In a Saturday article headlined “At Protests, Guns Are Doing the Talking,” New York Times investigative reporter Mike McIntire accuses gun rights advocates with “a right-wing agenda” of “increasingly using open-carry laws to intimidate opponents and shut down debate” at protests, gatherings, and public meetings. There’s a legal term for what he’s describing and it’s called “brandishing”; a term that describes an illegal activity and does not appear once in his nearly 2,600-word piece.
The word doesn’t appear because he knows that’s not what’s happening. He even admits that “shootings were rare” and that “armed protests accounted for less than 2 percent” of total protests. But that admission didn’t come until paragraph 42 of 56. He would also admit that when the rare violence would break out it “often involved fisticuffs” with other groups “such as antifa [sic].”
“Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s,” McIntire openly lamented in his opening paragraph.
Giving little credit to the fact that Democrats are openly anti-gun rights in many states, some even calling for abolishing the Second Amendment altogether, McIntire seems appalled that law-abiding gun owners find a home in the Republican Party. He treated the political partnership as some sort of cabal, seemingly finding it suspicious that “Republican officials or candidates appeared at 32 protests where they were on the same side as those with guns.”
He also suggests gun rights proponents are on a “hair trigger” and are ready to mow down oppositional protesters at a moment’s notice (Click “expand”):
Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and the police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.
But the effects of more guns in public spaces have not been evenly felt. A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn.
At one point, he asserts that “men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tenn.,” only noting that they were “handing out fliers” while doing it. He links to a local NBC affiliate, WSMV4, who reported that “Authorities asked both groups to leave and they complied. No violence or arrests were reported after Franklin officers intervened.”
It’s clear that McIntire is opposed to lawful open-carry as he bemoaned the inability of Democrats to impose stricter gun laws (Click “expand”):
Attempts by Democrats to impose limits in other states have mostly failed, and some form of open carry without a permit is now legal in 38 states, a number that is likely to expand as legislation advances in several more.
More than half of all armed protests occurred in 10 states with expansive open-carry laws: Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Three of them — Michigan, Oregon and Texas — allowed armed protesters to gather outside capitol buildings ahead of President Biden’s inauguration, and in Michigan, militia members carrying assault rifles were permitted inside the capitol during protests against Covid lockdowns.
In an apparent attempt to suggest that the lives of Democratic politicians were at risk and that open-carry proponents harbored ill intent, McIntire noted: “In July, for example, men wearing sidearms confronted Beto O’Rourke, then the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, at a campaign stop in Whitesboro and warned that he was ‘not welcome in this town.’”
But an accompanying photo of the interaction shows O’Rourke having a peaceful discussion with a man whose sidearm is holstered and who is only holding a bottle of water. Another man can be seen with an AR-style rifle slung over his back and listening from a few feet away. An officer is also at O’Rourke’s side.
Of the seven people McIntire apparently talked to get quotes for this article (not counting the quotes pulled from speeches or other sources), only one of them supported gun rights advocates: Jordan Stein of Gun Owners of America.
Citing no one in particular, McIntire takes it upon himself to “argue that openly carrying firearms at public gatherings, particularly when there is no obvious self-defense reason, can have a corrosive effect, leading to curtailed activities, suppressed opinions or public servants who quit out of fear and frustration.”
One of his go-to sources, Sam Jones of the “nonpartisan data group” The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project openly scoffed at the fact that law-abiding gun owners were not brandishing their weapons:
“Armed groups or individuals might say they have no intention of intimidating anyone and are only participating in demonstrations to keep the peace,” said Mr. Jones, “but the evidence doesn’t back up the claim.”
The only evidence presented in the article were the anecdotal accounts of a handful of people who felt uncomfortable around those with firearms. Brandishing or not, these people are possibly against being around firearms no matter the context. At no point does the article prove that there’s a concerted effort or intent by law-abiding gun owners to “intimidate opponents and shut down debate,” as the premise of the piece states.