Fisherman's Constitutional Rights Violated by Tampa Police Officer

Let the criminals carry guns but legal citizens cannot?

This report about a fisherman being illegally searched and detained for carrying a gun openly in a holster comes at an unfortunate -- but opportune time to discuss the subject of legal firearms and the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As you likely have heard, a 21-year-old white male has allegedly shot and killed nine black people at a church in Charleston, S.C. on Wednesday. President Obama made statements regarding the legal right to carry a firearm that have concerned citizens up in arms. As we all know, most criminals in Florida do not have a Florida Concealed Carry License. 

The article below by journalist Lee Williams -- a former police officer also known as the "Gun Writer" -- should concern every right-minded citizen, even if you do not own a gun or even believe in the right to carry a gun. The story is not as much about the gun as it is about a police officer apparently ignoring and abusing a citizen's rights. 

Florida is one of just five states that ban the practice of open carry. However, it is legal if done while "target shooting, hunting or fishing," and gun rights advocates have long exercised that right. In this writer's opinion, this case is more about the Fourth Amendment than the Second, although it involves breaches of both by the officer.

When you are reading the article below, be aware that when you are reading "our members," or "we," it means the members of Florida Carry, not of The Online Fisherman Inc.

Cop Tries to Grab Fisherman's Legally Carried Gun

Since 2010 Florida Carry members have been going fishing and lawfully carrying unconcealed handguns in Florida. There has never been a real problem until now. Open Carry is completely legal while fishing in Florida.

Last weekend one of our members, George Freeman, was detained for over an hour after a Tampa Police Officer unsuccessfully attempted to sneak up behind him while he was fishing and grab his holstered handgun. George turned around immediately when he felt an unknown person grab for his gun. As soon as he saw the uniformed officer George stopped before he drew his backup and did not resist the seizure of his handguns. He also presented his valid Florida Concealed Carry License to the officer.

florida open carryGeorge Freeman (R) was illegally detained and searched last weekend by a Tampa police officer.

This extremely dangerous and uncalled-for move by the police officer to seize George's legal handgun didn't end once the officer found out that Mr. Freeman was not doing anything wrong. After detaining our member for over an hour, the police realized that they could not find any crime to charge him with. So they issued him an order, a trespass notice that prevents him from going to the public pier at Ballast Point for one year. George Freeman was not breaking any law, but he was banned from the city pier for exercising his Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms.

This happened at the same park that we have often used as a venue for our monthly Open Carry Fishing Events since 2010 with the full knowledge of the City of Tampa and prior coordination with the City Attorney and the Police Department.

The Tampa Police also questioned Mr. Freeman in an attempt to determine the identities of our other members. A clear violation of their First Amendment Right to Association Privacy and Right of Peaceful Assembly.

The State of Florida preempts local firearms related policies -- trespassing lawful gun owners from public property is against the law. It was also a violation of George's constitutional rights.

Tampa Police Backpedal on Open-Carry Incident

In an e-mail to guns.com, the Tampa Police wrote: "It was an error on the officers' part," TPD Spokesperson Andrea Davis told Guns.com via email Thursday. "The trespass warning will be rescinded and we are working to contact Mr. Freeman to apologize to him."

The above paragraph is from an article published by guns.com. You can read the article here.

Lawsuit Being Filed

To continue the original article: "This will not go unanswered. We are in the process of filing a lawsuit to enforce Florida's Firearms Preemption Law, the Constitutionally Protected Rights of our members, and to have Mr. Freeman's trespass order, search, and seizure ruled illegal."

We need your help! Filing the lawsuit will cost approximately $650 for filing fees and service of process. Depositions, court reporters, transcripts, etc., will run about $1,500 more. We always expect to end up in the Court of Appeals. This requires additional filing fees and litigation-related costs for things like travel and other necessary expenses. Our lawyers are working on a contingency basis, in other words they don't get paid until we win. We expect to need at least $5,000 to see this case through.

We have a lot of experience with these types of cases. Please help us defend the right to bear arms in court once again.

Florida Carry is a Not-For-Profit Corporation incorporated in Florida. 501(c)(4) status has been applied for, donations are not deductible for tax purposes.

Original Story by Lee Williams — aka The Gun Writer: "Lee says he can't remember a time in his life when he wasn't shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. When he's not busy as an investigative reporter for the Herald-Tribune, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs."

You can see his blog and other work here.

Article reprinted by The Online Fisherman Inc. with permission from author.

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