Op-Ed

‘Good guy with a gun’ didn’t save Dallas police from sniper

Police took cover during a July 2016 sniper attack that killed five police officers, wounded seven officers and two civilians. Police had been monitoring a peaceful demonstration against police shootings in other cities. The sniper was killed by a robot bomb.
Police took cover during a July 2016 sniper attack that killed five police officers, wounded seven officers and two civilians. Police had been monitoring a peaceful demonstration against police shootings in other cities. The sniper was killed by a robot bomb. Associated Press file photo

On June 7, 2016 in Dallas, approximately 800 people, including more than 20 armed civilians lawfully carrying their weapons under Texas’ open-carry law, were assembled to protest a series of high-profile police shootings.

One hundred police from local jurisdictions were on hand to maintain order. No violence or disorder was reported until just after 9 p.m., when Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire on police with a semi-automatic assault rifle

Five police officers were killed. Seven more law-enforcement officers were injured. A woman shielding her young sons was wounded. SWAT responders eventually cornered Johnson on the second floor of El Centro College.

Negotiations for his surrender failed, and in desperation, the Dallas Chief of Police authorized the use of an explosive device to end the standoff. Johnson was killed in the blast. It was the single-deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Let’s analyze this event in terms of what’s been suggested by gun-rights activists: that more guns will solve the problem of mass shooting, the GGG, or “good guy with a gun” theory.

Here we had at least 120 “GGGs” on the scene. One hundred police officers, armed and trained in the use of firearms and in responding to sudden violence, were assigned to this event. Many of the police present were former military, including several combat veterans, giving them a further level of preparedness.

Of the five fallen police officers that night, three were veterans. Given the circumstances of the event, we can assume that the police were especially vigilant for signs of trouble and were prepared to respond.

At least 20 civilians in the crowd were exercising their right under Texas law to openly carry their firearms, and several assault-style weapons, including the AR-15, were present. Their level of training and experience is unknown, but their presence is exactly what advocates of open-carry laws insist will make us safer.

Yet when the shooting began, none of that mattered.

Highly trained and armed police took cover only to be flanked and shot by the mobile shooter. Growing darkness, echoes and ricocheting bullets fed the confusion.

The GGGs in the crowd scattered, carrying their weapons with them, vastly complicating the situation for the police who now had to try to identify which armed person was shooting at them while the bullets rained down. That they held their fire under those awful circumstances is a credit to their discipline and professionalism.

In the confusion, one of the armed protesters, Mark Hughes, was mistakenly identified as the shooter. He quickly submitted himself to police custody and was cleared of all suspicion, but not before receiving hundreds of death threats.

Johnson was eventually engaged by Dallas SWAT, elite urban combat professionals, who were unable to bring him down despite firing more than 200 rounds. When Johnson was finally cornered, wounded and raving, it was a remotely operated bomb, not a good guy with a gun, that finally ended his rampage.

The open-carry laws did not make anyone safer — they simply complicated an already deadly situation. In fact, those laws allowed Johnson to simply walk up to his target area and gave him cover as police hesitated to open fire.

Looking at this case, in which all elements that the gun lobby insists we need were present on the street, is seeing the abject failure of the myth of the good guy with a gun.

Now, in the wake of yet another shooting, that same old trope is making the rounds.

There was a GGG on site at the school in Parkland, Fla. — a trained, experienced, armed police officer.

He hid.

Adam Halsaver is an auto worker and amateur photographer living in Lexington.

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