Accepting and even expecting to see firearms at protest rallies means that we somehow embrace the threat of chaos and violence. While those who carry say they have no intention of using their weapons, the firepower alone creates a wordless threat, and something far more calamitous if even just one person discharges a round.

If someone were to go rogue, it would be difficult for police to identify a shooter while facing a phalanx of protesters who all have rifles strapped to their shoulders. Distinguishing law enforcement from people dressed as “enforcers” could be tough. During the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, the Virginia National Guard tweeted that its troops were wearing “MP” patches on their uniforms so people could sort the military police from the rifle-wielding paramilitary groups that showed up wearing helmets, camouflage and tactical vests.

Accepting the open display of firearms at protests means we can expect an increased militarization of state and local law enforcement agencies seeking to protect their troops.