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Letter: Tiered encounters, Re: "'Guns Everywhere'?"
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Dear Editor,

I read with great interest the article titled "Guns Everywhere?" (May 10, 2014) I think Mr. Ruch did a good job at presenting both sides of the HB60 debate.

But I was very disappointed with the quotes of Conyers City Manager, Mr. Tony Lucas.

The Rockdale News article states, "But Lucas called it an ‘absurdity' that officials can ask to see a driver's license or voter ID, but not a weapon permit.

"You can come strapped with the biggest gun on your hip, and a peace officer can't say, ‘Can I see your permit?'" Lucas said. "Even bad guys, a convicted felon, can be strapped, because you can't ask them.""

Considering Mr. Lucas' law enforcement background, I'm sure he knows there are three tiers to Police/Citizen Encounters. The first of which is consensual where no evidence of a crime is needed, and an officer can ask any question he or she wishes. The citizen can decline to identify themselves, refuse to answer questions, and is free to leave at any time.

That does not change under the new law.

A tier two encounter is an investigatory detention or a brief stop. An officer must have reasonable, articulable suspicion that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. In this type of encounter, the citizen is not free to leave, but is not under arrest either.

The new law that goes into effect July 1st states; "a person carrying a weapon shall not be subject to detention for the sole purpose of investigating whether such a person has a weapons carry license." In other words, the mere presence of a weapon does not justify a Tier 2 encounter.

Of course the third tier is an arrest.

The three tiers to Police/Citizen Encounters were defined by the courts and are based on The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Fourth Amendment rights are such a common occurrence in everyday law enforcement, I would think it would be taught on the first day of class in the Police Academy.

Mr. Lucas is in a position of leadership in our community. I'm troubled when someone of his stature, who should know better because of his background in law enforcement, passes along erroneous information. If he had not read the new law, or didn't have a clear understanding of it, he would've been much better off saying the new law is under review. Instead, he comes off sounding like he wants to violate a citizen's constitutional rights. I hope I'm wrong.

And while I'm on the subject, just a quick note to my fellow citizens who like to exercise their right to carry a weapon; please use discretion when taking advantage of our new freedoms. Just because Mr. Lucas doesn't understand the law does not mean we should show up at City Council (or other government) meetings openly carrying our weapons just to prove a point. I know we can (after July first), but we are better than that.

Arthur J. Kidney
Rockdale County