Court says that "carrying a gun out in the open" should result in detention, questioning, and disarming.
Most Georgians assume that carrying a pistol openly is something that they can do without fearing harassment by local police officers. A recent federal court decision casts that assumption into serious doubt.
A federal judge ruled recently that carrying a firearm openly in a park entitles responding officers to detain an individual for investigation, including disarming, questioning, and identification. The court case involved a man who was exercising in a park in Gwinnett County by walking on a path with a holstered pistol on his belt. A security guard in the park called the police to ask if it was legal for the man to carry a firearm in the park. Somehow, the call center dispatched officers to the scene to respond to a “suspicious person” call. The end result was that the “suspicious man” was arrested for criminal trespass. The local prosecutor dismissed the charges, and the man who was arrested, Christopher Proescher, sued the arresting officers.
Federal judge William S. Duffey Jr. tossed the lawsuit out of court, holding that although the police officers were wrong about whether Mr. Proescher had committed the offense of criminal trespass, the officers had probable cause to make the arrest. This portion of the opinion is unsurprising, since the officers relied upon the security guard’s dishonest word, but Georgians who carry pistols will be shocked to learn that the federal judge also held that carrying a pistol openly constitutes reasonable suspicion of a crime, which authorizes officers to detain the person who is carrying.
The judge held that “carrying a gun out in the open,” near a playground, combined with a refusal to answer questions and produce identification, “provided more than a sufficient basis constitutionally to detain plaintiff.”
Prior to this ruling, a person exercising his right to bear arms in Georgia probably assumed that a refusal to answer questions or provide identification was something that he was entitled to do if the officer did not have a sufficient justification to detain him. By listing these items as justifications for permitting an officer to use force to detain, the only logical conclusion to be drawn is that a person carrying a pistol “out in the open” is subject to being detained at any time, and he had better answer all of the officer’s questions and show the officer whatever identification is requested (the opinion specifically lists “identification bearing a photograph,” something older Georgia Weapons Carry Licenses issued before 2012 do not bear).
The court further holds that the officers are entitled to seize the firearm “as a safety precaution” and establish “whether the gun is stolen.”
The judge specifically held that the Officer Bell’s observation of the firearm “entitled [Officer] Bell to detain Plaintiff to determine whether Plaintiff was authorized to carry the firearm.”
In other words, Georgians carrying firearms abandon their Fourth Amendment rights. Please be aware that by carrying a firearm in this state, should an officer be made aware of it, you entitle the officer to detain you, demand identification with pictures, demand answers to questions, and take your firearm away to run the serial numbers. You have no right to be free from such detention and intrusions into your liberty.
I take the opportunity to declare right here and now that I will not answer questions, I will not produce identification, and I will not voluntarily surrender my firearm to officers who attempt to detain me merely because I carry a pistol "out in the open" as a matter of routine and habit. Carrying a pistol is not a crime in this state, and Georgia Weapons Carry License holders deserve better than to be treated as nothing but a class of criminals.
You may read a copy of Judge Duffey’s opinion for yourself by clicking here.