Advocates taking advantage of open-carry firearm laws around the country have been seen exercising their rights — some of whom have been met with resistance. Now the encounter between one such advocate in Michigan and police officers is getting a close look.
Video and records obtained by the Kalamazoo Gazette show 63-year-old Joseph Houseman in public with his rifle and his interaction with Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officers, who weed their way through honoring the man's right to openly carry the firearm while also trying to protect the public from any possible harm.
In Michigan, it is legal to openly carry a firearm, but not to brandish it, which KDPS Assistant Chief Donald Webster told the Gazette would include “waving or displaying the firearm in a threatening manner.”
The police responded to several calls from locals wanting them to check out the situation with Houseman in early May.
Here's how the initial interaction between Houseman and Sgt. Sean Gordon went down:
Gordon: Hey partner, how you doing? Can you set that down real quick and talk to me?
Houseman: I'm not setting it down.
Gordon: Well you can't cross the street like that.
Houseman: Am I being detained?
Gordon: Yes, you are being detained right now. You crossed the street illegally. Place the weapon down on the ground please.
Houseman: I will not.
Gordon radios that it appears the man will not drop his rifle.
Gordon: "Look, you crossed the street illegally; I just want to talk to you. I just want to talk to you. You're walking around here scaring people, man.
Watch this video obtained by the newspaper to see a few minutes of encounter, which the Gazette reported lasted 40 minutes total (Content warning: strong language):
When later asked by Houseman when more officers arrived on the scene if he was free to go, Gordon explained he was not and was now "resisting and obstructing" after failing to properly identify himself when stopped for jaywalking.
That's when Houseman asked why officers don't just shoot him and launched into a diatribe about an upcoming revolution, corruption in the police force and the right to open carry.
"He is exercising his open carry rights, however, he has certainly overextended them at this point," Lt. Stacey Geik, who took over during the confrontation, told a public safety dispatcher.
At this point, police were directed the "use of force applier ... if need be," as Houseman continued to resist.
Eventually, Houseman complied with Geik's request that he turn over his gun, which was found empty of ammunition. But Geik would not return the firearm unless Houseman submitted to a sobriety test, because some calls to the authorities suggested he could be intoxicated. If over the legal limit, carrying a firearm would be considered against the law.
Houseman refused the test but also would not walk home or accept a ride home without his firearm. Here is a bit of the exchange happened afterward, according to the Gazette:
Geik: But you're not stable mentally, which now takes you away from that rifle.
Houseman: I'm not stable mentally? How do you decide that?
Geik: You're damn right. How did this happen with open carry? What are you supposed to do when you contact law enforcement? Do you say, 'I hate you mother(expletive), (expletive) you? I hate you, there's a revolution coming.' Do you say that? Is that what you're taught?
Houseman: It was wrong of me.
Houseman again asks for his gun back. Geik tells him he wants to make sure he isn't a risk to himself or others.
Why Houseman was out on the street with his rifle later comes to light when he explained that he was trying to "raise awareness."
The National Rifle Association, which supports laws that allow open carrying, just this month said it thinks what some open-carry advocates are doing is "downright weird."
"To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary," the NRA wrote . "It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates."
In some cases, such antics have resulted in restaurants refusing to allow those openly carrying firearms inside, which the NRA said curtailed "the freedom and goodwill these businesses had previously extended to gun owners ... because of the actions of an attention-hungry few who thought only of themselves and not of those who might be affected by their behavior."
Geik echoed a similar sentiment to the NRA's statement.
"They might as well put up a billboard right now that says the Second Amendment is junk because of people like this," the lieutenant said.
At this point, Houseman was beginning to change his tune, becoming more apologetic.
Houseman eventually left and picked up his rifle at the police station the next day. After he walked away, the officers heard on camera discussed the encounter.
"It was alright. We're going to arrest him, interfering, and we'll go to the U.S. Supreme [Court] on this baby," an unidentified officer said of their interaction.
But, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette, no charges were pursued and it was later determined that Houseman was not "brandishing" his firearm.
This story has been updated for clarification.