Open Carry Gun Taken By Police

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  • zaraster

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    Mar 19, 2008
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    Report shows confusion on gun dispute with police report
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    Read the police report

    Police officers and prosecutors seemed either unfamiliar with the law or unprepared May 9 with how to handle a dozen customers at Old Country Buffet who were openly carrying guns, a Dickson City police report shows.

    But Assistant District Attorney Corey Kolcharno said he and police handled the situation as best they could given that one customer had not fully cooperated with police.

    That customer, Richard Banks, of Mountaintop, had his weapon confiscated for not carrying a concealed-weapons permit and was initially arrested for disorderly conduct and failure to carry a license for the weapon.

    Mr. Kolcharno said that might have been avoided had he known Mr. Banks was a federal firearms dealer, exempt from carrying a license for a concealed gun. No charges were filed against Mr. Banks.

    “It wasn’t a rash decision,” said Mr. Kolcharno, who initially approved charges. “We were cautious to protect the rights of both those openly carrying and those lawfully carrying a gun, but also the legitimate concern for those (at Old Country Buffet).”

    ‘Mistakes’ alleged

    An attorney representing Mr. Banks said law enforcement made “major mistakes” throughout the entire incident at the Dickson City restaurant.

    What attorney Brian Collins said he read in the report was police officers rounding up and grouping together customers. And members of the group — later referred to on gun-rights Web sites as the “Dickson Dozen” — were then asked to provide either concealed-weapons permits or, for those just openly carrying, identification.

    “It sounds like a bad ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ episode,” said Mr. Collins, of Allentown.

    Dickson City police officers Karen Gallagher and Anthony Mariano responded to the restaurant at 6:30 p.m. and talked with several customers who said they were frightened by customers who were openly armed. Police later followed up with witnesses, the report noted. One witness reported that one member of the group, when he noticed someone glancing at him, said: “Don’t worry, honey, you are in the safest place in Dickson City right now.”

    When police entered the restaurant, the report indicates the officers asked those with guns to step outside — including one man who had a handgun holstered at his side as he sat at a table feeding his baby.

    Taking numbers

    After establishing identification for all except Mr. Banks, police took their guns and wrote down serial numbers at the request of Police Chief William Stadnitski.

    Mr. Banks was the only one of the group who refused to provide police with any official identification, although he said he was carrying a concealed weapon. The incident report indicated he was willing to verbally identify himself.

    Police said they found Mr. Banks’ concealed 9mm “was not registered.” The report said Mr. Kolcharno advised police to “take the weapon due to it not being registered.”

    Mr. Collins claims police should not have confiscated Mr. Banks’ weapon.

    “The misnomer is a firearm must be ‘registered’ in your name in Pennsylvania. It’s a misstatement of the law. There is no firearm registry in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Collins said.

    Although there is no gun registration system in the state, police can verify information about the gun through a state police database of gun sales and other databases, such as one for concealed-weapons licenses.

    Mr. Kolcharno said officers told him the gun was not in a concealed-weapons license database. And he said that when he told police to confiscate the weapon, they had not yet learned Mr. Banks was a federal firearms dealer.

    “I concur with that,” he said about there being no gun registry in Pennsylvania. “But licensure (for a concealed gun) — that is a whole different realm.”

    He added he was not on the scene and could only operate with the information officers were giving him.

    “I felt at that point, looking at the case law and consulting with other attorneys, that they should confiscate the weapon,” Mr. Kolcharno said.

    Mr. Collins said Mr. Banks has not been given his gun back. Police have said he can pick it up at any time. Mr. Banks had told police he would file a lawsuit if his weapon was taken, according to the report, but Mr. Collins said he couldn’t comment on whether that will happen.

    Although Mr. Kolcharno said another matter had been resolved amicably, Mr. Collins said police mishandled another of the Dickson Dozen, Roger McCarren, when, according to the police report, they found his gun was “registered” to his wife, Darcie McCarren.

    The report indicates Mrs. McCarren said she gave the gun to him as a gift, but police would turn the gun over only to her. Mrs. McCarren accepted the gun, and the dispute ended there, the report indicated.

    Jon Mirowitz, a state gun-law lecturer with the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, the legal education arm of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, also said there is no registration. And he added that guns may be given as gifts between spouses, children and grandchildren.

    “I don’t know what police are looking at, but it’s not registration,” Mr. Mirowitz said about the police report citing gun registration. “They (police) may not know what they’re looking at either.”

    Mr. Collins argued the police had no reason to compel anyone in the group at the restaurant to give either identification or concealed-weapons permits, because no law requires it.

    “To my knowledge, it’s not illegal to feed your baby ... and that’s not suspicious, either,” he said.

    He said there is no problem with police investigating a complaint.

    “But these people were orderly. They weren’t holding people up. Some people provided identification. Mr. Banks, knowing the law, didn’t,” Mr. Collins said. “Police detained him nonetheless ... and had him for an hour in a police car in front of his family. That was a major mistake.”

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