Is it the start of a disturbing trend that could end in disaster, or just people exercising their constitutional rights? People are beginning to bring guns to President Obama's events.
The latest incident was Monday in Phoenix, where a dozen people, including a man with a military-style assault rifle, openly showed their guns at a protest outside a convention center where Obama was giving a speech.
Arizona is a so called "open carry" state, where anyone who can legally own a gun can carry it around, as long as it is out in the open. A person would need a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
There were no incidents at Monday's event, and no one was arrested. The man with the rifle told The Arizona Republic that he was carrying the assault weapon because he could. "In Arizona, I still have some freedoms," he said.
Detective J. Oliver carefully monitored the man, to make sure he didn't do anything wrong, but also to ensure no one decided to harm him.
"Just by his presence and people seeing the rifle and people knowing the president was in town, it sparked a lot of emotions," Oliver said. "We were keeping peace on both ends."
"It's a political statement," he toldThe Boston Globe. "If you don't use your rights, then you lose your rights."
And that is just the point gun activists are trying to make. They say the right to bear arms and protest is in the constitution, so why not take advantage?
But others say this is a disaster waiting to happen. "To me, this is craziness," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "When you bring a loaded gun, particularly a loaded assault rifle, to any political event, but particularly to one where the president is appearing, you're just making the situation dangerous for everyone. The more guns we see at more events like this, there's more potential for something tragic happening."
But the Secret Service, which is responsible for the President's safety, said armed demonstrators in open-carry states such as Arizona and New Hampshire have little impact on security plans.
"In both cases, the subject was not entering our site or otherwise attempting to," spokesman Ed Donovan said. "They were in a designated public viewing area. The main thing to know is that they would not have been allowed inside with a weapon."