I'm having a hard time working up much sympathy for Mark Hughes, the man who was briefly identified as a "suspect" and a "person of interest" after 11 cops were shot last night in Dallas.
Early Thursday evening, Hughes joined hundreds of peaceful protesters as they walked through downtown Dallas, chanting and calling for justice for the victims of two recent police shootings. At around 9 p.m. CT the first shots broke out, causing police and protesters, including Hughes, to scatter. It quickly became clear that law enforcement officers were the targets. Almost two hours later, police sent a tweet identifying Hughes as the first “suspect” in the shooting and asking for help tracking him down. A picture of him at the protest, smiling in a camouflage T-shirt with a rifle slung over his shoulder, accompanied the tweet, which was retweeted almost 39,000 times by Friday morning. In a late night press conference, Dallas Police Chief David Brown described their search for a “person of interest” wearing camouflage with a rifle, saying witnesses at the scene claimed he was “involved in the shooting in some way.”
Hughes showed up at a demonstration against the shooting deaths of two black men with a "long gun" slung over his shoulder. At the end of that demo, a whole bunch of cops were gunned down by multiple shooters. Is anyone surprised that someone in the DPD thought, "Hey, remember that guy carrying the rifle around the demo? Is it possible he was involved somehow in the shooting that just took place at this demo?"
Being identified as a "suspect" by the police in a widely-circulated tweet had to be scary. (You know what else is scary? Nuts with "long guns" strutting around in restaurants, shops, and demos.) Hughes got a call from a friend letting him know about the photo being circulated of him by the police, and he quickly flagged down the nearest cop to turn over his gun. Hughes was taken into custody, questioned, and released; the Dallas Police Department cleared Hughes in a subsequent tweet.
Back to TPM:
“He was allowing himself to carry an arm, a firearm, but that’s his constitutional right. And because someone went crazy and some opportunist decided to hurt people, now he’s plastered all over the media,” Cory Hughes said, noting that his [brother's] social media accounts had been flooded with death threats.... “Human nature says we don’t want anybody to be hurt,” Cory Hughes said, reiterating that they were there for a “peaceful protest” and that both the two black men who were videotaped being killed by police in shootings this week and police officers themselves are all “human.”
[ten thousand eye-roll emoji faces here]
You know who else allowed himself to carry an arm, a firearm, which was his constitutional right? This guy.
Yes, Mark Hughes had a constitutional right to march around with that gun slung over his shoulder at that demonstration. Welcome to Texas. That doesn't make doing so wise or considerate or without potential consequence. Even the NRA, in rare (and brief) moment of sanity, condemned just the kind of open-carry, beside-the-point, needlessly-provocative stunts like the one Hughes engaged in last night:
Recently, demonstrators have been showing up in various public places, including coffee shops and fast food restaurants, openly toting a variety of tactical long guns. Unlicensed open carry of handguns is legal in about half the U.S. states, and it is relatively common and uncontroversial in some places. Yet while unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest.... Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.
That statement from the NRA was so reasonable, so sensible, that they quickly retracted it.
Mark Hughes had a constitutional right to own that gun (thanks to a misreading of the Second Amendment) and a right to carry it around in public (thanks to the single-party misrule of Texas Republicans). Just like the American Nazi Party had a constitutional right to march through Skokie, Illinois, a Chicago suburb that was home to a large number of Holocaust survivors. Their right to march through Skokie didn't make marching through Skokie and waving swastika flags in the faces of Holocaust survivors any less stupid, cruel, and scary.
I have a constitutional right to suck a dick and my sister has a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. I can't imagine conservatives would be cheering for us if we opted to exercise those rights in an aisle at Walmart, in a line at fast-food restaurant, or at a demonstration against police violence.
UPDATE: Aldrick makes a solid and very persuasive point in the comments thread:
I agree that it was stupid to open carry a gun. He could have gotten shot. However, I understand the reason he might have done it considering the circumstances. He is in a state where open carry is legal, as stupid as we may both think that may be. He was protesting the police shooting of two black men who had the legal right to own and carry weapons. We know this does not happen to white people, because we have seen crazy white people go around waving their guns and actually threatening the police with them. They walk away alive and unharmed. Yet, these black men did not—they ended up dead. So, it is reasonable, even if it was a bad idea, for a black man to open carry in a state where it is legal as an act of defiance.
Read the rest of his Aldick's comment here.