Look, I dislike guns. I dislike them a lot. I don’t believe that people kill people, rather that guns – the objects from which projectiles are discharged at a high rate of velocity, thereby permitting them to enter the bodies of individuals, causing fatal damage to bodily organs – kill people. I’d rather there weren’t any, or at the very least, we had stringent gun control laws.
But do you know what I dislike more? Stupid laws and even stupider interpretation of laws that criminalize perfectly legal conduct. Somehow, despite my strict personal opposition to guns, it is still legal to carry a licensed firearm in Connecticut. In public. Openly.
Yet, for some reason, the state’s “top criminal justice official” – a made up title if I ever heard one – wouldn’t recommend it. Why, you might logically ask, is it not a good idea? For the same reason that photographers across the country are being arrested for videotaping police encounters with civilians: because no one knows the law (see also this post by Balko on an issue similar to the one in the instant post).
I’m not making this shit up.
Mike Lawlor, already featured in one post today for his sage legal prognostications, offers up another:
“In almost every situation you can imagine this happening in, it qualifies as breach of peace,” he said. “If you walk into a restaurant with a gun it’s almost by definition a breach of peace.”
That results in an arrest and sets in motion a chain of events that usually results in the revocation of an issued pistol permit, he said. And that’s the way it should be, Lawlor said. Anyone who walks into a McDonalds plainly carrying a firearm either intends to alarm people or is irresponsible, he said.
“Almost by definition”? Oh, really? Challenge Accepted! Here‘s the relevant Breach of Peace statute:
(a) A person is guilty of breach of the peace in the second degree when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person: (1) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior in a public place; or (2) assaults or strikes another; or (3) threatens to commit any crime against another person or such other person’s property; or (4) publicly exhibits, distributes, posts up or advertises any offensive, indecent or abusive matter concerning any person; or (5) in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture; or (6) creates a public and hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which such person is not licensed or privileged to do. For purposes of this section, “public place” means any area that is used or held out for use by the public whether owned or operated by public or private interests.
Openly carrying a licensed weapon into a public place doesn’t fit subsections (1), (2), (3), (4), (5) or (6). You know what that means? It’s not, by definition, a breach of peace. But maybe he was tired from all that prognostication and encountered a “slip of the tongue”. Maybe what he meant was “Creating a Public Disturbance”. Contrived Challenge Accepted! Here‘s the statute:
(a) A person is guilty of creating a public disturbance when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he (1) engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or (2) annoys or interferes with another person by offensive conduct; or (3) makes unreasonable noise.
I’m no legal scholar, but I see three strikes there. Yerrrrout! (I don’t…just…don’t ask.)
What Lawlor is essentially saying is that one shouldn’t legally carry a legal, licensed firearm in public, which one legally can do, because cops are stupid and don’t know that law and you’ll get falsely arrested for perfectly legal activity. So he’s doing you a public service, really. It’s like telling people not to walk around with large, brown plastic glasses and a 70s pornstar mustache because people may mistake you for a child molester and then you’ll get arrested and whatnot.
But, you might protest, it’s only Lawlor, a former legislator and now a bureaucrat. That’s not evidence of anyth-:
When asked in a phone interview last week if people are allowed to openly carry firearms with a permit, state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said, “Good question.”
“Does it frighten people? Yes,” he said. “There is no standard quick answer to this question.”
-Oh. Notice how he quickly answers the question “yes” and then says there’s no standard quick answer. This is dangerous because it’s indicative of a “winging it” style of policing. “Arrest first; find crime later” seems to be the motto. And we all know what happens once you get trapped in the quagmire that is the criminal justice system.
The simple solution, of course, is to make it illegal to openly carry a weapon in public:
Lawlor, a former lawmaker, said that personally he was no fan of guns but said he wasn’t inclined to have a discussion in the legislature over changing the law. It would be a difficult sell for gun rights activists, who he conceded raise some valid points. If taking out a gun is illegal under any circumstances, why would people carry them, he asked.
He said he prefers the way the law is written now, where it is on the gun owner to behave responsibly.
“You want to have a gun? Fine, but you have to accept the responsibility that goes with it.”
Funny that he exhorts gun owners to behave responsibly, but doesn’t care about the illegality of the arrests that ensue from that responsible, legal, behavior.