Let’s be clear on the legality of this situation before going any further. It is completely legal to openly carry a firearm in Vermont. And in case that wasn’t enough, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mere presence of a firearm isn’t a good enough reason to detain someone.
Unfortunately, that exact situation happened to former service member of the National Guard, Joshua Severance. Severance was walking down a street headed towards his father’s house, a 9mm handgun was holstered in the open on his belt.
Police officers that happened to be walking by approached Severance and told him to put his hands on the police cruiser. They proceeded to seize his weapon, handcuff him, and place him in the back of a cruiser for over fifteen minutes. A clear violation of the law.
Severance told Times Argus he was just trying to be a good gun owner:
“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.”
It’s commendable that Severance acted rationally and level-headed during this whole ordeal but there was no reason for the police detaining him and running a background check.
It’s pretty telling how outrageous the situation is when the ACLU get involved. As a civil rights organization they tend to ignore gun rights but released a statement after news broke.
“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.”