One moment I was strolling down the sidewalk on a warm, pleasant evening minding my own business, and the next an Arlington police officer told me to "Put your hands on your head and do not make a move!" Why? Because I was open carrying, something that is legal in VA. Soon after, there were about ten of his fellow officers surrounding me.
Recently I posted about VA's open carry laws and how I planned to exercise my right to carry. Well, last week at about 7:30pm when I was walking east on Fairfax across the street from the Ballston Metro I was stopped by the men in blue because they said they had received a "man with a gun" call.
While the officers acted professionally, they attempted to get more information than I was required to provide per the law, such as my social security number and my city of birth. The officers told me they wanted the additional information "for your own good" so that they could clear me from past or future crimes more easily. F that. I told them that if the time comes for me to be cleared from a crime I'll weigh whether I want to willingly provide them with the additional information.
The officers then told me that whenever a 911 call is received they take a digital picture of the person they speak to. F that as well. After going back and forth for a while on this issue (them using the circular logic that if I wanted to go on my way I would have to get my picture taken first, despite the fact that they even admitted that I was not required to submit to it being taken under the law). I then underscored the fact that I was being held and was not free to leave despite having broken no law. Intent on getting my photo, the supervising officer eventually just instructed one of his patrol officers to snap my picture while we were talking. So, I just turned around. The picture was never taken and the camera soon went back into the cruiser.
Though the officers readily admitted that I did have the right to open carry (and many were truly sympathetic to my belief in the Right to Keep and Bear Arms -- which Congress has stated "is a right of the individual citizen to privately possess and carry in a peaceful manner firearms"), they attempted to pursued me from doing so on the way home or ever again because as they asked me, "What if a rookie officer would have stopped you?" implying that an officer with an itchy-trigger finger may cause me to have a bad day. They also tried to reason with me by stating that "people aren't used to seeing that around here" so me open carrying would in the least cause a hassle for me due to being stopped often by the police (the main reason I had a copy of the applicable statutes in my back pocket). In fact, when nearing the conclusion of our impromptu meeting they offered me a ride home so that they "wouldn't get another call from someone else about a man with a gun." After I refused the ride, they asked if I would at least disassemble my gun and carry the parts home in my pockets. Again I refused.
As I told the officers, if just one person sees me carrying and learns that it is their right to do so if they choose, or if a would-be criminal is deterred from committing an offense, or if the gain is only one of self-interest -- that it makes me feel safer -- then I am content and will continue to open carry. And perhaps more importantly, a right not exercised is soon usurped by the State. After being 'detained' for an hour the officers realized I would not waver and I left, pistol in holster.