Handgun stripped
Credit: Hrd10/Wikimedia Commons

Donald Trump got a scare tonight and was rushed off stage at a rally in Reno, Nevada, after some of his fans thought an assassination attempt was being made. Someone apparently thought they saw a firearm and shouted “gun!” after which secret service agents responded quickly and professionally.

No gun was ever found, and the whole thing was a false alarm–which, of course, didn’t stop conservative media outlets from blaring about the supposed “assassination attempt.”

At a social level, this is yet another ratcheting up of the paranoia of the conservative base. These people are so wrapped up in the illusion of Trump-as-savior and the supposed violence of the left that they see fictitious assassins where none exist. The dangerous groupthink involved at Trump’s rallies has taken another small step on the road to fascism.

But the incident raises an important policy question: don’t Trump’s supporters back an interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that privileges the right to carry a gun, even at political rallies? Isn’t the idea supposed to be that only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun?

The preposterousness of Republican talking points on guns couldn’t be better illustrated than here. Trump’s backers are so paranoid that they see assassination attempts and firearms where none exist. But if there had been a gun in the crowd tonight, the perpetrator would have been able to get off a shot long before any of the Trump supporters in the crowd could have fired. Moreover, even a direct hit from a bullet–or several–often isn’t enough to stop someone from taking action at least for a few seconds until they realize they’ve been hit. In general, assassins of high profile figures don’t much care if they survive the attempt.

The best way to stop a bad guy is to stop him from getting a gun in the first place, and Trump supporters just got a chance to see that principle in direct action.

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Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.