After an injury a couple of years ago, and a serious case of pneumonia, I have changed exercise from running to brisk walking. Recently, I spent a couple of months in Middleton, Wisconsin. Most of my walking in the area started about 0500, but on Monday, July 9, I had stayed up late, coming back from a play at American Player’s Theater in Spring Green, Wisconsin. I slept in. I didn’t get out to exercise until after 0800. It was a mistake. Instead of a few cars along the route I was walking, it was a minor rush hour north of Lake Mendota. As usual, I was open carry.
Wearing t-shirt and shorts limits the options for concealed carry. Madison and Middleton are deep blue in their politics. 41 minutes and three miles into the walk, I saw the SUV with the flat and narrow light bar slowing down and stopping as it approached me. I was only 100 yards from turning off of the busy roadway, and 300 yards from the end of my walk.
I knew what was going on. The lights came on and the vehicle stopped. As I approached the Dane County Sheriff’s vehicle, the deputy got out. Good morning, I opened.
He stretched out his hand. I shook it. He introduced himself. His tone was apologetic. A hand shake is a time honored tradition between armed men. It shows the weapon hand is empty.
“I know you have the right.” he said. But with all these drivers, we got a call, and I have to check it out. I introduced myself. He said: “Out for a walk?” Yes, I said. Would you like a card? I was thinking of giving him a business card.
No, he said, it is open carry. It is a right. You don’t need a card, misinterpreting the card I was offering as an offer of ID or a CCW permit.
I sympathized with his position, having been on the other side of the contact equation.
He was not intrusive, essentially apologized for the contact, and never asked me to disarm or for ID.
It is a serious contrast with what happened to the Culver’s five, on September 18, 2010. They were arrested for disturbing the peace, for merely open carrying while eating dinner at a Culver’s restaurant in Madison. That case ended in a settlement of $10,000 to the open carriers who had been arrested and falsely charged.
The deputy was polite, professional, and knowledgeable. He did not approach the “man with a gun” call with a chip on his shoulder. I have been treated with less respect and more fear in stops in Yuma, Arizona.
The police have always been potential allies in the culture wars. Most street officers support the Second Amendment. As more people carry—openly or concealed—the police on the street find the people who carry are the good guys. Court cases educate them to treat armed citizens with respect. That respect is reinforced with street experience.
I am wary of volunteering information to strange police officers. But all open carriers are, to some extent, representatives of the gun culture. This is a balancing act. The officer made clear he wasn’t fishing for information. I did not volunteer much, except I was out for my walk.
The re-normalization of the gun culture continues.
Do you personally open carry or support it? What interaction have you had with law enforcement while carrying open or concealed? Share your answers in the comment section.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten