Tamir Rice was 12 years old when he was gunned down by Cleveland police officers who mistook his toy gun for a real one. The cops later excused their actions by saying they thought it was real and they believed the preteen was actually around 20.
It would seem pretty straightforward to assume gun rights groups like the NRA would be all over this one. A “20-year-old” “open carrying” a “gun” is executed by cops. If ever there were a clear case of 2nd Amendment infringement, this would be it. After all, the long-standing argument from the NRA is that people have a right to openly carrying their weapons in public wherever they go. Viewed a slightly different way and Tamir would have been hailed by gun nuts as a “patriot” standing up to gun control. Instead, the gun nut crowd has been conspicuously silent.
The conclusion: When the NRA screams about “gun rights” they mean open carry is meant for these guys…
Not this one…
There were numerous problems with the actions the responding officers took that day: The officers waited less than two seconds to open fire and then failed to provide any sort of medical help to the critically injured boy. One of the officers was shown to have had emotional problems and was found “unfit for duty” in his previous department. The initial 911 caller said he believed the gun was fake and the person was a child. Ohio is an open carry state.
Rather than go with any of these options, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty decided to defend the cops instead. Ignoring his job to get justice, McGinty operated almost exclusively as the accused officers’ unofficial defense attorney. He hired “experts” to prove their innocence. He dug up dirt on Tamir Rice and the boy’s family. He urged the Grand Jury not to indict the officers. And then, upon announcing that the court ruled the way he wanted, he proceeded to shock the nation by openly smearing Rice on live television. (McGinty went on to boldly claim that it was not his job to “second guess police officers.” In fact, as a country prosecutor, that’s exactly his job.)
Upon learning that the officers would not ever face consequences for their actions, the Fox News crowd promptly dropped any grievance they had about “open carry” and erupted in celebration. More often than not, this took the form of disgusting racism hurled at Tamir, his family, and African Americans in general.
And so we see another stark reminder of just how two-sided the gun rights movement is in America. An African-American child playing with a toy gun in a park is labeled a “criminal” who deserves to die, while a conservative lawmaker snaps photos of her young children strapped with semi-automatic weapons for a Christmas card.
We’re left with the depressing conclusion that when groups like the NRA loudly support things like open carry and “guns everywhere” bills, they mean it just for white gun owners. Even if it is legal to carry a gun with a permit (as it is in Ohio), a black man must fear that he will be gunned down by nervous police officers before he ever has a chance to prove he has a right to carry. In the two seconds before shooting him, Tamir certainly never had that chance.
Feature image via Mother Jones