I wrote earlier about the casual manner in which both ThinkProgress and Forbes’s Rick Ungar manipulated a gun story by posting a misleading picture and by suggesting that openly carrying long guns is illegal in Texas when it is not. I also noted that, in my view, pro-Second Amendment protesters came close to being guilty of intimidation, and had chosen a tactic that was somewhat counter-productive.
Since then, however, other outlets have picked up on this story and pushed back. A poster on the Bearing Arms blog, who claims to have been there, has story that contradicts the idea that the group intimidated MDA:
What is great they make it sound like we just hung out in the parking lot the whole time. We met in the parking lot and did what we always do we went on a walk for like an hour. The 3rd photo on this page was taken by one of the MDA moms, and when she was taking it we asked her to snap some shots on our cameras too and she obliged. So much for the intimidation they were talking about.
Another person claiming to be there, wrote:
One of the Moms Demanding Action asked us to post (bottom pic) she took in the parking lot. She even took a picture with my phone for me at my request. Her friends inside took the top pic while we were posing for the bottom one. LOL
I got in contact with Shannon Watts, of Moms Demand Action, and asked her about these claims. Did, as has been claimed, MDA take this photo?
— Moms Demand Action (@MomsDemand) November 9, 2013
No, Watts says. “The only one taken by us,” she told me, “was the one where they’re in front of a car crouching down. The moms took it from inside the restaurant. The rest were taken by them and posted on social media outlets.” Just to be sure, I sent her the picture in question, just to clarfiy. “No — this was taken by their org. We took the pic that’s making it into pubs and was on our FB page. It’s a candid photo; not a group shot.”
Per Shannon, this is the sole photograph that MDA took that day:
Moreover, the accounts of Open Carry Texas talking to MDA members and taking photographs of one another, Watts told me, are:
Flatly untrue. Our moms were inside the restaurant for 2 hours. They were posing and taking selfies of themselves. Our moms were terrified.
Someone is lying here. Why does this matter? Well, because, while it is legal to openly carry a rifle in Texas, it becomes illegal if you intimidate somebody. It thus matters whether there was any intimidation.
Moms Demand Action says that its members were intimidated. Watts told me that,
Yes, they felt intimidated. Arlington police won’t let us file a police report because what they were doing is legal. This is what Texas mom who talked to police said:
Police won’t file a report because it’s technically legal. Spoke with an Officer Burns. These things are handled by the DA level. The DA gives guidance on whether to arrest or not. What the officer said is that they monitor these groups, follow them and so on. They were at the parking lot when this occurred monitoring them. They’ve been told by DA that unless the gun is unstrapped from the guy, they can’t charge them. They’ve tried and failed. Officer Burns said I can use her name and share that info publicly to make citizens feel better. She said the legislation is going to have to change.
Naturally, if the apparent members of Open Carry Texas are right and MDA members were hanging out with the counter-protestors, then there was no real intimidation. It is, after all, hard to make an intimidation charge stick if you walked up to the people of whom you were apparently scared and took photos for them. If Watts is telling the truth, however, then I think there is a case.
If anyone was at the rally and has something to add, please get in touch.