THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 480, August 10, 2008
"And that's why we like guns."
Hassled for Carrying a Gun by Powell Police
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
A friend was visiting me from out of town. His concealed weapons permit did not have reciprocity with WYO, so he was open carrying. I was carrying concealed - though on several trips to Powell in the past, I have chosen to open carry.
Anyway, we stopped at a video store, then drove around the block and parked a couple of blocks away. We had a long trailer, so couldn't park in front of the restaurant we planned to eat in. On the way to the restaurant, we decided to walk to the ATM to get some cash. We had commented on the number of police vehicles we had seen. About 30 seconds later, THREE police vehicles came into the parking lot we were crossing, and a sheriff (from behind his open door, in a cover position) shouted to my friend. The other two officers were Powell City Police. One, was a police sergeant that I had met at an auction a couple of weeks earlier.
The initial exchange went like this - Sheriff: "EXCUSE ME... are you wearing a gun sir?"
Friend: "Yes I am."
Sheriff: "I'm gonna need you to come over here please."
My friend complied, but did not give his driver's license. One of the officers warned that he must identify himself with name, address, and DOB. He did. They then began running an outstanding warrant check and verified his address.
At some point the sheriff noticed me leaning on a nearby car with my hands on my hips and shouted that I needed to keep my hands where he could see them. I complied.
Then he asked if I had a gun. I said that I did. He asked if I was open carrying. I said, "no, my firearm is concealed."
He asked if I had a CCW permit and I said that I did. He asked to see it, and I presented my Utah CCW. He then asked if I had a permit to carry concealed in Wyoming. I said, that my Utah permit is accepted in WYO. He said I needed a Wyoming CCW. At this point, I became agitated. I informed him that the UT permit was valid in over 25 states, and WYO was one of them. He said that he wasn't sure, that he'd have to run a check himself, and kept my permit. He then stated that he had a Wyoming permit, but that it was not accepted in MT or CO. (By the way, I have checked this out and it is false... both of those states acknowledge WYO CCW permits)
Then another officer approached and he also didn't know if my CCW was valid in WYO. I stated that I was CERTAIN that it was and if theirs were not reciprocal with contiguous states, they ought to consider getting a UT permit. The sheriff then said, it wouldn't do him any good since he lived in WYO. (Two things struck me. 1. He ought to know that he can get a UT CCW without ever setting foot in UT. 2. As an active sheriff, he can carry a weapon in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Therefore, I figured that he was either very ill-informed or wanted me to believe that he was.)
The next thing that the sheriff said was that he was going to have to see my driver's license and would have to do a Forensic ID check on my gun. At this point I told him that I would not go along with that.
I told him that he didn't need any other ID. He had my carry permit which was cleared by federal and state background checks and it also served as a picture ID. I asked, very annoyed - "Officer, what exactly is going on here?! Did you receive a report of stolen guns? Have you gotten any complaints? Neither one of us has broken ANY law, and we are being detained! Why is that???"
He said, "look, I don't mean to hassle you, and we'll get you on your way as soon as we can."
To which I replied, "I am am feeling very hassled right now. This is Wyoming. Open carry is permitted. I have a CCW, so what exactly are we being detained for?"
He said, "I know, as far as we know, nobody is breaking any laws here, we just want to see that there is nothing else going on. I'm not sure why you need to carry a gun in town... I don't think you are going to come across any snakes in town." (Implying that the only reason anyone would wear a gun would be to defend themselves against snakes.)
I let that comment go, because it was almost too absurd to warrant an answer. I am quite sure that he knows full well that people don't carry concealed weapons because they are afraid of snakes. At some point he also said that he was concerned about my friend's gun because "sometimes people think that a Glock looks like a .45, and they become alarmed..." (Huh? What on earth could that statement possibly mean? I was beginning to think that I was talking to the real-life Barney Fife.)
He seemed hell-bent on satisfying himself that we were not some new breed of terrorists... or that we weren't trying to start any trouble in town. He said "it might look like Powell is a quiet little town, but you'd be surprised what we deal with here." (At this point I suppose that he was saying that on occasion some really big snakes must slither through town. I mean what else would the police need to protect citizens from?)
I said, "what is it that you think we might DO? We are on YOUR SIDE! You have nothing to worry about with us."
I believe it was at this point that the Sergeant came up and said, "you look familiar..." to me.
I said, I should, we spent about an hour next to each other in line at the auction a couple of weeks ago. He nodded as though he remembered and almost immediately, all curiosity in us ceased. We were on our way as though nothing ever happened, and all their concerns were satisfied.
But unfortunately, something had happened. Our rights were violated. We were questioned and detained without probable cause - despite the fact that we broke no laws, and interfered with no one. We were shouted at, they insisted on running computer checks on both of us, and they asked us personal information that should not be requested of ordinary citizens who are minding their own business. They proved that they has less understanding of the gun laws in Wyoming than we had, and that our rights were subject to violation, if their curiosity deemed so.
One of the reasons I chose for moving to Wyoming was because the people appear to have more freedom and less intrusive government than any other state. In my opinion, anyone who is not comfortable with a healthy gun culture, would not be comfortable in Wyoming - which in itself is a good reason to open carry, so that those folks think twice about moving here. But what is worse, is that a law enforcement officer would show concern - even after knowing that we both pasted state and federal background checks. I was a little embarrassed that my out of town friend had to experience such behavior in Wyoming. I felt that these officers greatly overstepped their official duty. Even if we were suspect - which we were not - the moment they verified our information, we should have been released immediately, as we posed no threat to anyone.
I believe Wyoming experiences more freedom because people have kept a close reign on government. But, when we allow "peace officers" to hassle and detain citizens for exercising their rights, we put the rights of EVERYONE in jeopardy. I find it outrageous that the police would treat us like that, with their only excuse being that "a Glock looks like it could be a .45..."
Perhaps it is time that more citizens begin exercising their rights. Perhaps it is time for "open carry Friday" in Wyoming, so that people don't forget that they have them. It is time to remind ourselves that government stems from the people, and that the law enforcement officers are to serve the public. I firmly believe that just as muscles atrophy with years of laziness, so do our rights. I urge others to exercise their rights before they lose them and Wyoming becomes like so many other states.