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Dickson City gun carrier says motive was not to create a scene BY CHARLES SCHILLINGER
06/07/2008Email to a friendPost a CommentPrinter-friendly WILKES-BARRE — Richard Banks had just returned from the buffet line and set his dish at the table when someone told him there was a situation.
Dickson City police had arrived at Old Country Buffet and wanted to speak to customers who were openly carrying guns.
The May 9 incident led to Mr. Banks being detained and his gun confiscated, but he said he and other customers openly carrying handguns were not looking to make a scene at the restaurant and were not trying to create an incident when police arrived.
Mr. Banks, 37, agreed to talk about the incident for the first time Wednesday. The Mountaintop man took issue with how police handled the situation, but his attorney, Brian Collins, declined to say if a lawsuit is planned.
After the group agreed to speak with officers in the vestibule of the restaurant, Mr. Banks said he soon realized police were going to ask him to cooperate past the level to which he was willing.
While other patrons complied with a request to produce a driver’s license, Mr. Banks refused. When police told him he would be arrested for refusing to provide a driver’s license, Mr. Banks said he initially thought they were just trying to persuade him to hand over the identification. People openly carrying guns are not required to show identification.
“I thought they were bluffing, to be honest with you,” Mr. Banks said.
He spent the next hour in a police car, hands cuffed behind his back, with his wife and two young children watching.
“I really just thought (police) were going to be, ‘Oh, yeah, you guys are OK,’?” he said. “Or maybe they would ask why we were carrying. ... I didn’t think it was going to go to this level.”
He retrieved his gun from police May 30.
Mr. Banks, 37, grew up in rural Sullivan County, N.Y., where his father was a hunter and he began handling guns at a young age. He moved to Pennsylvania in the 1990s and a decade later opened his own gunsmithing business, Frontline Armory, in Mountaintop.
With the rise of the Internet, he began using his interest and knowledge in state gun laws to answer questions on Web forums, specifically on the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association forums. He also started his own site, www.paopencarry.org.
A group of friends from these forums, linked by an interest in gun rights, began meeting socially and openly carrying, Mr. Banks said. For the most part, “just like with model train collectors,” the meeting was just for fellowship.
“One of the reasons we like to do that (meet together) is because we found people came out of Internet nowhere and would say, ‘You know, I’d like to open carry, but I’d feel more comfortable doing it with someone else,’?” Mr. Banks said. “So it’s kind of an introduction ... but mostly, it’s just to get together. Fellowship.”
He denied any notion that the group targeted Dickson City. The meeting at Old Country Buffet was not the first — they had met at Perkins Restaurant & Bakery in Pittston before then, he said.
“They just can’t grasp that we didn’t come to Dickson City to start any trouble,” Mr. Banks said. “We came to Dickson City because one guy’s in Moscow, one guy’s in Scranton, I’m in Mountaintop and two guys are in Susquehanna County. It’s a central location.”
To the accusation that the group was meeting specifically to push an agenda, Mr. Banks said: “To say that’s true isn’t accurate, but to say it isn’t accurate isn’t true, either. As a personal matter, I do carry openly so that people see firearms in everyday life.”
Mr. Banks said he has openly carried throughout the area — at Wal-Mart, grocery stores, Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern and elsewhere — and never had an incident.
Instead of stopping every person on the street and explaining open-carry gun laws, Mr. Banks said he prefers to just wear his gun openly and let people see it’s legal.
“I think what I’m doing is a little more simple and little more powerful,” he said.
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