Bringing a Gun to an Unarmed Protest
Last Friday, a protester was shot at a protest outside a speech made by alt-right Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. It appears that the man who shot the protester is alt-right himself—according to his Facebook page, a Trump supporter, a Yiannopoulos supporter, and a member of the NRA.
Right now the details are not all in yet, but reportedly the shooter claims, via a Facebook message to Yiannopoulos himself, that he was “sucker-punched,” apparently not so hard as he referred to the alleged assailant as “limp-wristed,” and lost his “Make America Great Again” cap. Reportedly this happened about an hour before the shooting event.
The victim was Josh Dukes, a Wobbly who is anti-racist and anti-fascist; reportedly his function at the event was to de-escalate any potential violence.
Video of the event taken from a slight distance shows the two separated; the shooter takes several steps forward, looking intently at someone. Dukes strides towards the man and just before he arrives, still not looking at Dukes, the man raises his hand, in which he is holding a cloth or something covered with a cloth. Dukes arrives in time to push away the shooter’s hand, and they enter into a struggle. Between eight and ten seconds later, Dukes is shot by the man, who then flees the scene.
When the shooting occurred, the speech indoors was temprarily halted; when Yiannopoulos retook the stage, one report has him saying, “If I stopped my event now, we are sending a clear message that they can stop our events by killing people. I am not prepared to do that.” The alt-right crowd rose and cheered. Yiannopoulos, styling himself as a journalist, apparently knows much less about collecting facts and making statements of fact than he does about jumping to conclusions and blaming the opposition as a knee-jerk reaction.
Here’s the element that many people, surprisingly many of them self-identifying as gun enthusiasts, appear not to understand about carrying firearms in public: if you bring a gun to a situation, you have a heightened level of responsibility. When armed with a weapon designed to kill someone, it is up to you to avoid confrontation that rises to the level where the gun is necessary.
But here, the gunman brought his weapon to a highly-charged situation, one which he approached and then strode into. That violates a primary rule of any citizen carrying a loaded weapon in public: avoid conflict at all costs. This man, carrying a loaded gun, went directly into one. Indeed, by his own claims, he had already been assaulted, and then, armed, waded back into the fray.
That alone makes him more responsible for what happened than almost anything else. It made George Zimmerman more responsible when, against strict instructions by police, he approached Trayvon Martin with his gun, and it made Rodney Peairs more responsible when he left his home to confront two youths with a gun, shooting one of them dead.
One thing made clear in the video: the gunman was never in danger of life or limb. He was in a struggle, and possibly could have gotten hurt, but serious injury or death was highly unlikely.
Either way, whoever this shooter is, he bears the highest level of responsibility in the shooting.
The victim was in critical condition after the shooting, but his status was changed to “satisfactory” and he is now recovering. The shooter reportedly turned himself in to police several hours later; The police released him and did not charge him with a crime.