John Filippidis thought he was prepared for his Christmas roadtrip. He knew he’d be passing through some states in the northeast that didn’t value his Second Amendment rights as much as his home state of Florida—that is to say, “at all”—so he left his EDC, a Kel-Tec .380, at home in the safe. But he was mistaken. Traveling down I-95 on New Year’s Eve eve with his wife and three teenage daughters (God help him), he had an encounter with law enforcement that he never could have imagined. . .
Now, first let me say that we received more than a dozen emails about this story (Dave was first, go Dave!), but I was holding off because there is only one source and one story (as told to The Tampa Trib), and it has a fairly large hole, so I was hoping for more info. Alas, it was not to be, so on with the tale.
According to Mr. Filippidis, he was just barely into Maryland when he noticed he was being followed by an unmarked patrol car. It ran alongside them for a while, then in front, and pulled in behind them. For ten minutes. Finally, the lights came on, and they pulled over. Mr. F provides his license and registration, and then waited. For ten more minutes.
The officer, who was from the Transportation Authority Police, Maryland’s version of the NY Port Authority, orders Mr. F out of the vehicle, took him back behind the SUV and ordered him to hook his thumbs behind his back and spread his feet. Then, according to Mr. F, he heard the officer say something he never expected. “You own a gun. Where is it?”
Mr. F told the officer that it’s at home in the safe. The officer ordered him not to move, and walked up to the passenger window where Mrs. F is sitting. “Your husband owns a gun. Where is it?” She replied that she doesn’t know, but unfortunately, she didn’t stop there. “Maybe in the glove [box]. Maybe in the console. I’m scared of it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I might shoot right through my foot.”
The officer returned to John, and called him a liar. “You’re lying to me. Your family says you have it. Where is the gun? Tell me where it is and we can resolve this right now.” Of course, John can’t show him what doesn’t exist. The officer later told him that his wife’s failure to corroborate his story was the probable cause for the officer to summon backup.
Three marked cars showed up and the Expedition was emptied. Family, luggage, Christmas gifts, laundry bags, all on the side of the road. The eldest twin daughters were patted down, and Mr. and Mrs. F were separated into the backs of two patrol cars. The officers explored the engine compartment and probed inside door panels. After 90 minutes or more—”It felt like forever,” said Mrs. F—no weapons were found, the Expedition was repacked, and the story ends, for the moment, with the officer writing out a warning, for 71 in a 55.
So the hole I mentioned earlier is this: unlike some states, concealed weapons permit information is not available immediately at hand during roadside stops to LEOs in the state of Florida. It can be obtained, but it’s on-demand; there is no red flag that pops up when they run your license or registration. They don’t call up and ask if John Doe has a permit, but they can call to see if the permit John Doe presented is still valid. Since 2006, permit holder and applicant information is exempt from public records laws. Further, no firearms ownership information of any kind is available, because Florida has no firearm registration scheme.
So the question is, if Florida law enforcement doesn’t get permit information on a regular roadside stop without a specific request, how did the Maryland officer get the information? If the officer was quoted correctly—”You own a gun”—how would he know that, given that there is no firearms registration in the state of Florida? MTAP isn’t talking on the record, citing pending investigation, but Mr. Filippidis has received apologies from both the officer’s captain as well as an MTAP internal affairs captain, which would seem to indicate that something isn’t right.
In the meantime, Mr. F is considering canceling his CWFL, if it’s not more trouble than it’s worth. While I can understand his concern after what he went through, I hope that’s not the route he chooses to take.
[Small Update: The Conservative Treehouse has sent MTAP a public records request and received confirmation that it was received.]
[Update #2: According to a second post at The Conservative Treehouse, Maryland has an intelligence hub known as the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center. According to TCH, “the intelligence analysis hub has access to, and contains, Florida’s CCW list (among other identification systems) and mines the state’s database systems for vehicle plate numbers of the holders. These license plate numbers are then stored in a cross referencing database within the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center.” But that’s just the beginning. Click over to read the rather chilling “rest of the story.”