PHOENIX — About a dozen people carrying guns, including one with a military-style rifle, milled among protesters outside the convention center where President Obama was speaking Monday -- the latest incident in which protesters have openly displayed firearms near the president.
Gun-rights advocates say they're exercising their constitutional right to bear arms and protest. Those who advocate gun control say it could be a disaster waiting to happen.
Phoenix police said the gun-toters, including the man carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, didn't need permits. No crimes were committed, and no one was arrested.
The man with the rifle declined to be identified but told the Arizona Republic he was carrying the weapon because he could. "In Arizona, I still have some freedoms," he said.
Arizona is an "open-carry" state, which means anyone legally allowed to have a firearm can carry it in public as long as it's visible. Only a concealed weapon requires a permit.
Last week, during Obama's town hall in Portsmouth, N.H., a man carried a sign reading, "It is time to water the tree of liberty," and stood outside with a pistol strapped to his leg.
"It's a political statement," he told the Boston Globe. "If you don't use your rights, then you lose your rights."
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said people should not be allowed to bring guns to Obama's events.
"To me, this is craziness," he said. "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."
Representatives of the National Rifle Assn. did not return calls for comment.