[Video] Vermont Open Carrier Illegally Handcuffed, Detained by Police

August 2 2013
by GSL Staff
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Openly carrying a firearm in Vermont is completely legal. In addition, several courts have found that the mere presence of a firearm is not enough of a reason to detain someone. That means, unless a police officer suspects someone is committing a crime, he cannot detain someone simply because they have a firearm.

However, that’s exactly what happened to Joshua Severance, a former service member of the National Guard.

Severance was walking down a Vermont street on the way to his father’s house, openly carrying his 9mm handgun in a holster on his belt.

Police in the area approached Severance, told him to put his hands on the police cruiser, seized his weapon, handcuffed him, and placed him the back of cruiser for at least 15 minutes. This is clearly a detention under the law.

According to TimesArgus.com,

“I figured they wanted to run the serial number and do a background check which is all well and good and part of being a responsible gun owner,” Severance said Thursday. “The next thing I knew I was being handcuffed, told I was ‘not under arrest’ and was put into the back of a cruiser.”

While it’s commendable Severance wants to be a good gun owner, he’s actually incorrect. There is no reason for a police officer to be able to detain you, run a background check and confiscate your firearm, for any amount of time, unless he suspects you are involved in a crime.

Even the ACLU (known for not recognizing gun rights on the same level as other rights) saw the detention as being inappropriate,

“That’s kind of the definition of being under arrest when you take away their ability to go where they want to go,” said Allen Gilbert, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont. “Just because an officer feels threatened doesn’t give them the ability to handcuff and detain someone. There needs to be a proximate threat, not just because a guy looks scary, otherwise police could stop all kinds of folks for all kinds of reasons.”

According to TimesArgus.com, local gun rights groups plan to get involved in the incident as well,

Ed Cutler, legislative director for Gun Owners of Vermont, said what police in Rutland did wasn’t wrong, it was illegal.

“I think what they did was harassment and I would be happy to sue (Rutland),” he said. “Just because someone is carrying open the police have no right to detain them in any way.”

Cutler, who said he spoke with Severance late Thursday afternoon, said his group planned to help file a lawsuit against the city.

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