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In Which ThinkProgress Spins a Pro-Gun Protest



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Today, ThinkProgress has a story on a protest in Dallas, Texas, at which a pro-Second Amendment group called Open Carry Texas rallied against an anti-Second Amendment group called Moms Demand Action:

On Saturday, nearly 40 armed men, women, and children waited outside a Dallas, Texas area restaurant to protest a membership meeting for the state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun safety advocacy group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

According to a spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action (MDA), the moms were inside the Blue Mesa Grill when members of Open Carry Texas (OCT) — an open carry advocacy group — “pull[ed] up in the parking lot and start[ed] getting guns out of their trunks.” The group then waited in the parking lot for the four MDA members to come out. The spokeswoman said that the restaurant manager did not want to call 911, for fear of “inciting a riot” and waited for the gun advocates to leave. The group moved to a nearby Hooters after approximately two hours.

At the top of the ThinkProgress story is this rather alarming picture, in which the group appears to be hunting in a parking lot:

Ouch.

ThinkProgress claims, too, that openly carrying rifles in this way is illegal in Texas:

Licensed gun owners are allowed to carry concealed weapons, but Texas is one of six states that prohibits open carry of firearms. Attorney General Greg Abbott, a likely Republican successor for Gov. Rick Perry (R), has vowed to permit concealed handgun owners to display their firearms in public. Four GOP contenders for lieutenant governor similarly hope to put in place open carry laws if elected.

Over at Forbes, Rick Ungar makes a similar claim:

For those of you who would suggest that the members of Open Carry Texas were simply engaging in their Constitutional right to gather and protest what was occurring inside the restaurant, you would be wrong.

While the group is certainly entitled to protest (although there are questions raised about them doing so on private property without invitation as was the case here), they are not, according to Texas law, entitled to do so by openly showing their weapons.

While Texas permits licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons, Texas does not permit the open carry of guns. Indeed, it is the desire to change this law that the Open Carry Texas group is all about.

Accordingly, Open Carry’s chosen method to make its point and preferences known is not only to break the law but to severely frighten unarmed people in the process.

As one might expect, none of this is quite true. For a start, the picture above is deeply misleading. As one Twitter user showed me, the group was, in fact, posing for a picture. (UPDATE: This Facebook page suggests that it was Moms Demand Action that took both pictures!)

What a difference 90 degrees makes.

As for the claim that open carry is illegal in Texas? No, not quite. Texas has laws that prohibit the open carrying of handguns, yes. But it does not have laws that prohibit the open carrying of long guns. The group had long guns.

As it is everywhere else, it is illegal in Texas for those carrying guns to disturb the peace, to intimidate, to brandish, or to threaten other citizens. But peaceful carrying is allowed in Texas, and there is no exception for demonstrations. This New York Times article, detailing a recent protest at the Alamo, makes this abundantly clear, as does this photograph from the TruthAboutGuns blog:

As a matter of personal taste, I dislike the tactics that Open Carry Texas used, and I think they got close to “intimidation.” Unlike the protest depicted above, targeting a small group while carrying rifles strikes me as a counter-productive and mean strategy and one likely to turn off people who are instinctively on Second Amendment advocates’ side. Regardless of the legality of the thing, it is almost certainly ill-advised to alarm people in the name of making them feel more comfortable around guns. Nevertheless, ThinkProgress and Rick Ungar are simply wrong with their insinuations. I will be charitable and presume that this was the product of a typical ignorance of the subject rather than a deliberate desire to mislead. But wrong is still wrong, whatever its cause.



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