A 49-year-old Philadelphia resident went jogging while open carrying a handgun on his hip. For added protection, he was also armed with a GoPro camera to record any chance encounters.
Predictably, a police officer approached the armed jogger James Moody – also a truck driver born and raised in Philadelphia. The officer identified himself as Officer Cave and asked the usual questions about why he was out running with a gun on his hip. Cave also noticed Moody’s camera.
Both Moody and Officer Cave were extremely cordial and respectful in their conversation. Even other officers and one sergeant who joined in kept their cool.
But one question that got repeated by Moody was, “Am I being detained?” The officers would reply that he was not being detained. Moody would follow up with, “Am I free to go?” They would tell him that he was not free to go.
Moody would ask for what probable cause they had – a legal basis for the stop in the first place. The officers would tell him that he was carrying a gun on his hip. Moody would inform them that this action was not in any way illegal, and is in perfect compliance with Pennsylvania law, specifically Title 18, Section 6108, which reads:
6108. Carrying firearms on public streets or public property in Philadelphia.
No person shall carry a firearm, rifle or shotgun at any time upon the public streets or upon any public property in a city of the first class unless:
(1) such person is licensed to carry a firearm; or
(2) such person is exempt from licensing under section 6106(b) of this title (relating to firearms not to be carried without a license).
The officers asked him for his ID, but Moody refused, saying he had done nothing illegal, and that Pennsylvania is not a stop-and-identify state. They asked him for his gun license, but he refused, saying that he is not obligated to provide his permit, when there is no probable cause.
Officer Cave mentioned to Moody that there had been two homicides in the area, and that people in the community are on edge. Moody understood but said that that does not constitute probable cause to stop him and ask for identification.
[The fact that there had been two homicides in the area seems to be more reason to carry a gun while out jogging.]
Throughout the course of the video, Moody never provided his identification and never produced a gun license. Around fifteen minutes into the encounter, Moody’s GoPro camera ran out of batteries.
The back-and-forth between the officers and Moody about the 2nd Amendment, probable cause, gun licenses, etc. continued until eventually they handcuffed the armed jogger. They searched him and located his gun license, at which point he was free to go.
I am usually wary of the idea of open carry, because I would not want to draw attention to myself, especially from police. But, I’d have to side with Mr. Moody on this one, mostly because of how knowledgeable and respectful he was. Those two elements don’t often go together, particularly with those in Moody’s position. It’s so easy for either the cop or the civilian to become belligerent and argumentative. Moody was firm but very respectful, as were the police.
And Moody was totally right. He had not committed a crime by open carrying a firearm. In addition, there was no probable cause for the police to believe that he may have committed a crime, was going to commit a crime, or was in the process of committing a crime. As such, there was no legal justification to stop him in the first place.
In a later interview with NBC Philadelphia, Moody pointed out that drivers have to be licensed, but police can’t just pull people over without probable cause and demand their ID. [Well, they do, but they shouldn’t.]
The cop was free to engage him in conversation, but Moody was under no legal obligation to answer any of his questions. Officer Cave should have been able to assess early on in their conversation that Moody was of no visible threat to the public simply by having a sidearm. Moody should have been “free to go” from the beginning.