The Dark Knight casts a long shadow over civil rights after Aurora

‘‘I think that the Second Amendment is crucially important to protect. When baseless breach of peace and interfering charges are brought against people that have a right to carry, it really threatens our constitutional right to bear arms.’’ 

– Sung Ho Hwang

As an entire grieving nation knows, on July 20, 2012, a madman entered a Cinemark movie theater in Aurora Colorado and took the lives of innocent men, women, and children.  That theater, like all Cinemark theaters, was posted against lawful carry of a firearm.

Perhaps emboldened by the attention being given to the Aurora shooter, other equally-disturbed individuals have taken to the internet to threaten attacks of their own.  In the wake of these events, it only seems logical that law-abiding citizens would take their business to theaters that do not deny them the right to defend themselves; and do so while legally armed.

But jumpy theater management and law enforcement are treating all movie-goers as potential terrorists, violating their 4th Amendment rights, and forcing many to choose between going into the night defenseless or staying home.  In the worst cases, legally-armed, law-abiding citizens are being harassed and arrested for no other crime than seeking to defend themselves and their families.

The latest travesty occurred Tuesday when 46 year old Connecticut attorney Sung Ho Hwang was arrested for ‘breach of peace’ and ‘interfering with police’ after carrying his firearm into a late showing of The Dark Knight Rises in New Haven Connecticut.  Hwang is the model of an upstanding citizen.  He is the president-elect of the New Haven Bar Association and a permit holder.  But none of that mattered when a fellow theater patron noticed his firearm Tuesday night and alerted authorities.

But as the video above illustrates, Hwang was not the only one whose civil rights were violated Tuesday night.  Every patron in the theater was held at gunpoint and searched before being marched out of the theater.

When officers were made aware that Hwang had a permit to carry and was violating no laws, they arrested him for ‘breach of peace’ and ‘interfering with police.’  I have written repeatedly about the abuse of these ‘irritating the police’ crimes.  And once again, we see the civil rights of American citizens being chilled by the threat of being charged with a vague crime for otherwise legal and constitutionally protected behavior.

But the arrest of Hwang is just the latest in a disturbing post-Aurora trend.  A Colorado man, legally open carrying a firearm, was arrested and charged with ‘possession of a dangerous weapon in a liquor and beer establishment’ when no other charges could be made.

Perhaps the message that theater owners want us to take away from this experience is that we must either accept the risk of copycat killers who know exactly where to find dozens of unarmed victims packed into a hard-to-escape box, or we stop attending movies.

Thankfully, I live in one of the increasingly rare parts of America that still has a drive-in.

About John Pierce

Monachus Lex is written by Virginia attorney John Pierce. John is a life-long gun rights advocate, an NRA certified instructor and co-founder of the nationwide gun rights group

He has an undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems, an MBA from George Mason University and is a 2012 Honors Graduate of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, MN.

Professionally, John is a member of the American Bar Association Second Amendment Civil Rights Litigation Subcommittee and his writings have been published by the ABA Civil Rights Litigation Committee and the ABA Minority Trial Lawyer Committee.

In addition, his open carry advocacy has been featured on Nightline and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
This entry was posted in Abuse of Power, Fourth Amendment, General Civil Rights, Law Enforcement Misconduct, Local Ordinances, Media Views on The Second Amendment, Movies, Open Carry, Popular Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Dark Knight casts a long shadow over civil rights after Aurora

  1. Jack says:

    I’ve said several times today that it appears to me that they had no RAS pointing to any single individual in that auditorium. Even when he continued to sit there and use his phone, it does not give them probable cause.

    The orders from the police to stand up and submit to a search were without PC, RAS and were unconstitutional to begin with.

    Bravo for him him sitting there and not complying. And a double bravo when he wins a lawsuit for unlawful arrest. Triple bravo when he wins a Section 1983 claim against them and however many more bravos for anyone else who chooses to file a Section 1983 claim.

  2. Bill Vincent says:

    Two comments. First, Netflix is a beautiful thing! Second, New Haven police are about as inept as they come. years ago (in fact the day I came home from my enlistment in the Navy), My father’s shop was broken into. Along with several pallets of cement, a powertrowel, a power wheelbarrow, and an old 64 GMC (hard to miss) dumptruck were stolen. That night, they had it towed for parking in a no parking zone. For 3 months, they couldn’t find a truck THAT THEY HAD IN THEIR OWN POSSESSION. On top of that, they called my father to have him come down and pay the parking fine, along with storage fees to get the truck back, or it would be auctioned off. That’s not the worst of it, though. A week later, they called and asked him for a donation to the Police Benevolent Association. Keystone cops. Couldn’t find their own ass with both hands and a bloodhound’s nose.

  3. Grapeshot says:

    Clearly the New Haven PD has bitten off a chunk to big to swallow. Can easily see where they might drop the charges and rush to settle any potential civil rights claims. Fervently hope that Mr. Hwang will not sell out so easily.

    A line needs to be drawn, not in the sand, but across the very landscape of America. No more abuse of legal honest citizens. We are not criminals.

  4. Firepwr2 says:

    Amen – all of us who are concerned with our inherent right to self-preservation need to step up and fight whenever such outrageous incidents occur. For too long, gun owners have stayed silent, as long is was someone else’s rights being violated. Don’t agree? When your child came home and told you about a kid in their school getting suspended for drawing a picture of a gun, did you immediately go down and confront the principle? Or did you do nothing because YOUR child wasn’t affected?

    It is long past the time that these ridiculous overreactions to “someone with a gun” to stop. Because if we don’t do something about it now, get ready for “random security checks” and Soviet style “checkpoints” at every public venue. Want to be “wanded” just to get into a grocery store or movie theater?

    Speak up now, or our rights will gradually slip away…

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