Not ‘the time or the place to show your rights’

Somehow, I had missed, until now, this account of a man arrested at an Obama rally in Pennsylvania while openly (and utterly legally) carrying a handgun.

Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said the issue isn’t whether Noble was legally carrying a gun. State police said Noble did not violate the state’s open carry law, under which you don’t need a permit to carry a weapon in plain sight.

But in the U.S. these days, one doesn’t have to–you know–break the law to get arrested.

Instead, Berosh said, it’s a battle between two constitutional rights: The right to bear arms and the right to assemble peaceably and without fear.

OK, Anthony–I’m familiar (obviously) with the right to keep and bear arms, and I’m also on board with the Constitutional protection of the right to peaceably assemble, but the “right” to do so without fear? My copy of the Bill of Rights must be defective. Actually, how would protection for such a “right” work? People have all kinds of fears, some rational, many not. Some people have a fear of crowds. Tell me, Anthony, how do you protect that person’s “right” to peaceably assemble “without fear”?

Berosh said Noble did not have the right to alarm anyone around him attending the Barack Obama rally in Irvine Park.

So if someone “alarms” me, I can have him arrested? Or does that only work at Barack Obama rallies (and do such rallies have to be in Irvine Park)? Hmm–I find it rather alarming to see people go into quasi-religious swoons over political candidates–can I have most attendees of Obama rallies arrested?

Beaver County Sheriff George David, a self-proclaimed “gun advocate,” kindly provided me with the title for this blog post:

“I don’t think this was the time or the place to show your rights,” David said.

So he acknowledges Noble’s right to be armed, but this wasn’t “the time or the place” to exercise that right. If one can be arrested for exercising a right (because it’s not “the time or place” to do so), I can’t help but wonder how much of a right it actually is. There’s also the little problem of the fact that there wasn’t a law (even an unconstitutional one) against what Noble did.

Berosh then helpfully makes this observation:

Berosh said, “You have a right to strike a match, unless you’re in a TNT factory.”

Then again, striking a match in a TNT factory is in itself a grossly, irresponsibly dangerous action that can lead directly to death and destruction, while carrying a holstered firearm at a political rally is not. Work on your analogy, Anthony.

In a society that supposedly places a premium on personal liberty, it is always the right time and place to “show your rights.”

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