The President and a gun

A while ago, I had a brief exchange with another Doper about whether Bush carries a gun. I can’t recall ever having seen him carry one, but he seems like the type to do so, or so my prejudices inform me (no slight intended against gun-carrying Dopers).

I’ve never had to bodyguard anyone, but I have a feeling that if I did I wouldn’t like my subject to be armed. If push came to shove, I wouldn’t want him to start shooting but leave it to me and my colleagues. Then again, I’m a sissy European.

So: Does Bush ever carry? Did he before becoming President? Has any President since, say, 1900 done so? Is there any particular rule about the President carrying? What are your best guesses regarding the Secret Service’s feelings on the matter?

I doubt they’d let him carry a gun around. He’d shoot his eye out.

Well, we know the Cheney carries a gun, and he came that close to shooting someone else’s eye out…

Please don’t do this. I’m actually interested in this question.

Personally, I’ve never heard or read anything to indicate that Bush or any previous president has ever carried a personal firearm. The closest I’ve ever heard was Nancy Reagan’s admission she owned one but I don’t believe she carried it with her.

In all seriousness, I doubt that Bush is allowed to carry a gun. The Secret Service’s job (one of them, anyway) is to protect the President. Any time he’s not at the White House, you can bet that there’s SS guards around him. If he were to be attacked, then their job is to get him out of harms way as quickly as possible. Having the President pulling out a Glock and shooting back at an assassin kind of makes that difficult.

If you watch the clips of the attempt on Reagan, the SS guys throw themselves onto the President and shove him into the limo. A President, unlike his SS guards, is going to be focused on waving to the crowd, etc., and isn’t going to be scanning for someone to preparing to shoot. Him carrying a gun, and trying to pull it out in such a situation is only going to make things worse. He could accidentally shoot the SS man trying to shove him out of harms way.

As to whether or not Bush has carried a gun in the past, that’s entirely possible, but I don’t have any information on that.

I think that Teddy Roosevelt might have carried a small derringer when he was President, but fear of a President being assassinated pretty much dates to Lincoln getting elected. One of the Presidents (I think it was Jefferson) was questioned by a passerby when they saw him in front of the White House. They didn’t think that he was the President, and was demanding to know what he was doing there.

I don’t have any factual knowledge, but I would think that the Secret Service considers it their duty to protect the President, and if they’re doing their job, he shouldn’t need to carry a weapon. They’re trained to handle firearms, and aside from the Texas Air National Guard thing 40 years ago, the President isn’t.

As the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he can carry pretty much anything he wants to. But why bother? He has a large, well-trained Secret Service detail that is armed to the teeth.

Ammend that: The President isn’t professionally trained to handle firearms. But many Americans, as private citizens, train with firearms despite a lack of professional need. Is Bush one of them? I have no idea. But he might be.

Taking beowulff’s comment seriously though, has any recent president gone hunting? In other words, would the Secret Service allow the president to do so?

Clinton did, IIRC.

Some people here have talked about what the Secret Service allows the President to do. The bottom line is that the Secret Service allows the President to do anything he wants to do - they can only advise him on what they would like him to do. But if Barack Obama decided he really wanted to attend an Aryan Brotherhood rally in Idaho, the Secret Service couldn’t stop him.

Yes, I never thought the Secret Service had any authority over the President (except in life-or-death emergencies when they shove him into a limo regardless of his own feelings on the matter), but I was wondering if they preferred an armed or unarmed President, my own guess being on the latter.

But the president wouldn’t be exempt from gun laws (e.g. laws on carrying concealed weapons) and would be treated like any private citizen in that respect, wouldn’t he?

Of course he carries. Don’t you remember that bulge during the debates?

Okay, okay, joking. I would hazard a guess that the Secret Service would very, very strongly discourage the President from carrying a sidearm, on the grouns that he couldn’t possibly need one. The Secret Service is arguably the most elite, best trained and best equipped personal security detail in the world, and protection of the President is their numero uno charge. Anything the President did in the way of “helping” would just be getting in the way at best. If things deteriorate to the point that the President himself has to return fire with a handgun, it’s probably not going to help much.

Oh yeah I can see it now, some local sheriff walks up to POTUS and says “Can I see your permit to carry that thing?” Politics aside, he is the Commander in Chief of the Millitary and the head of the Executive Branch if he determines that carrying a personal firearm is appropriate I doubt any law could be invoked to stop him. Besides couldn’t he just sign an Executive Order declaring it necesary for the security of his person or something?

I don’t believe there’s anything in the Constitution exempting the President from following the law.

Now, obviously, if the president decides he wants to carry without a permit, he’s rather less likely to get busted in a random search or whatnot. I would imagine that he’d also be less likely to actually be charged with whatever given offense. And I suppose there’s the possibility that he could simply pardon himself if he were charged and convicted, though I imagine that would create far more trouble than it would relieve him of.

If you dig through some used bookstores, you might find Secret Service Chief by U.E. Baughman, who was head of the service ~1944-1962. His description of the 1950 attempt on Truman is pretty scary, including the bit where Truman, curious about the noise, stands in full view in a second-story window at Blair House, where anybody could have picked him off. Though Baughman does his best to be diplomatic (no mention of Kennedy’s hookers, for example), it’s clear that guarding Presidents is nerve-wracking enough without introducing the extra variable of letting them actively participate in their own personal defense.

The current president once flew a jet fighter, that’s gotta be considered “armed”.

G. Gordon Liddy related a story in his autobiography Will that involved similar issues. When he arrived in DC to serve as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury, he went about ensuring he could legally carry a gun. The law permitted (and still does) the Secretary of the Treasury to designate agents permitted to carry firearms everywhere in the country, regardless of local laws. Liddy drafted a memo for the file that noted that he was an agent of the Department of the Treasury within the meaning of the law, and, bingo, was autorized to carry a weapon in the fifty states.

The President certainly could, by executive order or direction to the appropriate cabinet officer, make an analogous arrangement.