On Charlotte murders, Biden blew it

Published May 9, 2024

By John Hood

When officers from the US Marshal Service, the NC Department of Adult Correction, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and other agencies approached a home in eastern Charlotte on April 29, their purpose was to serve warrants on a fugitive named Terry Clark Hughes Jr.

The fugitive fought back, costing four men their lives: Adult Correction officers Alden Elliot and Samuel Paloche, Deputy US Marshal Thomas Weeks, and CMPD’s Joshua Ayer.

Hughes was a habitual felon. In 2011, he was convicted in Person County of breaking and entering. In 2012, he was convicted in Alamance County of speeding to elude arrest — having fled a police checkpoint at more than 100 miles an hour — and possessing a firearm, which as a felon he lacked the right to do.

In 2021, Hughes was arrested in Mecklenburg for drug offenses and fleeing the police. District Attorney Spencer Merriweather dropped most of the charges, referring him to drug treatment instead. There is no record Hughes ever attended. Then he was arrested in Person County again, on drug and weapon charges. This past January, a sheriff’s deputy in Lincoln County tried to arrest him but Hughes sped away.

So, when the task force arrived at the Galway Drive house on April 29, among the charges Hughes faced was the illegal possession of guns. Alas, he still had guns. He used them to murder four men before his outrageous conduct cost him his own life.

The officers were there, in other words, to enforce a gun-control law with nearly universal acceptance. And yet, in the aftermath of this horrific incident, progressive politicians couldn’t help themselves. Rather than tailor their reactions to the facts of the case, they engaged in a robotic plug-and-play.

In his April 29 statement, for example, Joe Biden called the officers “fallen heroes.” Yes, they are.

But the president also said this: “We must do more to protect our law enforcement officers. That means funding them — so they have the resources they need to do their jobs and keep us safe. And it means taking additional action to combat the scourge of gun violence. Now. Leaders in Congress need to step up so that we ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require safe storage of guns, and pass universal background checks and a national red flag law. Enough is enough.”

Several days later, after President Biden met with family members of the fallen heroes as well as others wounded in the firefight, he insisted lawmakers needed to “keep the weapons of war” out of the wrong hands.

The hands of habitual felon Terry Clark Hughes certainly had no business holding firearms of any kind. But it was already illegal for him to do so. That was one of the main reasons the officers were there to arrest him in the first place.

As for the funding of state and federal law enforcement, I see no evidence it played any role here. Safe storage of guns? While the North Carolina General Assembly has already legislated on this matter, it also had no relevance to the case. Nor did the absence of red flag laws (since any report to authorities by family members that he possessed a gun would already have triggered yet another warrant for his arrest) or broader background checks (since he already knew he was precluded from owning a gun and wouldn’t have tried buying firearms from anyone required to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System).

That leaves only Biden’s stated desire to ban all assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Assuming he means semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15 — automatic weapons are already illegal for the vast majority of Americans to own — there are tens of millions of such rifles currently in private hands across our country. Most have magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

To put the matter bluntly, there is no practical way of confiscating these weapons from their lawful owners. Let’s focus on actual criminals like Terry Clark Hughes.

John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member. His latest books, Mountain Folk and Forest Folk, combine epic fantasy with early American history.