Constitutional Law

Arrested Lawyer Had Permit for Handgun at Batman Movie, Says He Cooperated with Police

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A 46-year-old Connecticut immigration attorney who was arrested after openly carrying a loaded pistol into a Tuesday screening of The Dark Knight Rises had a permit for the weapon and says he did nothing wrong.

Sung-Ho Hwang, who is the incoming president of the New Haven County bar association, says he cooperated with police responding to complaints by spooked fellow patrons. But police said he didn’t cooperate, and the attorney was charged with two misdemeanors, breach of peace and interfering with police, according to the Associated Press and the News Times.

All agree that Hwang did have a permit for the handgun, and police said he never touched it or threatened anyone.

At a news conference at his law office on Wednesday, Hwang said he understands that people are on edge following a shooting spree at a Colorado movie theater screening of the movie less than three weeks ago in which 12 patrons were killed and dozens more injured and prays for the victims and their families. However, Hwang said he is concerned that his Second Amendment rights are being abridged. His lawyer, Hugh Keefe, said it is his understanding that police weren’t going to arrest Hwang, once they found out he had a permit for the loaded pistol, but the police chief insisted the attorney be charged.

Hwang said at the news conference that he brought his pistol to the movie because it would be around 1 a.m. when it concluded and he felt he should protect himself, reports the Hartford Courant.

At the theater, “There is no posting … that states that weapons are not permitted. As far as the law is concerned, I have a right to carry there,” he said. “We should focus on the real question. Why is New Haven so unsafe? Why do law abiding citizens feel that they need to carry a weapon?”

Police said responding officers ordered a dozen or so people who had been in a theater screening room waiting to see the movie Tuesday night to put their hands up and leave, as the house lights were brightened. They were then patted down after they filed out of the room.

After they were cleared, “Officers identified the suspect and with weapons drawn, ordered the suspect to put his hands up,” Hartman said. “He remained in his seat while using his cell phone. He did not comply with the officers commands, and was taken into custody by force. Officers removed a loaded handgun from the small of his back.”

Keefe said his client suddenly found himself surrounded by police officers pointing guns at him.

‘‘If somebody has a problem with that law then they ought to go to Hartford and change it, not make baseless arrests,’’ said Keefe, referring to the state capital.

The New Haven incident was one of a number of scares at screenings of The Dark Knight Rises throughout the country after the July 20 shooting spree in Aurora, Colo., in which suspect James Eagan Holmes is facing multiple charges.

Related coverage: “Will U of Colorado Face Duty-to-Warn Suits re Off-Campus Movie Theater Shooting Spree?”

CBS News/Associated Press: “Attorney: Ohio moviegoer had gun for protection”

Salt Lake Tribune (opinion): “Aurora: There is safety in armed citizenry “

Telegraph: “Matthew Argintar arrested for wearing Batman-like costume “

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