A video hit youtube on Saturday, October 17th that shows an incident from Greensboro that involved abortion, guns, your rights and how the police interpret them. 26 year old small business owner, James Penn noticed a group of Christians being questioned by a Greensboro officer. The Christians had gathered near an abortion mill off of Randleman Road near I- 85. Penn became concerned for the constitutional rights of the Christians when he saw a second officer arrive who began to threaten them with arrest for trespassing.
An avid videographer, Penn took out his cell phone and began to approach the group while recording. The officer’s first words to him were foreboding: “Put the phone up.” His response was firm: “No ma’am.” Then, the second officer noticed that Penn was carrying a pistol on his belt, unconcealed.
What happened next was unbelievable save for the video footage that captured it.
The officer repeatedly insisted that Penn provide identification while Penn continually asked why? Since North Carolina is an open carry state that allows the carrying of unconcealed firearms without a permit, Penn questioned the officer’s reason to demand ID from him. The officer asked if Penn had a permit to carry, which is only required if the weapon is concealed.
After going round and round, the officer returned to his car and consulted the higher ups. Penn left the area when no further questions were asked by police.
I interviewed Penn after viewing the video and learned some key points about the incident. Penn says he has been openly carrying a firearm for months and it “is a lifestyle choice,” to use the freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. He did not approach the group in order to brandish a firearm but rather to simply record the interaction between a group of Christians armed with bibles and the Gospel confronting abortion and being confronted themselves by the police.
Penn says that he later learned the Christians knew where they were allowed to demonstrate since they had had encounters with the police in the past and even had maps of the property to verify their location. The first officer to arrive (the female in the video) had invoked the authoritarian tactic of intimidation when she told the Christians to move, “Because I said so.”
Penn later learned that after debating the law for some 45 minutes with a third officer and a detective, the officers came back to the group of Christians and demanded to know who Penn was and how to contact him. On Monday, an investigator from the GPD knocked on the door of two of the Christians and again demanded to know who Penn was and they declined to give the information but told the officer they let would Penn know the police wanted to talk to him. The investigator then warned them that they could be charged as an accessory to whatever crime the police decide Penn is suspected of violating.
NC statutes prohibit the carrying of arms in a couple of situations. Citizens are prohibited from possessing firearms on school property, at an event for which there is a fee, at an establishment that serves alcohol, state buildings and at demonstrations on public property. From the video, Penn was in the driveway of a Japanese restaurant and really on private property.
Many questions remain.
- So, why is the Greensboro Police Department wasting time and resources to investigate a legally armed man?
- Could it be that the officers are unfamiliar with what the laws of our state really say?
- Is race a factor since Penn is an African American?
- Do all college graduates in Greensboro who are black have to seek permission from the law to exercise their constitutional rights in public?
Unlawful orders barked by police have no value and harm the public at large. Back during the summer, a group of activists with Americans for Prosperity-NC were threatened with arrest in the State Capitol building by State Capitol Police for bringing cameras with them.
It will be interesting to see how this case plays out in the next few days. Stay tuned.