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CT Law Allows Permitted Gun Owners to Carry Weapons Openly… Technically

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 17, 2011 11:00am
(15) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Courts, Legal

In Connecticut there is nothing in the law that explicitly prohibits anyone with a valid pistol permit from sauntering down Main Street with a revolver strapped openly to their waist. But the state’s top criminal justice official wouldn’t recommend it.

Unless such a person was walking into a gun club, carrying a firearm openly in Connecticut will almost certainly attract the police and result in a breach of peace charge, said Michael P. Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s undersecretary of criminal justice.

“In almost every situation you can imagine this happening in, it qualifies as breach of peace,” he said. “If you walk into a restaurant with a gun it’s almost by definition a breach of peace.”

That results in an arrest and sets in motion a chain of events that usually results in the revocation of an issued pistol permit, he said. And that’s the way it should be, Lawlor said. Anyone who walks into a McDonalds plainly carrying a firearm either intends to alarm people or is irresponsible, he said.

Not everyone sees it that way. A man charged with disorderly conduct by the Wallingford police after he carried a pistol into a pool hall there is currently suing the department in federal district court for false and malicious arrest.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Richard E. Burgess, names the town, five members of the department and a bail bondsman who was at Yale Billiards and called the police.

According to the suit, Burgess and his girlfriend went to the pool hall in May of last year. At that time he was carrying a valid Connecticut pistol permit. He was also carrying a clearly visible handgun and two spare magazines, it said.

The gun attracted some attention. Robert Hilton, the owner of the pool hall, asked him to conceal the weapon but Burgess declined, saying the law doesn’t require him to hide it, the lawsuit said.

Hilton went to call the police to figure out whether carrying the gun openly was indeed legal and the bondsman, Mark Vanaman, approached Burgess, it said.

“Vanaman told Burgess to conceal his handgun or he would call the police. Burgess instructed Vanaman to leave him alone and to feel free to call the police,” the lawsuit said.

He did and some time later the police arrived, confiscated the weapon, cuffed Burgess and charged him with disorderly conduct, the suit said.

Nine days later the charge was dismissed in court after a prosecutor told the judge the case lacked probable cause, it said.

The lawsuit contends that the arrest was unlawful and the officers had no right to search Burgess and seize his property. Rachel Baird the attorney representing Burgess in the lawsuit never returned repeated phone calls for comment on the case.

But according to the Wallingford police department, Burgess has since had his gun returned to him.

The town is at fault also because it failed to train its officers on Connecticut’s gun laws, the lawsuit claims. It cites a transcript of police radio communications on that day where officers seem unsure of how the law reads and one officer refers to the permit as a “concealed weapons permit.”

In the end, they agreed that either way a breach of peace charge was in order but a lieutenant recommended “[taking] it a step further and maybe come back in and call uh, the state police and maybe talk to one of the guys in the know there.”

When asked in a phone interview last week if people are allowed to openly carry firearms with a permit, state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said, “Good question.”

“Does it frighten people? Yes,” he said. “There is no standard quick answer to this question.”

People are not used to seeing folks in Connecticut carrying guns openly, he said, adding that 99.9 percent of people legally allowed to carry firearms choose to conceal them.

Vance said people should use caution when openly carrying firearms. If someone were to walk into a bank with a pistol even partially exposed they would certainly raise some eyebrows, he said.

“It’s not a funny situation. It’s a dangerous deadly weapon not to be made light of,” he said. “There are some people who are definitely afraid of firearms and they have their rights too.”

The issue begs a question: If carrying a gun openly in Connecticut is legal but, as Lawlor said, in most cases it results in a breach of peace charge, why is it legal?

Lawlor likened the issue to people who choose to keep dangerous snakes as pets. The law may not specifically state that bringing a dangerous snake into a restaurant full of people is illegal, but it could still get you arrested.

Laws pertaining to the carrying of handguns vary from state to state. Many require weapons to be concealed.

Lawlor, a former lawmaker, said that personally he was no fan of guns but said he wasn’t inclined to have a discussion in the legislature over changing the law. It would be a difficult sell for gun rights activists, who he conceded raise some valid points. If taking out a gun is illegal under any circumstances, why would people carry them, he asked.

He said he prefers the way the law is written now, where it is on the gun owner to behave responsibly.

“You want to have a gun? Fine, but you have to accept the responsibility that goes with it.”

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(15) Comments

posted by: Brian Parker | August 17, 2011  1:17pm

Brian Parker

What “REAL” gun owners know: Let’s say I’m a bad guy. I walk into a local business and want to rob the place. If I see someone OPENLY carrying a gun, I’m going to shoot them first—when they don’t expect it. Displaying a gun defeats the purpose of self protection. Instead it says “I’m armed, you better shoot me first!”

posted by: ASTANVET | August 17, 2011  2:47pm

Shocking!! Connecticut having another anti-gun article.  Even though statistics do not back up any argument for any weapons ban, more anti-gun laws - CT once again leads the charge against law abiding citizens who own handguns and ‘certain’ types of rifles.  Then when you DO follow the law, they will arrest you anyway!!! What a joke!!  I surely hope this man wins in his lawsuit and sends a message to those at the gold dome!  Of course that will probably just tighten their grip on the citizens by further restrictions.  Colt, Marlin, Mossberg, Remington, all gun manufacturers who employ thousands of CT residents - most have decided to pick up shop and move to another state.  I like the 2nd Amendment; I don’t see an issue with open carry as much as it offends the delicate sensibilities of the citizens of Connecticut.  I’m sure the average criminal will think twice about trying to rob, or steal if they walk into that liquor store, bank, or gas station and they see a bunch of .45 CAL pistols on the staff/customers… just a thought.

posted by: ... | August 17, 2011  4:14pm

...

I am planning to be a gun owner and support gun rights, as well as protections for owners and non-owners alike. But walking into a Starbucks or pool-hall with a gun out in the open? It just doesn’t make sense to me why you’d need to do that unless you have some strong reason being there is dangerous and you need it. If so, don’t go to that place and pick a safer venue.

Otherwise, conceal it or leave it in your vehicle. If you don’t really need it, people don’t really need to see it.

That all being said, I think Mr. Burgess has every right to challenge the arrest and I hope he can prove his handling was not a breach of peace. That his intention of having the gun on his person was never to incite violence or cause harm to patrons of that particular pool hall.

But I believe a rational gun owner knows when and where he needs to have his gun, and when and where it can, or should be left in a vehicle, at home, or in a way that it is concealed, so it does not appear threatening to non-gun owning citizens and patrons of any CT business establishment.

I repeat though, I hope Mr. Burgess can prove he was not a threat and should not have been charged for breaching the peace. Gun owners are as upstanding citizens as those who do not own and regularly use them at ranges or for hunting purposes.

posted by: Mr.Kruger | August 17, 2011  6:00pm

@JonessAC12 - let me be the first to wish you the best on joining the club.  It’s a right well worth exercising and not only do my wife and I hold permits, but recently I put my oldest son through the training and he is now a permit holder as I hope my youngest will also follow suit.

On the issue of carrying openly, it is not prohibited and any trainer worth their salt will tell his students and let them read the law for themselves, but the anti-gun activist, like the fact that it has been accepted practice to bring these ridiculous charges to circumvent the 2nd Ammendment. I have no problem knowing who is carrying and who is not, I would still carry concealed even if I had the option to open carry because the element of surprise would be my advantage.  Unfortunately, because this is not Texas, the public is not used to seeing guns (not weapons) that is where they become alarmed easily.  Like anything, if it occurs enough it becomes common and people become used to it, this would be no different.  Right now carrying a cell phone is more dangerous than carrying a gun, because people just can’t seem to follow that law when driving and that distaction kills more people than guns do.  Perspective people!

posted by: ASTANVET | August 18, 2011  8:09am

I must not be a “real” gun owner, only a multiple tour combat veteran, who knows that when you have to go through your jacket, through the safety on your holster, flip the safety on your sidearm that takes precious seconds… in a gun fight, time is a much needed commodity.  That being said, it is not, and should not be the intent to get into trouble, but be able to survive any trouble that comes to you.  Owning a gun and getting a permit to carry is a tremendous responsibility that should not be taken lightly.  But as Mr. Kruger pointed out, cars kill more people in this country than guns do.  This is an issue that has been illustrated by previous comments as a social norm - Texas, Arizona no one would think twice about seeing open carried guns.  I don’t think Mr. Burgess was trying to incite anything, it may be bad judgment to have guns and alcohol in close proximity, but other states have shown that when they lifted bans on weapons in bars crime rates went down.  We frequently give our rights to the State, assuming they will enforce things in accordance with our published law, and the constitution.  That is apparently not always the case as it is apparent in this situation.  The fact that the Lt. Vance would take the position that you will likely be arrested for following the law seems troubling to me.

posted by: Sarcasity | August 18, 2011  6:29pm

I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV, but I can google! The CT breach of peach statute (Sec. 53a-181) states:”(6) creates a public and hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which such person is not licensed or privileged to do.” Isn’t the permit licensing the gun owner to carry? The CT permit is not a concealed weapons permit.

@JonesAC12: Starbucks is great at complying with local laws and statutes. So why not carry there? Police officers don’t lock up their guns when they go in to get a coffee. http://news.starbucks.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=332

posted by: Joe in CT | August 18, 2011  6:48pm

Many people who are anti-Second Amendment prefer to leave the current situation as it is, because it serves to deprive people the right to exercise one of the “rights endowed by our Creator”, as our Founding Documents state. The truth is, there is this stupid legal situation in CT when it comes to guns. After going through the NRA training course, the application to your hometown police chief, the fingerprinting, the personal endorsements of 3 people (at least in my hometown .. practice across CT’s 168 towns is inconsistent and in my opinion illegal), the NCIS criminal check with the FBI, and a not-insignificant license cost, a CT resident might be able to obtain a “permit to carry pistols and revolvers” within 8 to 12 weeks. However, try as one may, it is currently impossible to know when you are going to “disturb the peace” when it comes to firearms. The “politically correct” environment which exists today did not exist when the laws were first drawn up years ago, when carrying a firearm in public was not given a second thought by anyone. I can remember my Dad, who was born in 1920, say he used to take a bus to get to the nearest shooting range, which was one town over from where he lived, and no one blinked when he got on the bus carrying his .22 caliber rifle. Today, however, one does not even have to be seen carrying a gun; all one has to do is discuss firearms, and people will lose their cool and “be frightened.” If I remember correctly, some years ago a professor in one of the state universities gave out an assignment to her students to research a current political issue and present a report to the class. Two students chose the issue of Second Amendment rights, and after they gave their report, she complained to school authorities that “they had made her frightened by talking about guns”. The local police were called and the students were put on the carpet for breaking the law. When they asked what law they had broken, I believe the police had a response similar to the cited case. The point I am making is, as the law currently exists, and with the lack of definitive clarity about what constitutes “disturbing the peace with a gun”, these idiotic situations will continue to occur. If there would certainly be a howl if someone was precluded from expressing their opinion on any other subject, why does discussing this one of the Amendments to the Constitution constitute “disturbing the peace?” The Progressives have so warped our society that saying the word “God” is “disturbing” to some people. This country had better get its act together, or we will soon lose all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights to our Constitution because someone is “disturbed”.

posted by: OCinTN | August 18, 2011  9:01pm

Myth: Open Carriers are shot first by bad guys.

Reality: There has never been a single case of a criminal targeting a private citizen for execution due to an openly carried firearm in the United States.

posted by: thundaar | August 18, 2011  9:31pm

@Joness, I appareciate your decision to be a responsibly armed citizen.  Your comment, however that “I believe a rational gun owner knows when and where he needs to have his gun, and when and where it can, or should be left in a vehicle, at home..” could use a second look.  With respect, do you really think you can rationally predict when you or someone you care about will be a victim of a violent crime?  You can’t possibly think that victims of violent crimes were victims because they were unreasonable.  That said, a decision to carry is a big one and carries much responsibilty.  Don’t take it lightly and dont, don’t, don’t think you can reasonably predict when you will become a victim. Hopefully, that day will never come.

posted by: ... | August 18, 2011  10:47pm

...

Haha Sarcasity, I only mention Starbucks because it (or a popular coffee shop) was used as an example in a Daily Show spoof/story on gun laws.

And thanks thundaar for the feedback. No one ever knows, but I am aware of many relatives/friends who have lived full lives without the need for a gun, because they live safe lives and because of a variety of factors (economic well being, lack of interest, investment in police force, etc.), will probably never need to be a gun owner. I do feel the same to an extent. Owning a gun would be mostly a recreation item (shooting ranges), but still treated with respect (when I am at the point in my life where owning one is viable).

But it isn’t about predictions, you are right, it could be general gut instinct. If you feel it is right to be in any place with a gun, do it with all precautions necessary. But I’m not a gunowner, so don’t take my opinion or advice with much weight.

posted by: MartC | August 19, 2011  11:13am

Breach of Peace and Disorderly Conduct are the two catch-alls that the cops like to use when there is no real violation of the law.  Anytime something is left to the discretion of the officer there is fertile ground for abuse.  It is a tool to intimidate and bully with.  Regardless of what anyone thinks, I firmly believe most cops are against the private ownership and possession of firearms and that they should be the only ones allowed to carry.  I have heard this many times.  Connecticut gun owners have few friends in law enforcement or state politics.  You can thank your executive and legislative branches for this state of affairs.  Regarding your legislators, remember this old saying - “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

posted by: DannyBoi | August 29, 2011  9:22am

Looks like Like the Hartford Courant has a hit piece on the 2nd amendment and thier poll sums it up quite nicely… Sorry Hartford Courant BUZZ, 69% for carrying a firearm by a properly licensed permit holder to 31% against it. Like when the State Legislature was trying to limit magazines to 10 rounds or less. Hundred upon hundreds in opposition to that inane Bill and maybe a few dozen in support. I have an idea, lets try reporting the News and stop trying to make an argument for something that appears doesn’t exist.

And they should stop trying to pander to the already fearful, how about a picture of someone actually carrying a firearm in the open properly and not some gangbanger wannabe with a ridiculous example, what is that a flaregun…. Come on

posted by: gutbomb86 | August 29, 2011  10:38am

gutbomb86

@dannyboi - there’s always a lot of inane discussion about guns and the 2nd amendment, without a doubt. But suggesting that an online Courant poll has any value whatsoever also is inane. I know for a fact that paid advocates for or against any issues that appear in online polls will sit there all day, on the clock, voting over and over again. Browser-based online issue polling is a joke on the voter. It’s designed to create traffic for advertisers. You can get a much more accurate sample with email-based polls and telephone polls conducted by humans (rather than robo-polls, which are not accurate at all).

posted by: DannyBoi | August 29, 2011  11:03am

Gutbomb…
Exactly my point, maybe I should have clarified it a tad bit more, The HC is generating a on-line poll with a slant on “Make Gun Owners hide their weapons in public”... Not exactly fair and balenced example of journalistic integrity and unbiased reporting.

posted by: daniel1000 | September 14, 2011  10:23pm

How about the arguement of comfort? As we all know Connecticut gets rather warm in the summer and conceal carry is a hassle. But, in the state of Connecticut you can legally open carry allowing you to both be comfortable and excersize your 2nd ammendment rights. So long as no laws are broken personal prefrence should be a deciding factor. After all this is a free country isn’t it?
To raise another question, what if I was deathly afraid of clowns? Should I be allowed to call the police and have any clown I see arrested, harassed, and otherwise enbarassed because of my fear?
To those who suggest that open carry would make them a target in a situation, do you have any factual proof of this occuring? Making a decision based on nothing but fear or guesses is a poor decision to say the least.