Mark Hughes was peacefully protesting the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling while openly carrying his AR-15 in Dallas Thursday night. It was his photo that police first posted claiming that he was the shooter and not Micah Xavier Johnson. The corrected the error, but the mistake was a glaring example of the problems that can arise from Texas’ open carry gun laws.
Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings joined John Dickerson on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” to explain the problems that surfaced Thursday night as police were attempting to subdue the shooter.
“You know, in dealing with the law of gun holding, you can carry a rifle legally, and when you have gunfire going on, you usually go with the person that’s got a gun,” Rawlings explained, explaining why many people were arrested that night. “And so our police grabbed some of those individuals, took them to police headquarters, and worked it out and figured out that they were not the shooters.”
Therein lies the biggest problem with open carry laws. “But that is one of the real issues with the gun right issues that we face, that in the middle of a firefight, it’s hard to pick out the good guys and the bad guys,” he said.
Rawlings continued that those open-carrying complicated the moment when police were trying to stop the shooter. “I wasn’t there real time to kind of see it go on, but the common sense would tell you, you don’t know where the gunfire’s coming from. There were individuals that ran across the gunfire. They were in the body armor, camo gear with rifles slung over their shoulders, so it sure took our eye off the ball for a moment. We got them out of the way, we figured out what was happening, and we did our business.”
“There was also the challenge of sorting out witnesses from potential suspects,” Max Geron, a Dallas police major told the Dallas Morning News. “Texas is an open carry state, and there were a number of armed demonstrators taking part. There was confusion on the radio about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”
President Barack Obama specifically cited the open carry law in speaking about the Dallas shooting Friday. “[Police] have a really difficult time in communities where they know guns are everywhere,” Obama said. “And as I said before, they have right to come home and now they have very little margin of error in terms of making decisions. So if you care about the safety of our police officers, then you can’t set aside the gun issue and pretend that that’s irrelevant.”
Watch the interview below: