Police saw Carmon Tucci briskly walking into a crowded Louisville bar carrying an assault weapon.
People flee, officers move in, service weapons drawn. They handcuffed the 26-year-old man and confiscated the semi-automatic pistol. Tucci was later charged with terroristic threats, indecent endangerment and disorderly conduct, prosecutors said, and could face up to 20 years in prison.
His lawyer says he “behaved perfectly lawfully” in the incident last year, sparking a relatively new legal argument in the United States that is now before the courts to resolve.
That’s because Kentucky made it legal to carry a gun in public without a permit in 2019, joining what is now the majority of states with similar laws.
Many are celebrating the end of red tape built up around what they see as every American’s constitutional right to carry whatever firearm they want. But illegal carry laws have created a dilemma for officers on the streets. they must now decide, sometimes within seconds, whether someone with the right to bear arms poses a threat.
“Kentucky is one of those states that allows a citizen to ‘open carry,’ which means it is perfectly legal to walk down a public street carrying a loaded handgun in the open,” said Gregg Sims, Tucci’s attorney.
Louisville prosecutors say it was more than just the gun that led police to arrest Tuss. The type of weapon, how he carried it and where it was aimed were also important. The witness also told officers that Tussey was returning to the bar after the verbal altercation.
After being taken into custody, Tussey told police he was “coming back to shoot” people he had fought with, according to the arrest citation. Those comments came later. Sims argued in court that he gave the police no legal basis to take him into custody when they did.
The judge remains unconvinced by that argument, saying in a preliminary ruling based on the evidence that police had other reasons for arresting Tucci at the time. But Sims says he thinks he can convince jurors Tussey didn’t commit a crime, in part because of Kentucky’s new law. His next court hearing is on November 2.
Advocates say illegal immigration makes people safer. Opponents say that makes it more dangerous for ordinary people and police.
“It’s no secret why so many law enforcement leaders oppose carry laws,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Allowing anyone to carry a gun anywhere makes the job of a police officer more difficult and dangerous.”
Gun violence has increased across the country. The U.S. has reported 35,000 deaths this year, after 45,000 in 2020, and the same in 2021. About 79% of homicides in 2020 involved firearms, the highest percentage since at least 1968.
Earlier this year, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an Indiana law removing the requirement for a permit to carry a handgun in public, even though Indiana’s state police superintendent spoke out against it. The new law entered into force on July 1.
“We’re still expected to enforce our laws and get those guns off the streets and make sure that people who shouldn’t have them,” Indiana State Police spokesman Capt. Ron Galaviz said recently. “It’s just a few extra steps in the process.”
Under the new law, Galaviz said, officers cannot immediately draw a gun or ask for permission when pulling someone over.
Complaints about armed people in public places can have a number of outcomes.
In Boise, Idaho, police received numerous “man with a gun” calls about 27-year-old Jacob Bergquist, who took a firearm into places where they weren’t allowed, such as a store, a hospital and a shopping mall, The Idaho reports. Statesman.
Idaho passed the no-go carryout in 2016, but the state allows property owners to ban them in certain locations. Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee said his officers never had reason to arrest Bergquist under Idaho law.
Lee made the comments after Bergquist entered the Boise Towne Square Mall and fatally shot a 26-year-old security guard and a man and wounded four others.
Bergquist, who died after a shootout with police, advocated for gun rights on his YouTube channel.
In Houston, Guido Herrera walked into a mall in February with a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other, wearing a leather mask and a Punisher logo T-shirt.
His lawyer, Armen Merganyan, argued that Guido Herrera was just a “gun-loving Texan” who meant no harm. Jurors convicted him of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. In Texas, it is legal to carry loaded handguns in public, but not in a manner calculated to raise an alarm.
“The police just like to assume that everybody’s a bad guy and everybody’s out there to cause harm, and that’s not necessarily the case. “Some people are just really exercising their Second Amendment rights,” Merganian said.
In Florida, Michael Taylor films himself with guns and a fishing rod walking to docks and other locations to cast a line. He says he tries to educate people about Florida’s gun laws, which prevent a person from carrying a gun without a permit, but make exceptions if someone goes hunting or fishing.
At times, Taylor’s actions lead to discussions about state gun laws. Other times, they tip the “man with the gun” to call the police.
Clearwater officers stopped Taylor last year as he walked down a crowded beach with a fishing pole, a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and a loaded assault weapon, according to a video posted on social media. The cops ask what he’s doing and he says he’s going fishing and isn’t breaking any laws.
“Sir, you’re scaring everyone who walks on the beach,” one of the officers said.
After handcuffing him, officers move him to a less crowded area, question him further, and release him. He moves across the crowded beach to the pier.
Shannon West, head of training for the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training, which trains about 300 recruits a year, said that when responding to a gunman in public, officers “make a very quick decision … whether or not to do it.” to intervene, when to intervene and how.”
In a rare incident this year, an Indiana man fatally shot a gunman who killed three people at a shopping mall days after the state’s illegal carry ban went into effect. Authorities said the man who shot the gunman was legally armed and praised his actions for saving the lives of others.
This is the scenario gun rights advocates point to when they argue that the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy on the scene.
But it could still present a dilemma for the police when they arrive.
“In the past, if someone carried a firearm and they had a concealed carry permit, it would be less suspicious for them to have a firearm,” said UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, an expert on gun policy. “But when you remove the permit requirement, anyone can carry a firearm on the streets, and it becomes more difficult for police and others to determine whether that person has bad intentions or not.”
Staff writers Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington, D.C., and John Rabin in Charleston, West Virginia, contributed to this article.