Recently it seems the floodgates have opened. A new day means a new video where civilians and law enforcement are clashing over open carry. I have mixed feelings over these encounters. I am completely in the corner of citizens exercising their Constitutional rights to the fullest. After all, that is why they are called rights and not privileges.
Starbucks tried to walk the centerline recently. It did not post or ban guns from its stores. The memo and FAQs to employees clearly stated that no one should be asked to leave or refused service based on carrying a weapon (openly or concealed) within the limits of the law, it asked people to stop open carrying at their locations as well. I must admit, I normally try to maintain a high level of alertness and seeing a half-dozen people coming my way with ARs slung and pistols on their hips would seem out-of-place. Until I was absolutely sure of their motives, it would cause me to shift position, seek hard cover and move my hand to cover my own weapon.
This leads me to a dilemma. At what point are we harming our cause by staunchly exerting our rights? That was the question recently posed during a pro Second Amendment discussion with friends at the range. Most of the hardcore advocates actually sided with law enforcement stating that the individuals were ginning up controversy by taunting the police and flaunting weapons rather than simply exercising their rights.
Does it Matter?
While the above text does little more than start the conversation, here is the important take away. Making the decision to confront law enforcement and push your rights could end up costing you your right to own a gun! The law is a complex web. Watching videos, even if the person was 100 percent right and correctly referenced case-law does not necessarily apply universally. Yes, we all have the same constitutional rights—God Bless America for that—and while state law cannot supersede your Constitutional rights, you could easily misapply the law and end up a felon.
For instance, even when lawfully carrying and in a state with gun-friendly laws, there may be a law on the books requiring you to provide ID anytime you have an “official encounter” with a law enforcement officer. That makes a confrontation dangerous. Yes, the officer still has to have a reasonable suspicion to stop you, but you are taking a gamble by opposing the officer. You may be absolutely within your rights, but if you are wrong and a judge agrees you were disturbing the peace, guilty of spitting on the sidewalk, jaywalking or any other technicality, you would be found guilty. The jaywalking charge would then provide probable cause and your attempt to “exercise” your First, Second, and Fourth Amendment rights could end up resulting in a felony and loss of the rights you hold dear.
For instance, this happened in Maine. Other states such as Nebraska, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina and Utah have laws that require any permit holder to immediately provide their permit and photo ID whenever they have an “official encounter” with a law enforcement officer. This does not eliminate the officer’s requirement to have a reasonable suspicion, but if you are wrong in any way… What if you are innocent, but match a description of someone who recently committed a crime in the area? I do not know, it can get sticky quick. What if you walked into a gun free zone accidentally? Cooperation may buy you some concession from LE where causing a confrontation could result in the just the opposite. Then again, why have a right if it is constantly trampled?
I have a high respect for law enforcement and exercising our Constitutional rights. Each person who chooses to carry takes on added responsibilities by exercising that right. If it is your choice to then press the issue with law enforcement, or feel it is some personal calling to walk into a government building to “educate” people as to your rights, please make sure you understand the risks. You risk forfeiting your rights if wrong and may accomplish little more than causing businesses to post signs excluding the rights to carry within their establishments or causing lawmakers to create more “gun free” zones that only reduce the abilities of those carrying legally.