Police have the right to detain anyone openly carrying a gun even if no crime has been suspected or alleged, a federal judge in Michigan has ruled.
An officer in Grand Rapids, Michigan, did nothing wrong by stopping and handcuffing open carrier Johann Deffert after he was seen walking outside a church with a pistol strapped to his leg, US District Judge Janet Neff ruled this month.
Neff threw out a lawsuit arising from a March 2014 altercation between Deffert and Officer William Moe of the Grand Rapids Police Department. The NRA has offered to help with the appeal of the case.
Moe responded to a 911 call after Deffert was seen walking down the street wearing camouflage clothing and a leg holster containing an FNP-45 Tactical Pistol. That incident led to the following conversation, the suit indicates:
OFFICER MOE: “Why do you have a hand gun on you?”
PLAINTIFF: “It’s my constitutional right to defend myself.”
OFFICER MOE: “Put your hands behind your back.”
PLAINTIFF: “May I ask why I’m being stopped?”
OFFICER MOE: “Because you’ve got a handgun walking down the street.”
PLAINTIFF: “Lawful possession of a handgun is not a reason to cite me, or arrest me, or detain me, Officer.”
OFFICER MOE: “Yes, it is until I figure out what is going on.”
Deffert was handcuffed, patted down and detained until Moe’s boss, Sgt. Stephen LaBrecque, was called to the scene. LaBrecque ordered Deffert released and had Moe return his pistol.
Deffert was never arrested nor charged with a crime. Police did run his name through a database to determine whether he was legally allowed to have the gun, and the network indicated Deffert had no criminal record.
Neff’s ruling indicates that LaBrecque felt Moe could benefit from additional training in “open carry issues.” But Neff also said Moe “was justified in following up on the 911 call and using swift action to determine whether plaintiff’s behavior gave rise to a need to protect or preserve life … in the neighborhood.”
Deffert and his attorney contended that Moe violated both Deffert’s Fourth Amendment rights and Michigan’s Open Carry law by stopping and detaining him.
Neff’s ruling could lead to more conflicts between police and open carriers in Michigan because the state’s open carry law allows people with concealed carry permits to take weapons into “pistol free zones” as long as they are visible, The Detroit Free Press predicted.
“We’re seeing sporadic reports of it from around the state, those who are trying to draw attention to themselves and it’s needlessly alarming people,” Robert Stevenson, the executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, told the newspaper.
Stevenson predicted that such incidents could lead to violent clashes between cops and open carriers.
“It puts the police in a position where, we don’t know what their intent is, so they’re going to approach this person, not realizing that the intent is to hurt somebody,” Stevenson claimed. “It’s a terrible situation what these people are doing, somebody is going to get hurt.”
One Michigan lawmaker, pro-Second Amendment Republican Sen. Mike Green, wants to see the law changed so that concealed carry is permitted in gun-free zones, the newspaper said.
“Yes, it does cause a lot of problems,” he said of the current law, “and we see this as a way to fix it.”
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