When a Michigan man armed with a loaded assault pistol strapped to his leg, dressed in camouflage, and singing to himself, began walking in front of a church one Sunday morning last year, an alarmed churchgoer called 911. When police arrived, they took the man’s gun, and briefly handcuffed him while questioning him. The man, an “open carry” gun advocate, sued police, saying they had violated his constitutional rights. A federal judge disagreed, reports the Detroit Free Press, saying the officer “was justified in following up on the 911 call and using swift action to determine whether plaintiff’s behavior gave rise to a need to protect or preserve life … in the neighborhood.”
The decision comes as police agencies around Michigan are grappling with increasingly contentious clashes with gun advocates who are showing up at places like churches, schools and government complexes armed with assault rifles and handguns, part of their campaign to educate residents on gun laws, and desensitize the public to the sight of guns. Michigan’s controversial “open carry” laws allow people with concealed carry permits to take guns into so-called pistol-free zones, such as schools, as long as the weapon is visible. There is no state law regulating open carrying of weapons in other areas as long as the weapon is in plain view. Now courts are weighing in, and state lawmakers are reviewing the laws.