Federal Judge Rules Police canNOT detail people for Open Carry of guns

This is an interesting development and positive for the gun rights movement. I have extensively edited down the article which can be found at the link below. Also I’ve included a link to the actual court order from the judge at the bottom of this post.
Federal judge rules police cannot detain people for openly carrying guns
September 9, 10:16 PMDC Gun Rights ExaminerMike Stollenwerk

On September 8, 2009, United States District Judge Bruce D. Black of the United States District Court for New Mexico entered summary judgment in a civil case for damages against Alamogordo, NM police officers. The Judge’s straight shootin’ message to police: Leave open carriers alone unless you have “reason to believe that a crime [is] afoot.”

The facts of the case are pretty simple. Matthew St. John entered an Alamogordo movie theater as a paying customer and sat down to enjoy the movie. He was openly carrying a holstered handgun, conduct which is legal in 42 states, and requires no license in New Mexico and twenty-five other states.

. . . Mr. St. John was never suspected of any crime nor issued a summons for violating any law.
. . .
Importantly, no theater employee ever ordered Mr. St. John to leave
. . .
On these facts, Judge Black concluded as a matter of law that the police violated Matthew St. John’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment because they seized and disarmed him even though there was not “any reason to believe that a crime was afoot.” Judge Black’s opinion is consistent with numerous high state and federal appellate courts . . .
. . .
Notably, Judge Black denied the police officers’ requested “qualified immunity,” a judicially created doctrine allowing government officials acting in good faith to avoid liability for violating the law where the law was not “clearly established.” In this case, Judge Black concluded that
[INDENT]"[r]elying on well-defined Supreme Court precedent, the Tenth Circuit and its sister courts have consistently held that officers may not seize or search an individual without a specific, legitimate reason. . . . The applicable law was equally clear in this case. Nothing in New Mexico law prohibited Mr. St. John from openly carrying a firearm in the Theater. Accordingly, Mr. St. John’s motion for summary judgment is granted with regard to his Fourth Amendment and New Mexico constitutional claims. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is denied with regard to the same and with regard to qualified immunity."
. . .[/indent]

Anyone who wants to read the specific words of Judge Black’s opinion and court order can be read here.

Excellent ruling.

great news, thanks for posting. this judicial ruling lifted my spirit and gave me a bit of hope that maybe my country will pull through the mess of these last 8 months.

Pardon me, but this does not seem like a second amendment ruling. Its more on the fourth amendment search and seizure.

Nice try, though.

Disclaimer, I’m not that familiar with gun laws…maybe some of you can educate me? I am curious, what does it mean ‘reason to believe a crime is afoot?’ Is that if the person is already shooting into a crowd, and then it’s too late? Why is this man walking around with a gun into a movie theater? I don’t get the need to be armed as a civilian at all times. I don’t carry a gun, neither does my husband. I don’t fully understand the reason for carrying a gun when going to watch a movie. :confused: And ok, if you want to carry a gun fine…but there is no license required in 26 states to do this? Why is that?

Watch out! You start asking questions like that and folks will call you an unconstitutional ‘gun grabber’. Just like they said the feds were going to come and confiscate folks’ guns.

That has not happened yet.

*Oh…lol These are just questions, I’m not familiar with gun laws, and because we don’t own one, I guess I don’t get the reasoning behind carrying one into a movie theater, to simply watch a movie. :o And if a civilian say shot someone out in public, to protect people…would he be permitted to do that, if he is not part of the police dept? I must sound naive, but this is why I put the disclaimer above. :stuck_out_tongue:

You are asking loaded questions. Gun rights advocates don’t like to be reminded that when we had much looser gun laws in the 1800’s and 1900’s, most folks did not carry arms, anyway.

I have a lifetime carry license issued by my state. It is valid for me to carry a gun in approximately 24 of our 50 states. My license requires me to follow the various state laws when I carry the gun. For example, in some states I can carry the gun on my hip openly, in other states I have to ‘conceal’ the gun under a shirt, etc.

If I am sitting on the courthouse lawn on the town square eating a hot dog with friends and my gun is exposed -or even partially exposed- there is no reason to believe that “a crime is afoot.” If I am walking down the street and there is a gun on my hip, there is no reason to believe “a crime is afoot.” If, as I did this morning, I am pumping gas into my car, and my gun is exposed, there is no reason to believe “a crime is afoot.”

Now, as to the REASON that I carry a gun and you NOT understanding it, I can understand why you don’t understand. I’ve never told you so you have no reason to understand. But just because you don’t understand does not make my reason invalid. Sort of like when I see someone park in a handicapped parking place and walk away from the car seemingly healthy. I don’t understand it. But it does not mean that they are not medically able to walk long distances. I simply cannot see the reason. That said, neither can you see my reason for carrying a gun. If you REALLY want to know, send me a PM and I will explain it.

Now finally, as to the laws in the various states. I believe the article is NOT correct on some of what is stated regarding OPEN carry laws. Most states allow it. Some do not. Many require a permit/license but many do not. I do not believe that 26 states allow it without a license. But then again I may be wrong. In any case, it should show you (and everyone else) that the streets are not wild west shooting grounds just because people carry weapons. In fact, people with carry permits are far more likely to be honest and have a far lower incidence of arrest than the general public at large. Yes, there are isolated cases of people with carry permits being arrested for murder, crime, etc. But if you look at the percentages, those with carry permits are far more law abiding. It should also be noted that other stereotypes can be shattered, for example the higher your level of education the more likely you are to own a gun. The higher your income, the more likely you are to own a gun.

It would depend on state law. EACH STATE has its own laws on this issue.

In my home state I am allowed to shoot someone to defend myself or others from what is reasonably believed to be serious threat in ANY place that is legal for me to carry the gun. So, if I can legally carry a gun onto school grounds (which I can and do in my home state under certain conditions) and a criminal comes onto school grounds and begins to beat someone to death, I can intervene and shoot that criminal because it is legal for me to be on that property. Same is true at a movie theater, grocery store, bank, public park, etc.

Awesome! I am SICK and TIRED of getting nasty looks (and worse) when I wear my gun to the movie theater, or to church on Sunday, or to visit my sister in the hospital, or to pick up my kids from school, or to a town hall meeting to protest President Dope-ama. People act like I’m committing a crime! Don’t they know that I wear my gun to protect them? I am always on the lookout for criminals, too, and if I ever see one, just one, start to perpetrate some nefarious act, it’ll be lights out for them, thanks to trusty Betsy at my side.

*This spurs another question…if say, someone was attacking someone else…just make up a scenario for a moment…and you were walking by, carrying your gun and shot the perp for attacking the other person, is that legal? I told you all, I don’t know gun laws. :blush:

I ask, because I have read threads on here with articles highlighting people being arrested for shooting INTRUDERS THAT BROKE INTO THEIR HOMES. So, if you are shooting people in public, what happens? Are civilians to act like police in this case? Are they protected as a police officer would be in the same scenario?*

*Okay, you answered my question, I jumped the gun, no pun…to asking the next poster that question. lol I didn’t say for the record, that I think people who own guns are running around shooting up the streets like the wild west, so please don’t assume I think that, or make it look like I said that. I just asked the question, why does someone carry a gun into a movie theater. I personally don’t get it, and as long as it’s legal, I’m fine with it.

I did not know that it’s legal for a civilian to shoot someone who is trying to inflict serious harm to another, out in public. That is very interesting! Thanks for your reply, I understand better now. *

First off, I did not mean to imply that YOU thought that it is like the WILD WEST out there because people carry handguns. But there are many in the anti-gun (anti-self-defense) crowd who actually claim that.

As for shooting someone in public, again that varies from state to state. Some states allow it without much restriction and protect the gun owner from prosecution. Some states allow it with significant burden of proof on the gun owner. Some states allow it AND allow the criminal (or his relatives) to sue in civil court. Some states require a duty to retreat until you can no longer retreat, which effectively means you cannot defend others beyond yourself/immediate family.

I will suggest that MANY states have moved to protect honest citizens who lawfully carry a gun and use such gun to protect themselves or others. It is now more common than not.

Now, as for taking a gun, openly, into a theater, again, you may not understand it. But until you know WHY the person carries the gun in the first place then you probably will never understand it. What I can tell you is that there are a lot more people than you might think who carry guns on a daily basis. In my state there are approximately 12% of the adults who have a license to carry a handgun. Most states don’t have that high a rate of carry, but if your state has 5% of the population who carry, then next time you are at church, if there are 250 people sitting in the pews, then statistically about 12 or 13 people have guns. Why? I don’t know. I know only why I carry a gun.

You are making a legal conclusion.

Do you have anything of substance to add or are you just gonna make ridiculous statements?

Kinda hard to apply “search” to an “open carry”. Oh, I get it, you just mean seizure.

Don’t want to laugh too hard… might have a seizure.


And I am licensed and qualified to do so. Read the opinion and tell me if I am wrong. The plaintiff did not even allege a violation of the second amendment.

Check the fourth amendment. It applies to searches and seizures. And that’s what this case involved.

Beau, the fact that you may be a lawyer does not mean that you understand the significance of this to the gun rights movement. Clearly you don’t. While there was no allegation of a violation of the 2nd Amendment it does not mean that the case is not a win for the gun rights movement.

There is a national movement by open carry advocates and they are constantly hounded by illegal detentions from police. So while this case is not directly related to the 2nd Amendment** (and nobody ever claimed it was)** it is still related to the gun rights movement because of violations of the 4th Amendment rights of people who were specifically singled out for doing one thing . . . exercising their legal 2nd Amendment rights within the guidelines of their state laws.

Open your mind to the fact that the rights of gun owners may be impacted by more than 1 amendment to the Constitution.

So in you believe that unless one is an attorney, they are not qualified to interpret the law in any form? You may be a lawyer, but that doesn’t make you an expert in every area of the law anymore than a doctor is an expert in every area of medicine. The fact that you couldn’t even come to the logical conclusion melendad did further drives home that fact.

… ouch…:rolleyes:

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