Alamogordo police pay $21,000 to settle open carry lawsuit
September 29, 8:37 PMDC Gun Rights ExaminerMike Stollenwerk
Open carriers (courtesy Oleg Volk)As reported in the Alamogordo Daily News today, the Alamogordo, NM Police have paid $21,000 to settle with Matthew A. St. John whom police detained for open carrying a holstered handgun at a movie theater. This settlement follows a host of settlements by police departments around the country with plaintiffs who were detained by police for openly carrying a holstered handgun, including Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Virginia (see another settlement here), and Georgia. More cases are still pending in Ohio, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
On September 8, 2009, Federal District Judge Bruce D. Black, issued an order previously examined here, that concluded as a matter of law that Alamogordo police officiers violated Matthew St. John's constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment because they seized and disarmed him even though there was not "any reason to believe that a crime was afoot." Judge Black's opinion is consistent with numerous high state and federal appellate court rulings, including the United States Supreme Court, holding that there is no firearms exception to the Fourth Amendment.
Judge Black has designated his September 8, 2009 opinion and order to be "published" in the official reporter for the United States Federal District Court for New Mexico. While unpublished opinions can be cited in the future by litigants and other courts, a "published" opinion is viewed as having more weight as a source of law than "unpublished" opinions. The case can now be cited as St. John v. McColley, et al., --- F.Supp.2d ----, 2009 WL 2949302 (D.N.M. 2009).
Alamogordo Department of Public Safety Director Sam Trujillo (and president of the New Mexico Association of Chiefs of Police) told the Examiner.com today that his Department will be "examining that case with in-house counsel" with an eye toward refining police procedures and training to ensure that police officer contacts with open carriers do not offend the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Mr. Trujillo also said his Department will attempt to identify what circumstances, if any, under the law of trespass in New Mexico, police officers may act on behalf of private property owners to ask people carrying guns to leave private property, or if the private owner or his agent must provide this notice.
The open carry of holstered handguns is legal in 42 states, and requires no license in New Mexico and twenty-five other states.