Wednesday, January 01, 2014

MI:Lawsuit says Open Carry is Political Speech, Police Knew Carry was Legal

Open carrier in Arizona at Political Rally

I have often made the case that openly carrying guns is political speech of the first order.   Criminals almost never openly carry, because they do not want to draw attention to themselves.   Police virtually always know that open carriers are engaged in political activism.  An open carrier who had a loaded gun pointed at him by Grand Rapids Police, when the police knew that he was not breaking any law, has filed a lawsuit charging violation of his rights on  first, second,  and fourth amendment grounds.  From the complaint
38. Plaintiff's act of openly carrying a pistol in public was intended, in part, to increase awareness that open carry is lawful in Michigan and to rally public support, therefore qualifying it as symbolic political speech.  Defendants then violated Plaintiff's First Amendment rights without provocation or justification.
From recently obtained radio traffic, it is clear that the dispatcher knew that open carry of firearms was legal, and that this information was relayed to the police that were sent to the scene.   Why they were sent is uncertain, because the dispatcher informed the woman who called 911 that openly carrying a pistol in a holster was legal.    Tim Beahan on suspects that the purpose was to harass the open carrier.
I've mentioned elsewhere that this is more likely 'payback' for OC proponents pressuring GR to eliminate an illegal orinance, and Heartwell's personal fear & prejudice clouding his judgement.
The article at has sparked a lively debate in the comments, with those who defend the police actions questioning whether a dashcam video exists (as mentioned in this previous article), and those supporting the open carrier saying that they have seen it, but cannot ethically release it because the open carrier's lawyer is not yet willing to do so. reporter John Agar is reported to have requested the video from the Police.  Those who say they have seen the video say that they expect the city to release it at any minute.

Most peculiar are those who claim to support open carry, but say that the open carrier is going to cause a public reaction that will push the legislature to ban open carry.   What is the point of a right, if you cannot exercise it for fear that you will be arrested?  Michigan police have already been educated that open carry is a right in Michigan.   It will be interesting to see if another settlement is in the works for the City of Grand Rapids.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch 

Update: Dave Workman wrote this in 2010:

One might even consider open carry to be covered as much by the First Amendment as it is the Second, and by Article 1, Section 24 of the State Constitution, along with the court precedents protecting it. That Fascitelli might want those armed citizens checked, and perhaps even removed from the premises, suggests that anti-gunners may be just as cavalier about stepping on someone’s freedom of speech and expression as they are about trying to trample on their right to keep and bear arms.

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