Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Perp, Perp, Who is the Perp?

You’re a cop attending a protest. It’s in an “open carry” state, where those with pretty-easy-to-get permits can walk around with pistols in holsters obviously and very visibly strapped to their hip… or carry some of those “long guns” – from highly accurate sniper rifles to semi-automatic assault weapons over their shoulders… legally. Shots ring out. Targets, cops and civilians, drop to the ground, more than a few dead by the time their bodies hit concrete. Neither you nor your fellow officers can tell where the shots came from, but you recognize the report from the gun that fired the fatal shots. You scan the crowd for someone with that kind of weapon. There are several, but which one (if any) is the shooter?
Wild crazy story? Or one of the many complications recently faced by Dallas cops as Micah X. Johnson fired his expert rounds into body after body? There were armed civilians at the protests that drew the fire. “A protester legally carrying a long gun was mistaken for a shooter in the Dallas police ambush. His story illustrates one of the biggest drawbacks to the [open carry] policy…
“Just before midnight Thursday [July 7th] night, as the crisis in Dallas was still unfolding, the Dallas Police Department posted a photo of an alleged suspect. The man pictured was black, stocky in build, wearing a camouflage-print t-shirt and, crucially, carrying a rifle slung over his shoulder.
“The man’s name is Mark Hughes, and he had nothing to do with the shootings. As Lauren McGaughy reports in The Dallas Morning News, Hughes had joined the Dallas protest over the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile to exercise his Second Amendment rights. Texas is an open-carry state, so he was breaking no law. Still, after Dallas police released his photo, Hughes turned himself in.
“Sixteen hours later, Hughes still appeared on the Twitter page run by the Dallas Police Department, under the blaring caption, “Please help us find him!” Hundreds of angry Dallas residents tweeted at the department to ask the police to take down the photo. Even Michael D. Brown, former under-secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, felt compelled to weigh in: ‘Stop besmirching him.’ UPDATE: As of 5:45 p.m. Friday [July 8th], it looks like the Dallas police decided to listen: the post no longer appears on Twitter.
“‘I’m not satisfied with an apology,’ Hughes told the local CBS affiliate in Dallas. Reasonably so, given that the Dallas Police Department is still pointing negative attention toward Hughes—at a time when all eyes are on Dallas. Yet Hughes acknowledges in that same interview that he could have been shot, given the tense nature of the situation and the chaos on the scene (not to mention the fact that police were looking for him). There’s subtext to his statement: Open carry is a problem for police during a crisis.” CityLab.com, July 8th. Oh.
But we have a serious situation brewing at the rapidly approaching Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. You see, Ohio is an open-carry state, and it will be perfectly legal for those with open-carry permits to walk around with the hip-holsters and long guns, even though the GOP has banned weapons on the convention floor. Bad news for a very controversial candidate who is a very strong advocate for so-called “Second Amendment” rights?
The July 11th New York Times explains: “Ohio’s open-carry laws mean that those who legally own guns can take them into the 1.7-square-mile area where many of the events and protests connected to the Republican convention will be held next week. Beginning Sunday, protesters are expected to flood into the city, with causes ranging from white supremacy to Palestinian rights.
“‘Obviously, everybody is on edge after Dallas,’ Brian Kazy, a member of the Cleveland City Council and its Safety Committee, said in an interview Sunday [July 10th] evening… Mr. Kazy said he had never been concerned about Ohio’s open-carry laws. But then Micah Johnson, an African-American sniper said to be determined to murder white police officers, went on a rampage in Texas, which also has open-carry laws.
“‘If you had some mass confusion, even if you had a civilian who was carrying who would attempt to help out, I think the mentality of any law enforcement officer would see an individual with a gun, would see an individual possibly shoot and would react to that,’ he said.
“Cleveland officials are promising increased security during the Republican gathering, with resources from city, state and federal authorities. And within the convention area, the Secret Service will set up a smaller perimeter near the Quicken Loans Arena that will have stricter security and prohibit guns. Delegates to the convention, for example, will not be able to take their guns onto the convention floor.
“However, given the recent tumult around the country, some leaders are anxious that the environment could turn dangerous. One group made up of current and former members of the military called the Oath Keepers, who have shown up at other tense events heavily armed, say they again plan to carry weapons into Cleveland.
“Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, said he strongly supported citizens’ rights to bear arms, but he is urging people not to take their guns anywhere near Cleveland’s downtown during the convention.
“‘The last thing in the world we need is anybody walking around here with AR-15s strapped to their back,’ he said. ‘And the absolute tragedy in Dallas is proof positive that we just cannot allow that to happen. I would really just beg these folks, just leave your guns at home. Come, say whatever it is that you want to say, make whatever point it is that you want to make, but it’s going to be very, very difficult to deal with the R.N.C. as it is.’
“He added that officers were already in a ‘heightened state’ because of the passions generated by the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, on both sides and the security challenges as thousands of delegates fill the city… Eric Pucillo, the vice president of Ohio Carry, a gun rights group based in Kent, Ohio, said he understood Mr. Loomis’s concerns, but stressed that people could not be legally prevented from carrying their guns downtown.”
Think it’s only folks on the right who are carrying weapons in Cleveland? Think again! “‘If it is an open state to carry, we will exercise our second amendment rights because there are other groups threatening to be there that are threatening to do harm to us,’ Hashim Nzinga, chairman of the New Black Panther Party, told Reuters in an interview… ‘If that state allows us to bear arms, the Panthers and the others who can legally bear arms will bear arms.’… Nzinga condemned the killing of five police officers in Dallas last week as a ‘massacre’ and said his group played no role in the attack.” Reuters, July 12th. Feeling a touch uneasy?
The Second Amendment has been twisted and distorted to permit such inane statutes that encourage public gun display, allow assault weapons and lax laws on when people can “justifiably” shoot someone to death. The notion of “well regulated” seems to have been deleted from the plain words of that Amendment to permit the idiocy we face today. If not Cleveland, where will the next mass shooting take place?
I’m Peter Dekom, and given the open carry rights of permitted gun owners around the GOP Convention in Cleveland, what could possibly go wrong, go wrong, go wrong….?

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