Officer Confronts Open-Carry Activist

This situation certainly could have gone a lot worse. But while many people are commending the officer for his calm demeanor here, and touting this video as a "textbook" example of how an interaction of this nature should be conducted, the truth is that the police officer did in fact violate the rights of this citizen. Let's have a look at the video, and then I will discuss it further, point by point.


As the officer steps out of the car, the citizen announces that he is recording the encounter. This may seem confrontational, but if you are recording, you better damn well make that perfectly clear, lest you wind up like this news reporter.

Freedom of Press Now a Felony In America

And in this day and age, it is certainly a good idea to record every encounter with police. Just have a look at the Police-State section here to see hundreds of instances where police have done horrible things to people without cause. But this thread is not about bashing the police for the sake of bashing the police. Instead, it needs to be pointed out that even when it looks like the police are doing their job well, they are actually violating liberty and the law. That is what we have come to in America, that general society doesn't even recognize it anymore, when the government and their agents tread on our liberty. 

The citizen is a bit of a wiseass, telling the cop where he should park. I don't think I would have bothered to tell the cop how to do his job in that instance, but at the same time, the kid does have a point. Police officers tend to have the mentality that they own the raod and don't have to follow any of the rules of the road. We have all seen it, the cop who speeds all over town and runs red lights while not on a call, or who parks in the fire lane in front of the coffee shop, etc. hardly crime of the century sort of stuff, but if you were to do it, you would pay a hefty fine. We see the same here. Granted, the officer was indeed conducting an investigation at that point and not just running into a store for a bagel, but there was no real reason for him to block that lane, especially not without some caution lights flashing. He doesn't even have his 4-ways blinking to caution traffic moving on the street, while forcing motorists to corss the yellow line, in an intersection, to move around him. Clearly he has created a road hazard and didn't have the courtesy to warn motorists of that hazard with the array of blinky-lights at his disposal. I suppose this is nitpicking though, so let's continue on.

The officer declares his intent to inspect the citizen's weapon, which is being carried over the shoulder and not concealed. It is perfectly legal to carry a weapon in this manner in most parts of the country, without any sort of permit, which is apparently the case in this jurisdiction as well. The officer bases his intent on a phone call from a concerned citizen, and the fact that the weapon outwardly appears to be similar to a fully-automatic weapon, which falls under a different legal code for carrying. What the officer fails to do however, is establish actual "probable cause" or a legitimate "reasonable suspicion" that the weapon is a machine gun being carried in violation of the law. For the officer to proceed, he must establish that the person has either committed a crime, or is in the process of committing a crime. The police can't simply place you under a state of arrest and search you because you "might" be a criminal. Now this really is the crux of the whole matter here, that the officer does not establish legal grounds to conduct this search and seizure.

Just because the weapon outwardly appears that it "might" be a fully automatic machine gun is not probable cause. Just because the weapon looks the same or similar to a model used by the officer's comrades in the SWAT unit, does not give him reasonable suspicion that it is in fact a fully automatic rifle. It is just as likely that the weapon is semi-automatic, an air-soft, or possibly even a non-operable replica. A person might "look" Mexican, but that doesn't mean that they are an illegal immigrant or give the police the right to stop and search them. A person might be wearing a t-shirt that says "I love marijuana" while purchasing a Phillie Blunt at a gas station, but that is not probable cause for an officer to conduct a stop and search. This is the same standard of evidence we are dealing with here, in this instance. It makes no difference that "guns are dangerous" or that there have been a string of nationally reported shootings that have put citizens on edge. The fact remains that the officer failed to establish probable cause.

A call from a concerned citizen is not probable cause in or of itself, unless they are reporting an actual crime. The officer's observation that the object "might" be an automatic weapon, is not reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred or that there is a crime in progress.

If the call from the concerned citizen was combined with some specific and credible information of a crime, that would be a different story. If, for example, the caller made a sworn statement that they were told by the subject that the weapon was fully automatic, and that the person was not authorized to carry such a weapon, that would establish probable cause. If a caller reported automatic weapons-fire in the area, that would be enough for probable cause on suspicion of an illegal discharge. But for the officer to order the subject to surrender his weapon for inspection simply based on his observation that it "looks like" it "might" be an automatic weapon is a violation of that citizen's right, and in essence, a violation of all of our rights as citizens, to carry a firearm. After all, any semi-automatic weapon can be made into a fully automatic weapon, and can thereby "look like" a machine-gun. Moreover, the officer had no way of knowing, even if it was an automatic weapon, that the subject was not legally allowed to carry such a firearm.

Now we will take it as granted in that jurisdiction a person with an automatic weapon must produce identification and/or related paperwork on demand, but the onus is still on the officer to show that the weapon is indeed an automatic before he conducts his search or renders his demand to invoke the permit obligations. Remember too, that we have a right to not self-incriminate. In other words, if that had turned out to be an automatic weapon being carried illegally, the suspect could not be charged with the crime, as the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion and the subject did not consent to the search. So not only is this a violation of our rights as citizens, it is a display of poor police-work in that the criminal would have gone free on a "technicality."

Here is a better example of a police stop and search of an open-carry advocate:

Notice how the officer in that video is proactive in expressing his authority and imposing his will, using his demeanor and speech as a sort of "Jedi mind control" skill. There is a key difference there though in this stop, as opposed to the one above. Did you notice it? It was subtle, but it makes all the difference in the world.
"I'm gonna check it for my safety before we go any further, okay?
That officer has achieved consent, or at least implied consent as the subject in that video does not refuse. In the top video however, the subject explicitly refuses to consent.

In one breath the officer is telling the subject he is going to issue a "lawful order" but when the subject refuses to consent to the search and seizure, the officer gives a time-out hand signal and states "stop with the rules."

Those rules happen to be the very rules he is sworn to uphold, as an officer.

When the subject asks if he is being detained, the officer replies "yeah." Which means that the subject is now under arrest, without reasonable suspicion of any crime. As was stated above, even if the weapon were fully automatic, that is not necessarily a crime. Which means that this officer has now conducted an unlawful arrest. (Keep in mind here folks, that being under arrest has nothing to do with being read your rights or having the cuffs slapped on like on TV. When you are not free to go, you are under arrest. Even in a minor traffic stop, for something as petty as a dirty license plate, you are technically under arrest for the duration of that traffic stop.)

The officer then goes on to state, "I'm not seizing anything," just as he is in fact seizing that young man's firearm without reasonable cause. Granted, the weapon is eventually returned, but the fact remains that the weapon was seized by a government agent, without reasonable suspicion of a crime. Just as the subject was placed under a state of arrest and released, so too was his weapon seized, or also "arrested" so to speak, before it was returned. What that boils down to is this. The officer, without reasonable suspicion of a crime, did forcefully disarm a peaceful citizen.

After an unlawful arrest and then an unlawful seizure, the officer conducts his unlawful search of the weapon itself, and then finally declares that based upon his own training and experience he "no longer has any reasonable suspicion to detain" the subject. But as we have already established, there was never any reasonable suspicion to begin with. The officer had no right to detain the subject, seize the weapon, or conduct the inspection.

The officer had every right to stop and talk to the subject. The officer had every right to inspect the weapon with consent. The officer had every right to demand proper paperwork if the weapon was in fact an automatic falling under those specific regulations for said weapon. But short of that, the officer had no right to place the subject under arrest and order a weapon-check any more than a police officer has the right to pull you over and search your car because it looks fast.

In summary here we see that the officer:

1) Made an unlawful arrest
2) Unlawfully seized private property
3) Disarmed a peaceful citizen by force (as the officer did not disarm himself)
4) Conducted an unlawful search
5) Would have set a genuine criminal free on a technicality due to his lack of professionalism, if there were a crime

Once the citizen's rights have been raped, and the police are ready to be on their way having stuck their junk all up in his personal business, they ask if the subject has any questions or concerns. This is much like the same dynamic we see from sexual "rapist guilt" after they have concluded their business. Often times, a sexual attacker will try to normalize relations after an attack, and try to befriend their victim in order to convince themselves, and the victim alike, that what just happened was not really a violation at all. That dynamic plays out here as well.

Once gain the subject asks how the officer knew it was a fully-automatic firearm, and he replies that it was based on his experience, when clearly his experience is flawed and inaccurate in making such an arbitrary determination. He knows this, and immediately shifts gears in order to flatter and befriend his victim now, by offering gifts and friendship. He tries to humanize himself to his victim, just like many sexual rapists do.

While the officer espouses his adherence to the virtues of the Second Amendment, he has utterly destroyed this young man's Fourth Amendment rights.

He then goes on to try to recruit the young man into the "league of rapists" with promises of training, and that they will even issue the young man a full-auto machine gun.

Now, finally, having said all of that, I want to toss this whole article on it's head in a way. In the interests of peace and public safety, I do expect our police officers to note unusual activity and to investigate possible dangers. I also commend that primary officer and his backup for not making up some sort of bullshit charge to legally harass the subjects. (Heh, I know, commending officer for not beating up a citizen and making false charges.) And while I do believe that his post-rape friendliness was self-serving on the one hand, it may still have been genui9ne enough that he would go out to the range with these guys and squeeze off some rounds.

But finally, at the end of the day, there is a right way to do things, and a wrong way. While I would not call for this officer to be criminally charged, or fired for his conduct necessarily, I do believe that this video is an example of what NOT to do as a police officer.

Thanks for reading.

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