This morning I read a story that is truly disturbing. It does not surprise me, in light of so many similar incidents, but this account really hit hard. Small business owner John Filippidis, who holds a legal concealed carry permit, and generally keeps his small gun with him, was traveling through Maryland with his family around Christmas. Since he is a responsible gun owner, he was aware that laws vary from state to state, and not all states he would pass through, would honor his permit. Thus he left his gun locked in the safe at home on this trip.
While driving within the speed limit, he noted a police cruiser fall in behind him in traffic. Numerous other cars were passing him, and he had not broken any laws, and yet the cruiser remained with them ten minutes, before finally activating it’s emergency lights and pulling John over. The officer was with a unit referred to as the “Transportation Authority Police”. By itself that title conjures up images of Soviet Russia. I looked up the website for this particular Maryland Government entity (Maryland Transportation Authority) and it describes itself as:
The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) is an independent agency responsible for managing, operating and improving the State’s toll facilities.
The site has a designated page for the Transportation Authority Police. Here is the content of it’s description of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police:
The Maryland Transportation Authority Police, a nationally accredited force, is the seventh-largest law-enforcement agency in the State with more than 600 sworn and civilian law-enforcement professionals. The Maryland Transportation Authority Police are responsible for law enforcement at the Authority’s highways, tunnels and bridges, the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and the Port of Baltimore.
Filippidis and his wife report that the officer requested license and registration, and that when he came back to the car, the officer proceeded to instruct Filippidis to assume a pat-down position, and proceeded with a pat-down. The officer stated “you own a gun, where is it”.
Now, this is what happens with gun registration and when government stringently regulates whether or not citizens without any criminal background can carry a weapon and in what manner. When an officer pulls up your profile he will know if you are a gun owner and if you have a concealed carry permit. But when officers begin to treat everyone as if they are a criminal even when they have no cause to do so, this can create an adversarial atmosphere that sets even upstanding citizens at odds with police. I think most officers up until recently anyway, recognized the value of cooperation and mutual trust with upstanding citizens, but this paranoia on the part of police officers, this defensive stance, is destined to promote greater distrust between officer and citizen. We do have laws in America against search without cause. I have to wonder what it was that prompted this officer to hone in on this vehicle to begin with. Was there an NRA bumper sticker on the car?
The driver informed the officer, in response to his inquiry as to the whereabouts of his weapon, that it was locked in his safe at home. The officer apparently was not satisfied with this statement, ordered the driver “don’t move”, and went around to the passenger side to question the wife on the whereabouts of the husband’s gun. The wife expressed her own fear and trepidation about having anything to do with guns, and speculated maybe it was in the glove box or console. You can read the full article here to learn the outrageous outcome of this incident.
To be sure the incident has left “a bad taste in the mouth” for this particular citizen, which has left him reconsidering whether a CC permit is worth having.
May I submit that is the desired outcome and we can’t just give in, but many of us feel we are being worn down despite our resolve. There is an element within our government (at every level) which wants citizens to surrender all their rights for the sake of “keeping the peace”. I had a comparable experience with my own local police. Though it had nothing to do with guns, it left me with the same sense of the futility of being a law-abiding citizen, and having been treated and classified in the mind of an officer, just as if I were any common criminal rather than a citizen going about my business. In my case, I found a wallet on my street. When I picked it up, I did what most honest folks would do, and looked inside for some form of identification. It was sopping wet from rainwater, but there was a DMV photo I.D. with name and address. My first inclination was to go home and see if I could look up a phone number from the name and address, but what then? I didn’t have any desire to try and meet up with some stranger for the purposes of returning a wallet. That would have been foolish. Instead I took it to the police station. When I arrived I informed the dispatcher behind the desk that I had found a wallet and wanted to turn it in. I figured that was that, and was prepared to just leave it in their hands, having done the ethical thing, and be on my way. Instead the officer/dispatcher behind the counter told me to wait while she got another officer to come out and talk to me. I asked why that was necessary (in their minds that might have constituted suspicious activity in and of itself, who knows?) but soon an officer came. Without greeting, introduction or preamble of any sort, the officer began grilling me for personal information. He asked me my name, and I gave it. He asked to see my I.D. and somewhat puzzled as to the necessity of all of this, I produced it. He asked me my phone number, and still leery, but figuring, okay there is policy and procedure, and they probably just need to fill in the blanks. Then he asked me my social security number. Now, come on. What’s next, fingerprints? A urine specimen? DNA mouth swab? At this point was when I said, “why on earth is all of that necessary? I found a wallet, the right thing to do was to turn it in, and I did that.” and he simply said without even looking up, “it’s part of the paperwork”. He then asked me how I came to have the wallet, (thanks, dispatcher lady, I guess it was above your pay grade to convey any of that to the officer) I went through it again and told him exactly where the wallet was located when I came upon it. I had to ask the officer’s name because he just had a lanyard-type I.D. tag on his belt and I couldn’t really make out the letters his very shiny reflective silver name pin. The irony of this is that I had started my neighborhood watch, and had worked hard to foster trust among my neighbors and the police department. I left that day feeling much the same way Filippidis describes feeling. At least I didn’t have to endure a pat down, but I left my small town police station that day much less inclined to bother getting involved the next time around. And that is a crying shame!