The Rev. Jesse Jackson says right-wingers are engaging in a dangerous “Wild West fantasy” by bringing weapons to political events.
In a Monday column for the Tribune Media Services he wrote, “This isn’t just harmless macho posturing. What we are witnessing is a dangerous and toxic mixture of hate groups and laws that allow them to carry guns, even to a presidential event.”
Mr. Jackson, a longtime supporter of gun-control laws, called for a new law to prohibit citizens from doing this in the future
“The haters, the paranoid, the wingnuts have made their presence known. Now it is up to the rest of us to make it clear that bringing guns to a presidential town hall is simply and unequivocally unacceptable. We’ve seen a doctor murdered in Kansas, a guard shot down at the Holocaust Museum and, as the Department of Homeland Security warns, the extremes are once more on the rise. We need to hear from the responsible voices and the responsible leaders now - not after the next tragedy.”
People who want to attend a town-hall event for Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire better be able to pass through a metal detector.
The congresswoman, a Democrat, has scheduled her only two town-hall recess events in federal buildings that require citizens to pass through heavy security checks. They’ll need to come early, too. The rooms only have space for roughly 100 people.
TV is showing clips of men carrying guns to political events this summer, and a spokesman said the lawmakers wants to reassure people. The media coverage of guns-at-political-events began when a supporter of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, William Kostric, brought a gun to a New Hampshire health care event that President Obama headlined in Portsmouth and escalated when another man brought an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to a health care event in Phoenix.
“People have seen things on TV and we wanted everyone to feel comfortable and secure,” said Jamie Radice, communications director for Ms. Shea-Porter in an e-mail to The Washington Times.
Doug Lambert, a New Hampshire conservative blogger and activist who writes for GraniteGrok.com, is upset with locations. “The biggest issue I have with both venues that I have is the seating, which is about 100 people, and I find that to be very prohibitive.”
Ms. Shea-Porter originally scheduled no public town-hall meetings over the August recess, opting instead to hold teleconferences. Local news outlets reported more than 13,500 constituents phoned in to a conference call Friday.
This lack of face-to-face contact outraged her Republican opponents and caused some activists to feature her image on a milk carton as the “missing congresswoman.” Fox News and many other outlets picked up on the joke. She announced she would hold two town halls, both in federal buildings. Doors will open one hour before for security checks and seats will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
“It’s possible more than 100 people would want to come and if you have a venue with 100 people going through security checks you have put a certain stumbling block up for people before the event even begins,” Mr. Lambert said.
Security was not as high, however, at an event Monday evening in Concord where the congresswoman schmoozed with progressive activists at a local Mexican restaurant.
A popular liberal blog, BlueHampshire.com, sponsored a “Blue Hampshire Bash” where Ms. Shea-Porter appeared along with Rep. Paul W. Hodes, New Hampshire Democrat, and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the founder of the popular liberal blog Daily Kos.
Dean Barker, managing editor for BlueHampshire.com, said in an e-mail to The Times that there was, “no security that I’m aware of, though the restaurant had every right to contact police if there was a disturbance on their private property.
“It wasn’t a public event, and you had to pay to get in for the food, so that probably discouraged disrupters,” he added.
Mr. Lambert was among those protesters at the BlueHampshire event. He carried a sign featuring the famous image of Mr. Obama styled as the Joker outside the restaurant where the congresswoman dined with the liberal activists.
A ‘safety zone’
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, has voiced similar concerns as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to create a gun-free “safety zone” around the president and Cabinet officials at all times.
“I seek no change in the local laws of other jurisdictions, and ask only respect for gun laws in my own district,” Mrs. Norton said.
“However, it is clear that if the Secret Service can temporarily clear all aircraft from air space when the president is in the vicinity, the agency has the authority to clear guns on the ground that is even closer to the president.”
• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com.