Thursday, September 24, 2015

North Vegas Police Still Discriminates Against Open Carriers

Earlier, we sought to dispel the myth that North Las Vegas police were in the habit of detaining and profiling gun owners, particularly open carriers. The editor himself and countless citizen carriers have carried openly in the city of North Las Vegas without issue. Unfortunately, the rumors that we thought were just that have been indeed proven as true. North Las Vegas police still illegally harass citizens that carry openly and even the specter of racial profiling has raised its head in this incident. While this is probably an exception, it is highly disturbing and incredibly wrong that an officer would illegally detain a citizen and then proceed to lie about laws that don't even exist any longer.

North Las Vegas police have some serious answers to give. A response from the chief's office is pending. There are two sides to every story, however given NLVPD's history, there is no reason to doubt this story at this time.

Jose's Story

I interviewed the citizen carrier, Jose, who was illegally detained by North Las Vegas police as originally reported here.

Jose was with two other family members visiting an impromptu truck show at the Cheyenne Sports Complex. Jose was openly carrying a handgun.

At some point, police began to arrive. Jose did not witness any illegal activity and is unaware of any reason why the police would be called. Police began shouting, declaring the event to be an illegal assembly and ordering the crowd to disperse.

When police saw that Jose was armed, police approached him, ordering him to put his hands behind his back. Jose complied. When he asked if he was being detained, the officers did not respond. Jose was handcuffed, disarmed, and escorted to a police vehicle where he was handcuffed. Police took his wallet and discovered his concealed firearm permit (CCW). At this point, the officers uncuffed him.

Jose was surrounded by six to seven officers. One officer berated him, telling him that Jose was in violation of the terms of his concealed firearm permit and that the officer was going to cite Jose for open carry in a park, which according to the officer, was illegal per North Las Vegas city code.

Jose attempted to inform the officer that he was incorrect, that state law preempted North Las Vegas’ ordinances, but the officer continued to argue and threaten Jose. Jose was then released, after police escorted him to his vehicle to put away his firearm.

Unfortunately, Jose did not obtain the names or badge numbers of the officers involved, however, he will look into filing a complaint regarding the egregious and illegal behaviors of the officers.

State Preemption

As readers know, state law prohibits local authorities from regulating the carry of firearms or prohibiting them from local parks. This law was strengthened this year by SB 175 and SB 240. North Las Vegas just recently repealed its illegal firearm laws. Under state and city law, simply carrying a firearm openly in a city park would not be grounds for a detention (and wouldn’t be anywhere else carrying a firearm is permitted). Unless there are details we are not aware of, this was a totally illegal detention and a violation of civil rights.

Beginning October 1st, state law provides for stiff civil penalties for violations of ordinances that violate state preemption. Furthermore, illegally detaining someone and threatening to arrest them for a law that doesn't exist is a civil rights violation.

Police and Armed Citizens

North Las Vegas police have an incredibly bad rap when it comes to open carry. Before state preemption laws were enacted in 1989, carrying a firearm was highly restricted and per city ordinances, required a concealed firearm permit, despite state law being silent on open carry. After the preemption laws went into effect, sporadic illegal searches, seizures, and detentions occurred for those in violation of city ordinances. People openly carrying were stopped and detained. Firearms carried legally in vehicles were illegally seized. Anecdotal evidence states that minorities were disproportionately affected, profiled, harassed, and discriminated against.

Despite officers’ behaviors changing over time and preemption laws, rumors persisted that it was still illegal to have a firearm in a vehicle or carry one openly. We attempted to conclusively disprove the rumors, but sadly we have an example this illegal, unethical, and immoral behavior is still continuing. The risk was that a rogue officer who engaged in illegal, unconstitutional acts would still enforce them always existed.

Racial profiling, open disdain of armed citizens, and unconstitutional and unethical police behavior is apparently once again raising its ugly head in North Las Vegas. Others have openly carried at the same event without incident on previous occasions. This incident may have been a situation where the officers involved deliberately decided to ignore the law and violate civil rights.

Police officers need to understand that legally armed citizens, especially those who carry openly and are thus hiding nothing, are not to be viewed as threats or criminals. Rather, an armed citizen is one less person the officer needs to worry about watching over. An armed citizen can protect himself rather than solely rely on overburdened law enforcement. Armed citizens generally support and like police; when we criticize, it is to force accountability to get the best law enforcement we can get for our tax dollars. 

Police simply cannot view a Hispanic or Black armed citizen differently than a white one. Additionally, police officers who disdain armed citizens of any type need to realize that the Second Amendment, the Nevada Constitution, and state laws protect the armed citizen's rights and trump that officer's personal opinions or feelings. Those who are entrusted to uphold the law must do so as fairly and impartially as possible. 

Unless there are details that Nevada Carry is missing, this is a clear case of illegal detention of an open carrier and quite possibly racial profiling. The larger spill-over from this is what would police do in other circumstances? If times get rough, will they abrogate the Second Amendment altogether, as happened in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina? Worse, such incidents put the police in a bad situation with the community. We accept their role as being 'the bad guy', but we don't accept them as bullies. Bullying behavior from police is what causes communities to distrust law enforcement and creates the Us vs. Them mentality.

Don't let this discourage you from open carry. Such incidents are rare (but need to be zero) and do not occur in most areas of Nevada. Additionally, every gun owner should continue to exercise their rights especially in the face of such infringements. 

Please follow the blog for continuing updates and your own stories/incidents are welcome.

An open letter to the North Las Vegas City Attorney.