It’s legal to carry loaded guns in public in Texas, but not in a manner calculated to alarm
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Police saw Carmon Tussey walking
briskly toward a crowded Louisville bar carrying an assault weapon.
With people running away, officers moved in, service weapons
drawn. They put the 26-year-old in handcuffs and confiscated his semi-automatic
gun. Tussey was later charged with terroristic threatening, wanton endangerment
and disorderly conduct, prosecutors said, and could face up to 20 years in
His lawyer says he “was engaged in perfectly legal behavior”
in the incident last year, raising a relatively new legal argument in the
United States that now stands before the courts to settle.
That's because Kentucky made it legal in 2019 to carry a gun
in public without a permit, joining what is now a majority of states with
Many celebrate the end of the bureaucracy erected around
what they consider every American's constitutional right to carry any firearm
they want. But permitless carry laws have created a dilemma for officers
working the streets: They now have to decide, sometimes in seconds, if someone
with the right to carry a gun is a danger.
“Kentucky is one of the states that allows a citizen to
‘open carry’ – meaning it is perfectly legal to walk down a public street
carrying a loaded gun out in the open,” said Tussey's attorney, Greg Simms.
Louisville prosecutors say it was more than just the gun
that led police to detain Tussey. The type of weapon, how he carried it, and
where he was headed also mattered. A witness also told officers that Tussey was
returning to the bar after a verbal altercation.
After he was detained, Tussey told police he “was returning
to shoot” the people he fought with, according to the arrest citation. Those
comments came later. Simms argued in court that he had given police no legal
reason to take him into custody when they did.
The judge hasn’t been persuaded by that argument so far,
saying in a preliminary ruling on evidence that police had other reasons to
arrest Tussey at the time. But Simms says he thinks he can convince a jury that
Tussey didn’t commit any crimes, in part because of Kentucky’s new law. His
next hearing is Nov. 2.
Advocates say permitless carry makes people safer. Opponents
say it makes it more dangerous for ordinary people, and for police officers.
“It’s no secret why so many law enforcement leaders are speaking
out against permitless 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 harder and more dangerous.”
Gun violence is up nationwide. There have been 35,000 deaths
in the U.S. so far this year, following 45,000 deaths in 2020 and the same in
2021. About 79% of the killings in 2020 involved a firearm, the highest
percentage since at least 1968.
Earlier this year, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an
Indiana law removing the permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public
even though Indiana's state police superintendent had weighed in against it.
The new law took effect July 1.
“We’re still expected to enforce our laws and take those
guns off the streets and make sure people that aren’t supposed to have them
don’t," Indiana State Police spokesman Capt. Ron Galaviz said recently.
"It’s just an extra couple of steps in that process.”
Under the new law, Galaviz said, officers can’t immediately
grab a gun or ask to see a permit when they pull someone over.
Complaints about armed people in public settings can have a
range of outcomes.
In Boise, Idaho, police got multiple “man with a gun” calls
about 27-year-old Jacob Bergquist, who took a firearm to places they weren't
allowed, like a store, a hospital and a mall, according to The Idaho Statesman.
Idaho passed permitless carry in 2016, but the state allows
property owners to ban them in specific locations. Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee
said his officers never had grounds to arrest Bergquist under Idaho law.
Lee made that comment 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 exchanging gunfire with police,
promoted gun rights on a YouTube channel.
In Houston, Guido Herrera walked into a mall in February
with a rifle in one hand and a Bible in the other, wearing a leather mask and a
shirt with the Punisher logo.
His lawyer, Armen Merganian, argued that Guido Herrera was
just “a gun-loving Texan” who meant no harm. Jurors convicted him of a
misdemeanor, disorderly conduct. It’s legal to carry loaded guns in public in
Texas, but not in a manner calculated to alarm.
“Cops just like to assume that everyone is a bad guy and
everyone is there to cause harm and that’s not necessarily the case. Some
people just really enjoy their Second Amendment rights,” Merganian said.
In Florida, Michael Taylor films himself with guns and a
fishing pole walking to piers and other spots to cast a line. He says he’s
trying to educate people about Florida gun laws, which don't allow a person to
carry a gun without a permit but make exceptions if someone is hunting or
Sometimes Taylor's actions lead to discussions about state
gun laws. Other times they prompt ‘man with a gun' calls to police.
Officers in Clearwater 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 he posted to social media. Police
ask what he’s doing and he tells them he’s going fishing and isn’t breaking any
“Sir, you’re scaring everybody walking down the beach,” one
After cuffing him, the officers move him to a less crowded
area, question him further and release him. He heads on down the crowded beach
to the pier.
Shannon West, a training supervisor at the Kentucky
Department of Criminal Justice Training, which trains some 300 recruits a year,
said that when responding to an armed person in public, officers have "got
a very quick decision to make ... as to whether or not to intervene, when to
intervene, and how."
In one rare case this year, an Indiana man fatally shot a
gunman who killed three people at a mall days after permitless carry took
effect in the state. Authorities said the man who shot the gunman was legally
armed and praised his actions for saving others’ lives.
That’s the type of scenario that 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 with a gun on the scene.
But that still can create a dilemma for police when they
“It used to be if someone was carrying 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 eliminate the permit requirement, then anyone can carry a firearm on
the streets and it becomes harder for police and for others to figure out
whether that person has bad intent or not.”
Staff writers Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington and John Raby
in Charleston, West Virginia contributed to this article.