On Perimeters

One of the responses from the whole carrying-an-AR-at-a-political-rally thing that’s stood out to me is, in essence, “ZOMG! We need to ban all firearms within a [arbitrary perimeter] around the president!”
Indeed, a few comments I’ve read have suggested that one ban firearms within such a perimeter 24 hours before the president even gets there. Such a notion is so absurd that I won’t even bother to address it.
What these commenters fail to realize is that the Secret Service already has established perimeters around the president, and he never appears or moves about in such a way that he would be exposed to danger. Had a gunman foolishly attempted to enter the building in which the president was speaking or otherwise posed a legitimate threat, the president would almost certainly be swiftly whisked away while the gunman either gets shot or piled on by the Secret Service. The Secret Service does not mess around.
In this particular case, the gentleman with the rifle (as well as the other armed citizens) were all outside and posed no threat to the president. They even called the Phoenix Police ahead of time to let them know what they’d be doing, and the police assigned a few officers there to keep an eye on things and ensure that their rights weren’t violated by other protesters. The Secret Service had no problem with it either.
What people calling for more gun-free perimeters around the president also fail to realize is that any potential assassin isn’t going to obey the law; they’re already planning to commit the assassination of a major political figure, I seriously doubt that a legal prohibition against carrying firearms with N meters of the president will have any bearing whatsoever on their plans.
The Secret Service realizes this, which is why they absolutely forbid armed people near the president (( When I was stationed at Fort Lewis, then-President Bush came to give a speech. They arranged for Strykers to block off cross streets that intersected the on-base road upon which the president was going to travel. However, the Strykers were forbidden from having any ammunition — US Army troops, on a US Army base, were forbidden from possessing ammunition anywhere near the president or his motorcade. )). Anyone attempting to come near the president must pass through Secret Service checkpoints to ensure they’re not armed, and I’m fairly certain they’re a bit more thorough than the TSA checkpoints at airports.
Even if a perfectly gun-free perimeter was created outside the building where the president is speaking, that’s still no guarantee that someone would be safe there: what’s to prevent an assassin from using a bomb (perhaps in the sewers?), a mortar, or even one of the numerous privately-owned artillery pieces (( Though I doubt an assassin would be interested in filling out all the NFA paperwork needed to own such a piece, particularly if they’d be a prime suspect after the attempt. )) from well out of range of any protective agents? Nothing, of course.
What if a hypothetical “gun-free” perimeter overlapped private property? Would residents be forced to disclose their ownership of firearms and surrender them to authorities for the duration of the presidents visit? If so, that’s a serious violation of their rights. If not, wouldn’t this be a major “loophole” in the plan?
While there are plenty of spotters, snipers, and counter-snipers observing the area in the immediate proximity to the president, there are plenty of places where a skilled marksman could conceal himself a great distance away (particularly in a city) and, with sufficient training, be able to make an accurate shot. This is why the Secret Service is extremely concerned about moving the president in open areas — they much prefer to move him in a secure manner between buildings to avoid this very threat.
In short, it makes absolutely no sense to establish purportedly “gun-free” perimeters beyond what the Secret Service already maintains. Doing so provides no safety benefit to the president (who is already well-protected), does nothing to deter potential assassins, and would only serve to infringe on the rights of private citizens.
The Secret Service is exceedingly professional and competent, and I fully trust in their judgment as to what is appropriate when protecting the president and other major public figures. Indeed, they have my full and wholehearted support.

One thought on “On Perimeters”

  1. The purpose of the law is to give the secret service a legal mandate to arrest a potential assassin. If the law did not exist, a foiled assassin could argue that their civil rights were violated when the secret service seized their property (firearm) and their person (arrest). If you read the law, it does not apply to constructive possession within personal property (i.e. if you had a gun in a closet in your house). It only applies to ‘actual’ possession. Word to the wise; don’t hold a firearm when the President is around.

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