When Pittsburgh hosts world leaders coming to the G-20 summit on Sept. 24 and 25, its greatest duty also will be the most basic -- security. It will be an awesome responsibility.
The Constitution must be respected in the process. It contains such rights of the people as to peaceably assemble and to keep and bear arms. But nothing in that great document suggests that one right is supreme over others. In the famous example, the First Amendment guarantees free speech but that does not permit someone to incite chaos by shouting fire needlessly in a crowded theater.
The question of competing rights now arises as G-20 legislation moves through Pittsburgh City Council. It would allow police to cite people for wearing a mask or carrying a variety of items such as rotten eggs if police perceive an intent to defy the law. The proposal also lists 37 types of guns that could be actionable. That part of the bill has upset gun-rights supporters.
We would be the first to concede that the gun provisions are legally dubious, given that in this case -- regrettably -- state law would seem to preempt anything Pittsburgh might enact. Empowering the police to be mind readers of intent is also troublesome. City Council should tread warily when these proposals are discussed in chambers tomorrow and a sunset provision would be reasonable.
But please spare us those who would make an unreasonable, absolutist defense of the Second Amendment and argue that people have a right to carry weapons anywhere near a meeting like the G-20. This summer, fanatical gun owners have insisted on their right to carry firearms to volatile town meetings or in the vicinity of the president. That is complete lunacy. It is the equivalent of shouting fire in a theater or playing with matches in a fireworks factory.
If any Joe can carry firearms near the G-20 summit, it would vastly complicate the job of law enforcement. If rotten eggs are banned but deadly firearms aren't, what a sad commentary on gun-obsessed America that will make.