A photo of an armed protest on Saturday in Texas may not have been exactly what it seemed.
The photo gained national attention this past weekend after it was released by the gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. Taken at a distance and from the side, it showed the armed protesters gathered in a parking lot, staring forward, with some kneeling, their guns in hand.
Moms Demand Action pointed to it as proof the armed demonstrators had been trying to intimidate a small meeting of the gun control organization’s state chapter that was taking place at a restaurant in Arlington.
But shortly after the story broke, a second photo surfaced online that seemed to show the armed group in a different light. It was taken from the front, and clearly showed them posing and smiling for the camera. Someone in back was holding up an American flag.
The photos appear to have been taken at nearly the same moment, but from two different angles. And they tell different stories. Second Amendment activists online have used the second photo as proof they were demonized by the media and gun control movement after the protest.
But where did the second photo come from? While Moms Demand Action has claimed credit for taking the first photo, the origin of the other is less clear.
On Monday, one of the men who helped organized the armed demonstration said he wasn’t sure who took the second photo, but he had a theory.
“One woman did come over,” Kory Watkins of Open Carry Texas told the National Review, “and she didn’t say anything other than ‘can I get a picture?’ I could tell she was nervous because her hand was shaking, and usually when people are supporting us they don’t come up all nervous. I asked her if she had a gun and she said ‘no.’ I tried to start talking to her about the Second Amendment but she didn’t really say much. We got in the formation to take a picture for her. I said to my friend, ‘this is probably Moms Demand Action taking a picture, I just want you to know.’ But we didn’t care. It’s not a big deal. We don’t mind the pictures no matter where they come from. She took a couple pictures.”
Moms Demand Action on Monday declined to take credit for the second photo. In multiple conversations with TPM, members of the gun control group said only the first photo was from them.
“The only one taken by us was the one where they’re crouching down,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action. “Taken from inside restaurant.”
But earlier in the day, the group had provided to TPM the second image as well as the first. Both were included among a number of photos the group had compiled showing members of the Open Carry Texas organization. Some of the photos appeared to have been taken at earlier events.
Watts said all of the images except for the first one had been “gleaned from social media” but she could not provide more information.
Pressed about the images, Taylor Maxwell, a representative for Moms Demand Action, offered to help track down their provenance. But asked specifically about the second photo, he demurred.
“Sorry, not much help on that one,” Maxwell wrote in an email. “I think it was sourced through social media (similar ones are on the OCT page), but I can’t confirm.”
The gun control group on Monday was also rebuffed in its attempt to file a police report because authorities said the armed demonstrators had not broken any laws.
This post has been updated.