Open carry in the Free State

IMPORTANT UPDATE (I wasn’t aware there were two very related incidents) from comment #7:

Hi guys”¦ Dave Ridley here. Keith from the Free State Project e-mailed me and asked me to come here and respond to the questions. I’m the peacefully armed civilian in both the article and the video. However the article is about one open carry incident and the video is of a later open carry incident, with two different police departments. The incident they are talking about in the article was with Salem PD in NH and was less friendly. But it had a more far reaching positive result; basically resulted in more mainstream media coverage and a pro-gun written opinion from the AG’s office.

I just found this November 2005 video on YouTube. Here’s a bit of the background:

On March 21st, when Dave Ridley changed jackets in a supermarket parking lot in Salem, New Hampshire, someone noticed that he was wearing a holstered pistol and called the police. Several Salem police officers confronted Mr. Ridley, and at least one of them inappropriately threatened him with arrest, although he had not brandished the pistol or done anything threatening. After the incident, Ridley called Gun Owners of New Hampshire and we suggested that he contact the Salem Chief of Police, Paul Donovan.

Ridley sent a letter to the police chief after the event. Here’s the key part:

I understand you have attended a conference or two with GO-NH regarding open carry (thank you) and that you personally have a good understanding of RSA 159, Amendment 2a, etc. But it seemed that some of your officers didn’t. I was not brandishing the weapon nor using it in a threatening manner. As they relayed it to me, their concern and eventual arrest threat apparently stemmed from the fact that someone had seen the weapon in its holster while I was swapping jackets while making a protest sign, that the citizen had felt alarm simply at the sight of a lawfully carried sidearm, and that I refused to answer some of their questions or let them search my vehicle. I could be missing something here, but my understanding is your officers would be considered out of bounds for threatening an arrest threat in such circumstances.

I’m generally supportive of police and understand that from their point of view I could have been anyone with any motive. But as I told your Lieutenant…I open carry from time to time for a logical reason. If we as New Hampshire citizens do not exercise that right, we will lose it. My being surrounded by 5 officers and threatened with arrest proves the point: Open carry is a right which has been so underutilized that it almost unrecognized as such by citizens and officers on the street.

From the police response:

Unfortunately, in New Hampshire the State hasn’t done a great job making RSA’s concerning firearms carry clear and specific. Even with that said, we have a better environment for firearms “Rights” than many other States. However, those “Rights” are still not clearly articulated, as there is a lot of room for speculation, opinion, and personal interpretation when reading the RSA’s. In an effort to clarify this issue, one of my staff members contacted the NH A.G.’s Office concerning open carry. The answer we received was open carry is regarded as a “Right”, and though any citizen may call the police if they observe someone carrying a gun openly, that citizen’s “annoyance and alarm” does not override the “Right” to carry openly. We are obligated to investigate the complaining citizen’s complaint, but once it is determined that there is no substance to the complaint, the citizen openly carrying must be allowed to carry on with his/her business. Private property brings other issues, as the owner may set the rules as to whether he/she will allow open carry on his/her premises. Also, open carry does not include carrying a firearm in a motor vehicle. As you can see, it is more complicated than we all would like. We are going over this information and are preparing roll call training for our officers to make this complicated issue a bit clearer for them.

Salem is an urban area on the Massachusetts border, which means we get many people from there who are not familiar with NH firearms laws. They come from a State which is actually quite oppressive in their firearms laws, so it is no wonder that they become alarmed and call the police. In this day and age where people have committed some very violent attacks using firearms, it is understandable that people who do not understand the values of law abiding firearms owners run scared. We need to work at improving our image with those who don’t understand. For my part, I will work with my staff to correct any misconceptions that my officers have regarding open carry. This doesn’t mean that they won’t challenge someone openly carrying a firearm if a complaint is called in to the station, but hopefully they will have an open mind when dealing with the call. This should make the interaction better for all parties involved.

While far from perfect, this clearly indicates one reason to support the Free State Project. Here’s the video:

9 Comments
  1. How exactly does the video relate to the confrontation and threats? I didn’t hear any. How far into the situation was the camera turned on?

    And what was that foreign language at the beginning, why were they using it, and what did they say?

    ?

  2. Stephen the video isn’t showing up for me in either FireFox or IE, all I see is a huge white space. Can you post a direct link to the video please.

  3. It looks like youtube is down right now and that’s the reason for the video now showing. From looking at the source code I believe http://www.youtube.com/v/mu4Dr3B3Rg4 may be the direct link to the video, however, like I said the site appears to be down for the moment.

  4. The video seems to be working correctly at them moment. Let me know if anyone has trouble and I’ll see what I can do.

  5. It appeared to me that the police officer and our rights-exerciser where discovering fluency in a common foreign language, allowing the officer to determine that he was not crazy, drunk or a threat. Handshakes all around. Mission accomplished.

    As stated at the end, carrying in public reminds criminals to pick another state in addition to reminding everyone of our rights.

  6. Hi guys… Dave Ridley here. Keith from the Free State Project e-mailed me and asked me to come here and respond to the questions. I’m the peacefully armed civilian in both the article and the video. However the article is about one open carry incident and the video is of a later open carry incident, with two different police departments. The incident they are talking about in the article was with Salem PD in NH and was less friendly. But it had a more far reaching positive result; basically resulted in more mainstream media coverage and a pro-gun written opinion from the AG’s office.

  7. The language we’re speaking is Bosnian…the cop was from there; I could tell by the name on his badge. There are a fair number of other free staters and natives who open carry around here in New Hampshire but it’s not yet common enough for the average cop to ignore you doing it. Depends on where you are in the state, too. In northern NH open carry is pretty common but not in Nashua or Salem. As far as NH law goes you can open cary in the state house or a school, but it isn’t done much.

  8. Dave — thanks for the clarification. I’ll update the posting.

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