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Open Carry Fail

I’m now on audio record as being in favor of open pistol carry as a public advocacy technique, but with the caveats that you know what the hell you’re doing which involves knowing the damn law.

Here is what happens when you don’t:

Man charged with carrying handgun outside Greensboro abortion clinic

GREENSBORO — A Greensboro man was arrested Friday on charges that he possessed a semi-automatic handgun at a demonstration outside of an abortion clinic in mid-October.

However, James Ronald Penn Jr. believes that he was within his rights and that authorities are unfairly trying to paint him in a negative light.

Penn was charged with misdemeanor counts of possession of a firearm at a parade or demonstration, failing to store a firearm to protect a minor, and resisting a public officer. The charges stem from an investigation that began Oct. 17.

North Carolina has a variety of bullshit prohibitions on places you may carry your piece, and a public demonstration is one of them:

North Carolina law further makes it unlawful for any person participating in, affiliated with, or present as a spectator at any parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration upon any public place, owned or under the control of the State of North Carolina, or any of its political subdivisions, to willfully or intentionally possess, or have immediate access to any dangerous weapon. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-277.2
Persons exempted from the provisions of N.C.G.S. § 14-269(b) are not bound by this prohibition. These persons are set forth in Paragraph III. A. of this publication. A concealed handgun permit does not allow a permittee to carry a weapon in these areas. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-415.11(c)

I am not knowledgeable enough in case law to determine if a few guys standing around with bibles on the sidewalk constitutes a “demonstration”, but apparently the cop thought so, and I suppose in a few months, we’ll find out if a jury thinks so too. This also raises the annoying possibility that a gathering of open carry advocates may also be a “demonstration” and thus be breaking the law by carrying! This law stuff is confusing, I need a drink!

Also, please note that Mr Penn did not do himself any favors by violating Rule 1:

Penn captured video of the incident on his cell phone and posted it on YouTube. The video begins with two Greensboro officers talking with a group of men carrying Bibles outside the clinic.

Penn walks up and is accused of trespassing. Miller then notices a firearm on Penn’s side, approaches him and asks for a permit, identification and his age.

Penn repeatedly denies the requests — telling Miller he has no right to the information — before the officers leave.

“This is not a stop-and-ID state, and we are not required to show ID (for an open carry),” Penn said Saturday after being released from jail on a $20,000 bond.

If you are stopped and questioned by police, it rarely works in your favor to refuse to provide identification, despite what the law allows you. Perhaps if Mr Penn had initially complied, he would have gotten a verbal warning and allowed to go home. Maybe not. But if you want to be a test case, by all means, keep your ID in your wallet. Nobody ever won a roadside legal argument with a cop.

A search warrant was executed at his residence last week. According to court documents, officers recovered from his home a .40-caliber handgun, an SKS assault rifle and loaded magazines, among other items. The charge of failure to secure a weapon stemmed from a fully loaded assault rifle found on a bedroom floor with the safety not engaged, Flowers said.

Penn disputes that, saying the safety was on and the gun wasn’t where his 8-month-old daughter could reach it.

This is the can of worms you open when you attract the attention of the state. Warrants will be issued, and your world will be upended in order to find more charges to stick you with.

And if you get mixed up in the wrong causes, politically speaking, you will also attract the gaze of the Federal Baby Incinerators:

Court records also indicate Penn is of “high interest to the FBI because of his alignment with violent demonstrators at abortion clinics.”

Penn adamantly denies that claim.

“That’s news to me,” he said. “I’m not a part of any anti-abortion movement, and I don’t know why they are trying to make this a federal issue.”

Flowers said that the FBI is looking at the case for possible federal violations and that a federal agent was present during the search.

Hopefully Mr Penn’s wife won’t get shot in the face by a sniper, or has his house burnt to the ground. We know how those FBI guys can get.

Penn said he had talked casually with the men in the anti-abortion group a few weeks before when he was in the area having his car repaired. He said he was in the area again on Oct. 17, saw police talking to the group and became curious about what was happening so he started taping.

“I thought it might escalate into something, and I wanted to get a record of it,” Penn said. “I carry (a handgun) openly, and I wasn’t trying to make any kind of stand.”

He said the case has been blown out of proportion.

“They are trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill,” Penn said.

Sadly, the law is what it is. I wish Mr Penn all the luck in the world, but what he needs is to stop talking to the press, get good legal help, and hope for the best. The good news, such as it is, that first offense misdemeanors do not automatically remove your gun rights, but may make it difficult to get a concealed carry permit later.

Like we discussed on Vicious Circle #25, organized open carry has won us more than a few victories like in Virginia, but if you are going to attempt this, you need to follow 4 simple rules:

  1. Don’t be a dick

  2. Follow the law to the letter

  3. Pre-arrange legal representation for when 1 or 2 fail

  4. Don’t be a dick

Even this may not save you from a ColtCCO’ing, but that’s the risk you must accept in this climate if you choose to exercise your rights. It is not right, but it is, and you cannot hope it away.