Previous Post
Next Post


I would love to open carry in RI. Coming out of the closet would be the single most effective way to defend and extend Ocean State gun rights. It “normalizes” firearms. Unfortunately, many members of the open carry movement see the police as their enemy in this. They are not. I repeat, the cops are not the problem. Fellow citizens who fear guns and vote against them are the real problem. Yes, the po-po need educating as well. As well they might, what with open carry advocates openly carrying firearms. So educate them. Not by being a dick. By calmly following their requests and then suing the shit out of them when they get it wrong. Or . . .

just say “I will give you my license, but I want you to realize that I am under no legal obligation to do so.” Then, afterwards, when everybody’s calmed down, providing you’re not under arrest, you could say “Officer I’d like to talk to you about open carry for a minute, would that be alright?”

You don’t have to, but why not follow police instructions? Why make it an “us” vs. “them” deal on the streets? Again, if Johnny Law roughs you up, confiscates your gat, becomes verbally abusive or violates one of your rights, feel free to pursue legal redress (another form of gun rights education).

Like ’60’s protestors who had to be tear gassed to maintain their credibility in the peace movement, some open carry advocates feel they must have a run-in with the police to earn their bones. And make the point. Crap.

This kind of behavior is irresponsible. It risks a shooting, which could harm or even kill innocent bystanders, ruin the cop’s life and career (affecting his family), and potentially end the open carry advocates’ life. Check out the cop’s gun hand. That’s not something I ever want to see up close and personal, no matter how strongly I feel about, well, anything.

Even without a cop drawing his weapon, an open carry open confrontation with the police makes gun rights advocates seem like the enemy of the police, who are the friends of the people we need to convert. Try and see this from a non-gun owner’s POV. Like Ted Nugent’s invitation to suck on his machine gun, it’s not helpful.

Surely the point of open carry—at least from a political perspective—is to show normal people that “normal” people carry guns. Not to compete for a spot on “Caught on Tape: America’s Biggest Dickhead Cop.” I reckon open carry advocates should try to minimize contact with the cops, not make it the centerpiece of their struggle.

The American gun rights movement doesn’t need martyrs. It needs millions of responsible gun owners who are willing to show fearful citizens the personal and social advantages of gun ownership.

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. Most LEO’s are neutral or appreciate Open Carry as rational people know that it is the concealed weapon that will be used for ill purpose. Some, want to be “only ones”. OC is a threat to the myth that only the police can protect you or are competent enough to openly bear arms.

  2. The most important thing to do when confronted by any police officer is to be polite and do as they ask. They have a tough job and being rude is just going to make things more difficult. I was pulled over a few years back for not having the updated sticker on my plate, and the officer was very polite and asked me to take care of it ASAP. I thanked him for cutting me a break and was on my way. I was also in the car with a buddy who got pulled over, and my friend started giving the cop lip as soon as he approached. He was given two tickets, which he deserved for being an ass.

    • “The most important thing to do when confronted by any police officer is to be polite and do as they ask. ”

      I agree – as a criminal defense attorney, much of my paycheck comes from people who consented to searches, talked with officers, and refused to ruthlessly assert their rights. I couldn’t imagine better advice than this, since it will likely result in me paying off my student loans faster than I had expected.

    • I agree with the polite part. No need to be belligerent or escalate a situation since John Law will win any contest of oneupmanship. Also, you shouldn’t be a dick anyway. To anyone.

      But you can’t submit to whatever the police want you to do. Or you can. And then you’ll be calling Jeff. You’ll be writing him a big check too.

      It’s simple really. Just watch any episode of COPS from about 2006 on. It’s a quick three-part lesson on what not to do whenever you have contact with LE.

  3. Robert, I understand your desire to “Wear [your] gun outside [your] pants/For all the honest world to feel” (Thank you, Willie Nelson, and now I can’t get that song out of my head) but I think your quest is bound to be a bit Quixotic.

    I don’t think most “normal” people want to carry guns openly, nor will they ever want to do so. There’s a reason so many of these open-carry confrontations involve people like you described above, and that’s because quite a few of these OC advocates carry a pretty big chip on their shoulder, especially when it comes to authority figures (cops, judges, and other substitutes for daddy.)

    OC is perfectly legal in large parts of this country – and yet, even with OC legal, very, very, very few do it. It’s not “normal” and it never has been (despite the impression you get from Westerns, open carry of handguns has always been rare in this country.)

      • Does it, though? Guns are pretty “normal” in Wyoming but I’ve never seen anybody OC there.

        You also have to consider whether the damage done by authority-confronting OC advocates does more harm to the cause of gun rights than good. IMO it does.

        • Wyoming doesn’t need OC. RI, NJ, MA, NY do. We agree on the inadvisability of the “authority confronting” part of the program.

          • Well, that’s a pretty big windmill to tilt at. You’re talking about making some major changes to the culture there and I’m not even sure that’s possible. Even if it is possible, I don’t see how OC is the way to acheive that. Rubbing your opponents’ faces in your cause is just as likely to cause a backlash against firearms as it is to “normalize” them, particularly among people who are already prone to believe that anybody who owns a gun is some kind of weirdo.

  4. If you are not endangering others or in violation of the law, “Why not just do as he says?” is a slippery slope. Please understand I am not advocating a combative or confrontational stance ala the guy in this video, who appears to have stepped into this situation just itching for a fight and 15min of interwebz fame. But there is something to be said for knowing your rights and rationally/politely standing firm on them. Compliance and forgoing one’s rights simply to avoid hassle as a concept bothers me on a very base level.

    In-your-face “Screw you! I know my rights pig!”, no.

    “Officer; I’ve violated no law, am not operating a motor vehicle, and am within my rights to withhold my identification unless I am being detained. Am I being detained sir?”. Yes.

    • No, no, no, no, no. Do NOT EVER say “detained”. You say “Officer, am I under arrest?” If he says no, then you ask “Am I free to go?” If he says no, you repeat the first question, and then the second question.

      If you ask “Am I being detained?”, the officer can just say yes, and then you’re in for a big hassle, if you weren’t already. Cops don’t need evidence or probable cause to detain somebody, just a suspicion.

      • I was somewhat paraphrasing what combative “this is going out to teh interwebz”camera guy was stating.

        Doesn’t take away from the fact that this seems like solid advice. Thanks.

  5. I have to agree with RF here. While there are plenty of instances where the bad guys wear black and the good guys wear white it’s not always so clear cut. There is a gray area of cooperation that can benefit both sides. There are some good cops out there and it’s always better to have them on your side. I’m not talking about boot licking and ass kissing. Sometimes a cop is trying to do his job and just needs a little education. And as stated, there are remedies for cases of injustice, cumbersome as they may be.

    There will always be people willing to risk the downside because you have to squeeze a few lemons to make lemonade. It takes all kinds to make the world turn and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing either.

  6. When I exercise my First Amendment rights, I might piss off that state. So what? If I didn’t piss off the state, why would I need the First Amendment? 1A protects unpopular speech, which needs protection a lot more than the popular variety. The same goes for the Second. Exercising one’s rights peacefully and legally is not irresponsible, it’s imperative. I’m sure that, back in the day, sitting at the “whites only” lunch counter was viewed as provocative. Well, yes, it was. Without provocative but legal and peaceful actions, there will be no progress against the encroaching powers of a repressive state. So keep it polite, keep it ethical, keep it legal. Expose the state for what it is and sue the bastards if needed. But to criticize gun owners as irresponsible merely for exercising their rights peacefully and legally is just plain wrong.

  7. “I will give you my license, but I want you to realize that I am under no legal obligation to do so”

    Why on earth would you do that…..ever? If they have your license, they have you. Cops take licenses so that they can put you in a de facto state of detention without your Miranda rights attaching. Moreover, saying “I realize that I am under no legal obligation…” will blow back in your face if you are charged with a crime, because the state will argue that is conclusive evidence that you knew you were not in custody and that many of your rights didn’t attach.

    Frankly, we need more people saying that enough is enough and we will allow state intrusion to go no further. If we drew our line in the sand post-9/11, we wouldn’t have had ongoing state spying, torture, no-fly lists (that consistently list political activists and children), and public molestation of the flying public every time they go through security. The legal standards involved with the Fourth Amendment are absurd and they require balls of steel. Every time you waiver from strictly enforcing your rights, you lose them.

  8. So in other civil rights crowds there is a lot of discussion about the difference between “Comply” and “Consent”.

    These two things are both philosophically and legally distinct. According to lawyers behind projects like your best bet is to never “Consent” BUT ALWAYS “Comply”.

    Why? Because cops like to trick you into implying or giving consent, and then they can do whatever they want with you. Do they do this because they are inherently malicious? Usually not, they do this because like all people, they’ll cut a corner at their job if they can get away with it. If they trick you into giving them consent, they have a hell of a safe shortcut to do their job.

    Why Comply? Because legal systems can nail you for not “complying” even if you are rightfully innocent. Because the street is not a place to have a legal debate and a cop is not a judge. In most cases, you are also not a lawyer (unless you are a lawyer) no matter how much “IANAL” gun forum advice you have memorized and how many statutes you have stuffed in your pocket. Even if you are a lawyer, you are not in a court, you are on the street. If you want to change the way the law is implemented, that change needs to hit the street level operatives (cops) from above. There is a process for doing this in this country, and it works if exploit it to your advantage.

    Explicitly state to the cop “I do not CONSENT to any illegal searches or detainment” and explicitly state “But I will comply”. Record that on your iphone. Get to safety.

    Next, go to court. Don’t go to youtube or the forums. Don’t show them your hand. Now it is cut and dry. They can’t argue you implied consent since you explicitly stated you do not, and they can’t argue that you interfered with a police investigation because you explicitly stated you would not refuse to comply. They have nothing on you, and you have everything on them. You win the case, police and society get educated from the top down.

    Defiance is not a virtue when it is misapplied. Defiance is misapplied in instances when it exposes more of your underbelly than it does give you an upper hand. I get it. Superficial defiance is sexy. Superficial defiance is a rush. Leading a march with a bullhorn is a big ego stroke, and an aphrodisiac. Sometimes that is the ONLY way. Usually not. More subtle activism is less effective at getting you laid, however way more effective at getting your WAY.

    Now will I stand back and be called “a slave” by people who would undercut mine and their own interests for the sake of a macho posture. They make influential enemies, I make influential friends. I get my way and move forward freely time after time, and they are chained fighting the same old battles at an impasse they could have avoided by simply using less sexy, more effective tactics.


    • Interesting distinction between “comply” and “consent”. One I hadn’t considered.

      The comments are encouraging. I always get itchy when the premise of “why not just let the authorities do x?” rears its head. Sounds a bit too much like “If you’re not hiding something, why do you care if you’re searched?” for my comfort level.

      • In most cases when I have explicitly told a cop that I do not consent to any illegal searches or detainment, but will comply, they just kind of freeze. It’s like a magic phrase or something. This leads me to believe they certainly are trained in the distinction between consent and comply and are intimately familiar with the phrases.

        If they know you know the difference too, you generally won’t HAVE to comply because they’ll not risk a demonstrably illegal search on you.


  9. “Coming out of the closet would be the single most effective way to defend and extend Ocean State gun rights.”

    But then when people do it, they get the “why are you doing that?” finger waved at them.

    The “Madison Five” were eating at a Culver’s when numerous police showed up and wanted to see IDs, which they have no legal authority to do in that state. A couple of them said, “No,” were charged on some bs, and now those charges have been dropped. How much good publicity, knowledge, and courage did they give to the rest of the citizens of the state and the entire country? I’d say quite a bit. When government overstepped its bounds, good men stood up and said, “No.”

  10. Again, if Johnny Law roughs you up, confiscates your gat, becomes verbally abusive or violates one of your rights, feel free to pursue legal redress (another form of gun rights education).

    There is a common misperception that citizens have easy legal redress in the face of abusive police conduct. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The police enjoy broad legal immunity. The courts have shown themselves time and again very reluctant to second-guess police actions. And even if an aggrieved citizen surmounts the high burden of qualified immunity, police still enjoy paid legal representation. Few if any attorneys pursue a police misconduct lawsuit on a contingency fee basis. Finally, any damages or costs of legal action are typically paid by the officer’s department, meaning that an individual officer rarely suffers any direct cost for his actions.

    The notion that the courts somehow offer “justice” after-the-fact when the police overstep is a dangerous fantasy.

    • Point taken, yes. But I have found that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is very handy as it moves the case into Federal jurisdiction and away from the sycophant state judges. Sure, the threshold is high, but not unsurmountable. Most of my firm’s cases were settled and for real dollars. Of course, most of the cases involved the police beating the shit out of people for no good reason, not even incident to a lawful arrest. Factoid: Sec. 1983 was originally intended as anti-Klan (Southern sheriffs, y’know), then fell out of favor for a while, then came back with a vengence in the 1980s.

  11. Jeff makes a good point, but in RI if you piss the cops off you’re going to be hiring a lawyer anyway so I’d rather take my chances and be polite. I know plenty of cops and their not looking to screw anyone, but why be rude and ask for trouble.

    • “I know plenty of cops and they’re not looking to screw anyone”

      I know some cops in Providence who defy your description, JOE.

      • Your right Ralph, there will always be a few who don’t care but the great majority of cops are nice people.

Comments are closed.