For decades in Texas, it’s been legal to open carry rifles, and as the Dallas News points out, people carrying rifles have been regularly showing up at various recent protests.
When the sniper attack that killed 5 police officers got underway this Thursday at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, many of the people marching were also carrying rifles – about 20 people in “ammo gear and protective equipment and rifles slung over their shoulder,” according to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
After the shooting broke out, Mark Hughes, who was open-carrying, was immediately named as a suspect when police released a photo of him carrying an AR-15. He was later cleared after turning himself in.
While police are keeping tight-lipped on the effect the armed protesters had on the situation, Mayor Rawlings isn’t holding back.
“It’s logical to say that in a shooting situation, open carry can be detrimental to the safety of individuals,” he said.
From the Dallas News:
Rawlings said Dallas police Chief David Brown told him that people running through the shooting scene with rifles and body armor required officers to track them down and bring them to the police department. Whether that was time that could have been spent trying to find and stop the shooter is something police will have to comment on, Rawlings said.
“When the shooting started, at different angles, [the armed protesters] started running,” Rawlings said, adding that open carry only brings confusion to a shooting scene.
— The Hill (@thehill) July 10, 2016
“What I would do is look for the people with guns,” he said.
Dallas Police Major Max Geron backed up Rawlings’ statements, saying there was a “challenge of sorting out witnesses from potential suspects.”
“Texas is an open carry state, and there were a number of armed demonstrators taking part,” Geron wrote on a law enforcement website, according to the Dallas News. “There was confusion on the radio about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”
Law enforcement organizations such as the Dallas Police Association have generally opposed the state’s new open carry law regarding handguns, which went into effect this year.
Senior Sgt. Chris Dyer, president of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Association, said large cities like Dallas should pass ordinances that would ban the open carry of firearms during large events like protest marches.
In an MSNBC interview this Saturday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton rejected concerns about Texas’ open carry laws.
“It’s designed to protect law-abiding citizens,” Paxton said. “It’s working just fine.”
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 9, 2016
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