I want to begin by saying that I am a law enforcement officer (LEO) in Colorado and consider myself to be very conservative and supportive of the rights of law abiding citizens to bear arms. I deal with armed citizens on a regular basis and support their rights to be armed. Prior to starting my career in LE, I was a practicing member of the CCW community and continue to believe that an armed citizen beats an unarmed victim in every situation.
I don't know all of the details of this encounter in Loveland so it is impossible for me to tell you exactly what I would have done or what should have been done in this situation. Remember that every story has at least two sides. In this story, what is missing is the perspective of local LE. My goal of this post is to provide input into what a LEO, many of whom are of the same mindset as me, go through when responding to this type of call.
It is likely that this call came in through a call to dispatch as a man with a gun and at least two patrol officers were assigned to respond. Who knows what other details where given in the initial call? We never have all the details, only those reported by the caller on scene. We know that the call was to a public place, which immediately gives officers a reason to fear for the safety of the public as well as their own. I know this is not what most open carry advocates want to hear but in the light of Columbine, Virginia Tech, and numerous other active shooter incidents, this is the hand that has been dealt. LEOs cannot wait until a victim has been injured or killed to respond and address the situation. If they do, they are faced with being accused both through the crimininal and civil court system.
The typical LEO that I know is married with children. It is important to each and every one of them to come home safe at the end of their shift to the ones that love them. When faced with what may be a deadly threat, they must take the appropriate action to ensure they will survive the encounter. No officer with good officer safety in mind will stand and talk to someone they have never met while that person has a firearm (a real life threat) in plain view without removing the threat for the duration of the contact. If we did so in this day and age, everyone would carry a gun in the open and LEO casulties would likely be much higher than they already are. In my experience, this is where the CCW laws are extremely beneficial to both the citizen and LEO. A check through dispatch will typically tell the officer that the citizen is likely not a threat if a valid CCW is in place. In this situation, the weapon is likely to be returned and the contact ended, in my case usually with a handshake. Contact by LEO does not happen because the local police or sheriff can't bear to have armed citizens. LEO is forced into this situation to ensure that the public is safe. In a perfect world, only the good guys would have guns and be willing to show them. In the real world, we are forced to treat everyone presenting a possible threat as a such until it has been determined otherwise. Suing the officers for their reaction only brings about more stress to a person who has sworn to protect and serve their community. These are individuals who are willing to lay their lives on the line to protect the members of their community. Remember, we live in a world where violence demands that citizens protect themselves. Don't attack the individual LEOs to bring about change. They are forced to react to the environment they live in. To ensure that your rights are protected, vote for individuals who are committed to protecting your second amendment rights. Remove the ones that aren't.
That being said, I would like to share my opinion on open carry vs. concealed carry. I have been the shopper in Wal-Mart who has seen the guy shopping with his gun on his hip in plain view. At the time, I had at least two loaded firearms concealed on my person, ready in case a threat presented itself. My children were with me, but guns are nothing new to them. They watch me holster up every time I leave the house. I was not offended that this person chose to carry openly, though I questioned his philosophy. Afer watching him for several minutes, it was clear that this guy was shopping with his wife and children and was clearly only trying to exercise his rights as a citizen and show to everyone that he was not a weak target. In his mind, I am sure this person believed that he was prepared to protect his family and stop any threat that he encountered. From a tactical standpoint, I knew I had the advantage, had I been a bad guy. I knew what he was carrying and where he would reach, while he had no idea that the guy standing three feet behind him was armed and likely more prepared for battle. If something bad is going to happen, the bad guys are likely scouting ahead to find any threats that must be immediately eliminated. Concealment is an advantage, use it as such. Play your hand too early and you lose any advantage you may have had. My community is a strong CCW area. I take comfort in the fact of knowing that when the sh** hits the fan and I draw my weapon, there are likely others present who are also ready and prepared to fight to ensure the good guys prevail.