David Sirota makes the case:
In early August, a protester came to a raucous Tennessee congressional forum packing heat. Days later, President Obama’s healthcare event in New Hampshire was marred by a protester posing for cameras with a pistol and sign reading, “It is time to water the tree of liberty” — a reference to a Thomas Jefferson quote promising violence. And this past week, 12 armed men — including one with an assault rifle — not only showed off their firearms at Obama’s Arizona speech, but broadcast a YouTube video threatening to “forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority.”
These and other similar examples are accurately summarized with the same language federal law employs to describe domestic terrorism. Generating maximum media attention, the weapons-brandishing displays are “intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.” Yes, the gun has been transformed from a sport and self-defense device into a tool of mass bullying. Like the noose in the Jim Crow South, its symbolic message is clear: If you dare engage in the democratic process, you risk bodily harm.
With that implicit threat, the incessant arguments about gun ownership have been supplanted by a more significant debate over which should take precedence: The Constitution’s First or Second Amendment?
Based on America’s history, the Founders’ answer to that question clearly lies in the Bill of Rights’ deliberate sequencing.
The First Amendment ethos guarantees people — whatever their politics — a fundamental right to participate in their democracy without concern for physical retribution.
What do you think? Is this an issue of the first two amendments clashing or is it just a matter of appropriate times and places for exercising each of them? Is it a form of terrorism to simply to hold up your guns as a symbol at political protests and encounters with congressmen? Is that a fair characterization? Are there defensible reasons to bring guns to protests and town halls?