I had been looking forward to today for over a week. A couple of people who I had met briefly at various points over the last few months had decided to organize an unloaded open carry (UOC) meetup in Livermore. It was to be an informal UOC meetup at the Panama Red Coffee Co. from 11AM to 1PM. As I have taken a keen interest in UOC over the last month or so, I made it a point to attend the meetup. This would be my very first UOC.
A few days before the meetup, I was informed that the organizers had been in contact with the Livermore Police Department (LPD). In order to ensure that everything went smoothly, it was suggested that people who were UOCing could meet with officers from the LPD (prior to the actual Panama Red meetup) at a nearby parking lot in order for officers to conduct a 12031(e) check (to make sure that there was no ammunition actually in the firearm, only in magazines outside of the firearm). This was a voluntary meeting, not a mandatory one. It was scheduled to take place between 10:30AM and 10:45AM. I was informed that it was agreed that no serial numbers would be run by the officers and that they would not check the ID’s of those who showed up. Of course, those who did not show up for this inspection by the LPD would still be subject to a 12031(e) check by any officer who happened to see them approaching, entering, or exiting Panama Red.
I understand that there are those out there who would be incensed to willingly meet with the Police at a separate location in order to submit to a 12031(e) check. While I understand their concerns (UOC is not illegal, the 12031(e) checks are a violation of the Fourth Amendment, the checks should be done in front of as many people as possible so that society will see that the Police have no reason to prevent us from UOCing, etc.), I personally had no problem with the agreed upon terms. While I firmly believe that my right to carry a firearm is guaranteed by the Second Amendment, I also understand that many people in California, including law enforcement officers (LEO), are not accustomed to citizens openly carrying firearms. As long LEOs do not go too far in violating my rights, I am willing to make an effort to meet them halfway for the sake of making the whole process go smoothly during these early encounters. I believe that this ambassador-type behavior on my part will help to show law enforcement officers that people who UOC are not dangerous criminals and are, instead, law-abiding citizens who are simply trying to exercise their right to carry a firearm.
Amongst my many options, I decided to UOC my Walther PPK/S for this meetup. I felt that some of my other firearms were much too bulky to carry for this meetup (e.g. my Desert Eagles). My matching black Walther PPKs are my favorite handguns, and I was tempted to carry one of them. But, in the end, I decided to go with my PPK/S because it is stainless steel. (All of my other handguns are matte black or “blue”.) I felt that, especially at a meetup with the express intention of displaying one’s rights and educating people, the fact that the PPK/S would be most visible to LEOs and everyday citizens made it the best choice. And if people wanted to ask me questions about UOC, I was more than willing to tell them what I know about the issue.
I arrived at the parking lot in Livermore a little after 10:30AM. Four LPD officers and four cruisers were already waiting in the parking lot. I met up with three other guys who were carrying, as well as some of their family/loved ones. A little before 10:45AM, we all walked over to the officers, introduced ourselves, and went through the 12031(e) checks. We brought a ton of cameras and video recorders with us, so the whole process was well-documented. As soon as the first guy started getting (e)checked, I noticed that the officer decided to read the serial number off the guy’s gun out loud into some sort of recording device. While they weren’t actually running the serial number of the firearm at that moment, they were recording it and could easily run the serial number at a later time. It seemed a little shady on their part, but I knew that none of us had anything to hide. I was the third person to get checked, and I made sure that lots of pictures were taken of my very first (e)check. What a special moment that I will always remember. LOL. After all four of us were checked, the officers thanked us for meeting with them and wished us well for the rest of the day.
Our group of seven (six adults and one precious 9-month-old girl) then walked the half block or so to the coffee shop. When we got inside, we all ordered and sat down at a group of tables by the large picture windows at the front of the shop. A couple customers seemed to notice that we were carrying, but nobody seemed panicked at all. We sat down and started taking about UOC. People talked about the law as they understood it, our attempts (often in vain) to get clarification on the issue from law enforcement agencies, and people’s past experiences while UOCing.
As we sat there other people began trickling in for the UOC meetup. At our peak, there were ten of us there who were UOCing, and, including friends and family, there were probably close to 20 people total. I was extremely pleased with the turnout. We wound up occupying most of the front of the coffee shop. A photographer from the Bay Area Newspaper Group (who had been contacted by organizers of the meetup) even showed up and took some pictures of our meetup group. We made sure to explain to the photographer that I am a candidate for California State Assembly.
It was really interesting to talk with the more experienced UOCers. I was warned that if I continue to UOC, there is a very good chance that I might wind up on some sort of terrorist watch list. I find that to be both sad and amusing. If true, it’s sad that the government would look at a person who is engaging in legal conduct as being some sort of possible terrorist. A government that is functioning properly should be on the lookout for the bad guys, not the good guys. It’s amusing because I am probably one of the least likely people in the country to engage in terrorist activities. I love California, and I love America. It is that love which prompted me to run for California State Assembly. I would never engage in terrorist activities.
While we were there, more than a few customers of the coffee shop would stop by and ask us questions about UOC. Many of the people in the meetup group had brought information pamphlets about UOC, and we were all more than happy to answer people’s questions. It was also nice to be able to meet face-to-face with people from around the Bay Area who share my concerns about gun rights. It was eventually decided that we would try to meetup at a different location around the Bay Area each month, hopefully increasing the number of people who turn out for each meetup.
Around 1PM, everyone decided that they were going to go eat at a nearby restaurant. Even though I had to leave to take care of some other business, I walked over to the restaurant with them. It was really interesting to see the reactions of people as we walked down the street. A lot of people didn’t even realize that ten of us were carrying. And for those who did notice, it didn’t appear that anyone became panicked. People seemed more interested to figure out who we were more than anything else. The answer to that is simple: We are law-abiding citizens who are exercising our rights to carry firearms. I really am looking forward to the next UOC meetup.
I just wanted to end this blog entry with some random thoughts. While I was getting ready to leave my house, it occurred to me that a whole lot of people who see me with a gun on my hip would probably think that I am some sort of LEO. I mean, between the way I dress for work and the way I look while out on the campaign trail speaking to groups of people from the community, it really wouldn’t be a stretch for people to think that I am an FBI of Secret Service agent or something like that. It is not my intention to emulate the look of an LEO; that is simply the way that I dress. I just wish that I were allowed to wear a suit jacket while I UOC. Obviously, the jacket would cover the handgun, making it an illegal unloaded concealed carry. But I am most comfortable when I am fully suited up.
I also know that there are people out there who think that I am occupying law enforcement resources by UOCing. After all, the LPD had to dedicate four officers to meet with us prior to the meetup, and there were an inordinate number of police cruisers that drove by the coffee shop during the two hours that we were there. To these people I say this: I will not apologize for exercising my right to carry. A right that is not exercised is a right that is easily lost. If a law-abiding citizen peacefully carrying a firearm is a drain on police resources, then perhaps the police need to adjust their response. Honestly, I do not know what the LPD expected to happen at the coffee shop for them to feel the need to dedicate so many cruisers to the area. If anything, I felt safer there in that coffee shop with all of my UOC brethren than I would feel in my hometown of Fremont while not UOCing. And, ultimately, I maintain that, if the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (and, more broadly, the State of California) were to grant me a concealed weapons permit, I would be able to exercise my right to carry a firearm without most people in society ever even knowing it, thus reducing the chance that law enforcement resources would have to be wasted responding to a law-abiding citizen doing absolutely nothing wrong.
Lastly, I want to thank Panama Red Coffee Co. in Livermore for allowing us to UOC in their wonderful establishment.
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