Secret Service -- why should the rest of us have to tolerate it?

Now of course that's not a completely reasonable position; the President is [a] special target, and what's justified to protect him might not be justified in an ordinary setting. But that doesn't necessarily make it any less effective rhetorically. If the President really believes in Second Amendment rights, why shouldn't licensed gun owners, and especially holders of concealed-carry permits, be allowed to bring guns into his convention. Or into the White House, if it comes to that?
That the President is no ordinary citizen is one defense, but I can think of at least one better defense: Keeping guns out of a convention hall is much easier than keeping guns out of the country. The number of entry points is finite, versus the virtually infinite number of entry point into the country. The number of attendees is small, relative to the population of a city or country. A convention hall can be evacuated and searched beforehand to find guns that might have been secreted there; but you can’t evacuate the country and search every house and hidey-hole to ferret out all the existing guns. In short, the difficulty of enforcing a national- or state-level gun ban dwarfs that of enforcing a building-level gun ban.

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