Disgrace: Circuit Court rules MA concealed carry permits are worthless
posted at 10:57 am on January 6, 2010 by MadisonConservative
I’ve lamented the struggle for people who openly carry firearms, particularly in Wisconsin where that’s our only option to carry. However, Massachusetts, like 47 other states, observes the right of their citizens to carry a concealed weapon – with a permit, of course. However, to cops on a power trip, the law means nothing. Apparently, the same goes for the courts:
The First Circuit Court of Appeals in New England just handed down another horrible Second Amendment ruling, very similar to the ruling that recently came out of Georgia. In the case in question, the court ruled that a police officer acted appropriately when he not only detained a man for lawfully carrying a concealed firearm but confiscated his gun. From the Atlanta Gun Rights Examiner:
According to the case opinion, the lawyer, Greg Schubert, had a pistol concealed under his suit coat, and Mr. Schubert was walking in what the court described as a “high crime area.” At some point a police officer, J.B. Stern, who lived up to his last name, caught a glimpse of the attorney’s pistol, and he leaped out of his patrol car “in a dynamic and explosive manner” with his gun drawn, pointing it at the attorney’s face.
Officer Stern “executed a pat-frisk,” and Mr. Schubert produced his license to carry a concealed weapon. He was disarmed and ordered to stand in front of the patrol car in the hot sun. At some point, the officer locked him in the back seat of the police car and delivered a lecture. Officer Stern “partially Mirandized Schubert, mentioned the possibility of a criminal charge, and told Schubert that he (Stern) was the only person allowed to carry a weapon on his beat.”
The officer eventually released Schubert but confiscated both his concealed carry license and his firearm. The court, of course, ruled that all of Stern’s actions were appropriate to “ensure his own safety” and because he could not confirm the “facial validity” of the license.
Let’s take a look at the case. In order for Stern’s actions to be at all justifiable, there has to be reasonable suspicion, articulable by Stern. In other words, he has to be able to say exactly what Schubert was doing that made him suspicious enough to jump out of his patrol car and point his weapon at Schubert’s face and disarm him.
First, Stern claims that he noticed the gun under Schubert’s jacket. Not good enough. Around 200,000-250,000 concealed carry permits are issued in Massachusetts every year. While I have not been able to find an exact count, the fact that the permits last for four years means there are around a million residents of Massachusetts legally carrying a concealed weapon at all times. In a state with seven million people, that means it’s not uncommon for a person to be armed. Stern claims that several other people also saw the weapon and alerted Stern to it. Oh, wait…
However, a subsequent investigation of the incident by the police department produced no witnesses or other proof of Stern’s allegation regarding the passers-by.
Hm. When I was stopped for open carrying, there were two people who reported me to the manager, and the Madison police got both of their names, as well as the name of the manager of the store where I was carrying. Apparently this Dirty Harry couldn’t even stop one witness. Tells you a lot, doesn’t it?
Apparently, the “high crime area” was right in front of a damned courthouse. Schubert was wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. Schubert brought this up. The court’s response?
We are not persuaded. A Terry stop is intended for just such a situation, where the officer has a reasonable concern about potential criminal activity based on his “on-the-spot observations,” and where immediate action is required to ensure that any criminal activity is stopped or prevented.
Well, too bad we’ve been unable to determine that he had any reasonable suspicion. All we’ve got so far is an older man, in a suit, with a briefcase, with a concealed firearm under his coat. That was enough for the officer to immediately point his weapon at the man’s face and disarm him. Did he ask to see a permit? Why, yes he did…and it didn’t do Schubert a damn bit of good to have it:
Stern continued to attempt to verify the validity of Schubert’s weapons license, but because Massachusetts lacked a centralized database containing such information, the officer soon realized that the inquiry could take a significant amount of time. Thus, about five minutes after moving Schubert into the cruiser, Stern told Schubert that he was free to go, but that Schubert would have to retrieve his gun and gun license from the Springfield police department.
Then what the hell is the point of the concealed carry permit??? All this proves is that any law-abiding citizen confronted by a police officer can have their weapon unlawfully confiscated along with their permit if the officer decides that “he’s the only person allowed to carry a weapon on his beat”. The permit is effectively worthless. Exactly what did we do about permits and licenses of various types before we expected to have a computer database at our fingertips?
So a cop on a power trip stops a man in a “high crime area”, makes a scene out of the fact that he is legally carrying a weapon, disarms him, and leaves him defenseless in that same “high crime area”. Who exactly did Stern “protect”? This is utterly appalling. The real kicker?
On July 26, 2006, Schubert filed a citizen’s complaint against Stern for his conduct on July 21. As a result of the report, the Springfield Police Commissioner recommended that Stern be retrained on Massachusetts firearms law but found no specific wrongdoing on Officer Stern’s part and did not recommend disciplinary action.
RE-trained? This is an admission that Stern had already been trained on firearms law, and ignored it. That no disciplinary action was taken is disgusting. That no wrongdoing was found is horrific. Ultimately, the fact that the courts upheld this unlawful stop, unlawful search, and unlawful confiscation, is an affront to both the First Circuit Court and the Massachusetts District Court. They view the Constitution as toilet paper.
Keep taking it higher, Mr. Schubert. Maybe we’ll see what the folks who struck down the DC gun ban think of your case.
UPDATE: Thanks to commenter RadClown for correcting me on the number of CCW permit holders in Massachusetts. I misinterpreted what the article stated. There are closer to 250,000 total holders. However, it still means the carrying of a concealed weapon is not uncommon.