Open carry, the practice of openly carrying a firearm secured in a holster, is perfectly legal in 43 states. Washington is one those states which does not prohibit this practice, but that’s a lesson that the Police Department of Vancouver apparently has not learned.
A man who was seen in a Vancouver supermarket with a handgun visible in a holster — prompting a call to 911 on Friday — was ticketed and released with a court date, police said.
One could chalk this up to a police officer who was simply misinformed about the law, perhaps never encountering an open carrier and assuming it must be prohibited. Unfortunately, the person the VPD has allowed to comment on the case, Sgt. Raquer, seems to indicate that this arrest represents a department-wide misuse of the law.
Officers explained the law to the man, gave him a ticket for alleged unlawful carrying of a weapon and released him.
Under the law, Raquer said, a person can be ticketed if his display of a gun alarms people.
He added, “Most responsible people don’t display their firearm in public.”
That comment, particularly that last part, is not only incorrect but also an opinionated insult to Washingtonians who exercise their rights under state law. As for the law that the VPD mangled in order to issue this citation:
The state law that applies to the Albertsons case is RCW 9.41.270, Botvinnik said.
That law says: “It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.”
The standard “warrants alarm” is not interpreted by the courts to mean simply openly carrying, but rather brandishing or threatening. The citation against this unidentified man will likely be thrown out as soon as a judge can look at it. Unfortunately, that also means the city of Vancouver has opened itself up to a sizable civil action.
If you’re interested in this story you can follow along on the OCDO forums, where the victim’s wife appears to be updating the thread.