Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 6, 2013

ASK THE SHERIFF: Can an officer stop a person for openly carrying a firearm?

Goshen News

---- — DEAR SHERIFF: Do officers have a right to stop/detain me merely because I openly carry a firearm? Can they ask me to display my handgun carry license? Do I need to carry my handgun license with me when I carry?

ANSWER: In a prior column I addressed the issue of open carry and concealed carry, all of which is legal in Indiana with a handgun license. My preference is concealed carry for tactical and practical reasons. While concealed, you tip your hand when you decide, not when someone observes your firearm and forces you to take action on their terms. In addition, many people seem to be disturbed by those who open carry a firearm. This may lead a business or person calling the police to report a “suspicious person with a firearm.”

For those of you who open carry, or someone observes your concealed firearm and they report it to police, at least in Elkhart County, the sheriff/chiefs/state police and prosecutor have all agreed to be consistent in stopping, detaining or asking for a handgun license in accordance to law and the Constitution.

In short, if the carrying of the firearm is the only focus, then an officer does not have a right to stop or detain you, nor ask for your handgun license. However, this does not mean that the officer cannot approach you and engage in conversation with you. This does not mean you are being detained unless the officer says so or keeps you from leaving.

Police get suspicious persons calls all the time and need to determine from the caller or situation what exactly is occurring and whether a crime is being committed or about to be committed. It makes sense that an officer would speak to the person carrying the firearm. If someone starts shooting up a place after a suspicious person was reported but the officers did nothing, then the public would be critical of the police for not investigating.

If the person carrying the firearm was threatening, waiving the gun around, harassing, trespassing, causing a disturbance, or otherwise breaking the law, the officer can detain you and may inquire about your firearm and whether you may be legally carrying. See my article on Nov. 22 about “stop and frisk.” If probable cause exists that you have committed a crime, the officer can arrest you.

Keep in mind, even if you have not broken the law, a businessperson may desire you to leave because you are carrying a firearm and may request the officer to ask you to leave. In this case, it is a trespass issue, not a firearm issue. The officer will give you the opportunity to leave. If you refuse to leave, the officer can now arrest you for trespassing.

As always, the street is not the place to argue with an officer. If you believe that an officer acted inappropriately whether in attitude or legally, then you should contact the officer’s agency and speak to a supervisor, filing a complaint if you desire.

As for your handgun license, the law does not require you to carry your license on you while carrying a handgun.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff.com.