|Image via Daily Kos|
But what does it mean, in a democracy that enshrines freedom of speech, to publicly carry a gun as an expression of political dissent? Toting a weapon in a demonstration changes the stakes, transforming a protest from just another heated transaction in the marketplace of ideas into something else entirely. It’s bringing a gun to an idea-fight, gesturing as close as possible to outright violence while still technically remaining within the domain of speech. Like a military “show of force,” this gesture stays on the near side of an actual declaration of war while remaining indisputably hostile. The commitment to civil disagreement is merely provisional: I feel so strongly about this issue, the gun says, that if I don’t get my way, I am willing to kill for it. As Mao understood, the formal niceties of political persuasion are underwritten by the very real threat of harm. “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”Look, the sort of person who feels the need to carry a gun to make a point about carrying guns, is exactly the sort of person reasonable people look at and think, "This asshole is a case study in why firearms should be heavily regulated."