Rep. Pence: Guns At Political Events Are Like "Placards" At Anti-War Rallies

January 12, 2011 11:08 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Chis Broughton at Obama event

This morning, a caller on C-SPAN's Washington Journal asked Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) why Republicans did not speak out when a right-wing activist brought an assault rifle to an Obama event in Arizona in 2009. Responding to the question, Pence likened the presence of guns at political rallies to anti-war protesters "waving placards that spoke strong opposition to the Bush administration," saying, "All of that is what freedom is all about."

PENCE: Well, I remember the press reports about people bringing firearms to — at least it was one press report I remember in the last two years of a firearm being brought to a rally. I personally never witnessed that. I really believe that we enter on to a very slippery slope if we buy into the attempt to assign blame for last Saturday's unspeakable violence anywhere but on the individual who was to blame. My experience whether it was at town hall meetings or Tea Party rallies or national gatherings — my experience back in the heat of the debate over the war in Iraq, when I saw people gathering on the National Mall and waving placards that spoke strong opposition to the Bush administration — I walked down the hallway to foreign affairs committee hearings and heard people hurl epithets at me because of my support for the war in Iraq. All of that is what freedom is all about. And the right to peaceably assemble is not simply limited to the right to peaceably assemble in quiet and thoughtful ways.

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While Pence's unwillingness to denounce gun-toting conservative protesters is unsurprising, his comparison is absurd. There's no doubt that some anti-Bush demonstrations were beyond the pale, as are many of the images we've seen at Tea Party rallies in the past two years. But there's also an obvious difference between "placards" expressing opposition to violence and assault weapons designed for mass killing.     

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