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Thread: What to say and what NOT to say to the Sheriff

  1. #1
    Founder's Club Member - Moderator Gray Peterson's Avatar
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    Dear all,

    With my recent experience with Erie County stating that open carry would result in license revocation, being put on the ground face down, and so on, and reading some of the threads where people keep asking "law enforcement officers if this is legal".

    Law enforcement officers are not people to ask legal opinions. In fact LEO's, if they don't answer your questions, will usually tell you to talk to an attorney if there's a point of contention.

    Instead of arguing from the perspective of a 5 year old asking for permission from daddy, ask from the position of an adult with more authority over the other.

    Here's an example of the tone of the conversation should be with a law enforcement agency:

    Dear Sgt. Amendola,

    I do apologize for the nature of our contact, as it was a complete surprise to you and the reasons why I'm contacting you. As I stated, the person you sent the email in response to the question about open carry posted it on a forum that I frequent.

    My name is Lonnie Wilson, and I'm the leader of a group called "Pacific Northwest Open Carry". I currently possess a non-resident Pennsylvania LTC and therefor I have a personal interest in the goings on in Pennsylvania, as I have numerous friends who live in the Commonwealth who also possess Licenses to Carry Firearms, as it is the actual name of the license, as it is not a "concealed only permit". Only six states ban the open carrying of firearms by civilians, and those are: New York, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

    LTC's, as you well know, are required in two specific circumstances: Concealed Carry on your person statewide, and open or concealed carry in the City of Philadelphia (Per PA Crimes Code section 6108). You are also required to have either a PA LTC or any other state license to carry firearms to carry a firearm in your car per section 6106(10).

    There are two well known cases where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld open carry of firearms as legal, even despite having an LTCF.

    One of these cases is Commonwealth v. Hawkins Page 4, Footnote 4:

    In all parts of Pennsylvania, persons who are licensed may carry concealed firearms. 18 Pa.C.S.
    ยง 6108. *Except in Philadelphia, firearms may be carried openly without a license*. See Ortiz v.
    Commonwealth, ___ Pa. ___, ___, 681 A.2d 152, 155 (1996) (*only in Philadelphia must a person obtain a
    license for carrying a firearm whether it is unconcealed or concealed
    ; in other parts of the
    Commonwealth, unconcealed firearms do not require a license
    *).

    Page 5 goes into more detail as to why it's a bad idea to "put a person down on the ground" as you stated that your office has done:

    The Commonwealth takes the radical position that police have a duty to
    stop and frisk when they receive information from any source that a suspect has
    a gun. Since it is not illegal to carry a licensed gun in Pennsylvania,4 it is
    difficult to see where this shocking idea originates, notwithstanding the
    Commonwealth's fanciful and histrionic references to maniacs who may spray
    schoolyards with gunfire and assassins of public figures who may otherwise go
    undetected. Even if the Constitution of Pennsylvania would permit such
    invasive police activity as the Commonwealth proposes -- which it does not --
    such activity seems more likely to endanger than to protect the public.
    Unnecessary police intervention, by definition, produces the possibility of
    conflict where none need exist.*


    The second case is Commowealth v. Ortiz, to quote:

    53 Pa.C.S. section 13133. Philadelphia appellants assert that they
    are limited by the acts of the General Assembly only if those acts
    are applicable in the entire commonwealth, and the firearms statute
    is not. In particular, they argue that in Philadelphia County, the
    legislature requires that a person must be licensed to carry
    weapons openly and not concealed from sight
    ,* 18 Pa.C.S. section
    6108, [footnote 1] whereas in all other counties of Pennsylvania,
    *weapons may be carried openly without a license*, 18 Pa.C.S. section
    6106.
    [footnote 2]

    Sgt. Amendola, there is absolutely no basis for the police agencies in Erie County to do felony stops on persons who choose to openly carry their handguns in a holster. Even if there is partial concealment involved, the crime would only be a misdemeanor. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear, TWICE, that open carry is legal on foot without a license except in the city of Philadelphia, where an LTCF is required. There is also no basis for the Erie County Sheriffs Office to revoke LTCF's for open carry, as there is clearly no law that makes open carry illegal. To state that "It's only for concealed and it's required to be concealed" as you stated flies in the face of the above court decisions where open carry is only allowed in Philadelphia WITH an LTCF.

    Stating as you did in the email that is open carry only causes "havoc with police agencies" is only because the police agencies themselves work themselves up with histrionics and use entirely too much force in dealing with open carriers. Instead of dealing with the issue like rational and professional law enforcement officers, it seems from your statements that open carriers are treated as potential violent criminals by Eric County police agencies, which is entirely opposite of the criminal mindset which is predisposed to concealing one's firearm. This is one of the reasons why carrying concealed on your person and in your car is licensed by the Commonwealth, but not open carry on foot.

    Despite your appeal to me that if I were a convenience store owner, would I be panicked by someone open carrying: The answer is no, because I have open carried in convenience stores and have not had a problem, even in Pennsylvania, and many others have too, without a problem. The response of "OMG, it's a man with a gun carrying openly, call in the SWAT team" is not the response of a professional law enforcement officer in a state that has open carry as legal. As the Hawkins Court stated:

    such activity seems more likely to endanger than to protect the public.Unnecessary police intervention, by definition, produces the possibility of
    conflict where none need exist.


    If there is a serious problem with responses to open carry, then perhaps a training bulletin should be sent by the departments to their officers detailing the laws regarding the legality of open carry, so that the issue can be handled calmly and rationally rather than with violence that you suggested may result in a lawsuit for excessive force against the agencies involved. I've personally had success with training bulletins in the states of Oregon and Washington with law enforcement agencies here, which have turned around the same sort of bad treatment that you seem to state occurs in Erie County on a regular basis..

    I offer my services to you, perhaps creating a Pennsylvania-version template training bulletin that you may use, for free, so that issues like this can be avoided.

    With regards,

    Lonnie Wilson

    Though this is cleanup detail from someone asking a sheriff's agency's firearms division (he screwed up and asked like a 5 year old), this shows the strength of our position that open carry is legal in PA even if you have an LTCF. Argue from strength, not weakness.

    I certainly do not suggest using this email as a template, just because this was a unique set of circumstances. However the court cases are included in the link is everything you need to convince a sheriff or Philly PD to reverse course.

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    As a PA LEO I have stated and will state again, the sheriffs are the LAST people to ask about firearms laws.

    And not to pick soley on the sheriffs, but many other LEO's are uneducated about open carry in PA, because it is not a covered topic (usually) in training.

    Open carry does not result in revocation, only a conviction listed in the crimes code can result in revocation.

    I've also read somewhere where a sheriff said he would 302 (involuntary mental committment) anyone he saw carrying openly!! LOL

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    Lonnie, EXCELLENT post!







    Jersey



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    Well put Lonnie!!!....I'm sure you'll post any response he provides!!

  5. #5
    Founder's Club Member - Moderator Gray Peterson's Avatar
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    Steve in PA wrote:
    As a PA LEO I have stated and will state again, the sheriffs are the LAST people to ask about firearms laws.

    And not to pick soley on the sheriffs, but many other LEO's are uneducated about open carry in PA, because it is not a covered topic (usually) in training.

    Open carry does not result in revocation, only a conviction listed in the crimes code can result in revocation.

    I've also read somewhere where a sheriff said he would 302 (involuntary mental committment) anyone he saw carrying openly!! LOL
    As you can see, I didn't ask questions, I told him facts.

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    I live in Erie County and just received my permit. Only4 days after I applied if I may add!! I would feel extremely uncomfortable open-carrying within the city of Erie. In my 21 years living here I have never observed anyoneopen carrying and I can definitely see a person getting alot of hassel. Its too bad too.I plan on Open Carryingonce in awhile this summer when its terribly hot so we'll see how that goes over.I've asked my girlfriend and a couple other friends what they would think if they saw a neatly dressed, clean-cut individual walk into a gas station with a pistol in a holster on their hip and they said they would immediately be scared. Once I took the time to explain how those are the kind of law abidingpeople that might possibly protect them someday they seemed to understand morebut still see it as "unnessesary"it's amazing how brainwashed some people are about firearms. I guess all we can do is take the time to educate one at a time...

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    Lonnie, may I use your letter ? (I like the format, and may be able to use it to address open carry and other issues in AL.) I can easily modify the statutes and cases for those specific to AL.

    ProguninTN

  8. #8
    Founder's Club Member - Moderator Gray Peterson's Avatar
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    Go right ahead. You have the AG's opinions down in Alabama, too.

  9. #9
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    Has there been a further exchange between you and Sgt. Amendola?

    ps. I'm the one who asked "like a five year old." :X

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