What Happens When Police Officers Aren't Aware of the Law?

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Mark Fiorino resides in Pennsylvania, and has been mugged more than once, so he exercises his right to bear arms. Mark keeps a Glock .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol on his hip at all times. Pennsylvania allows open carry, without needing a permit under the Open Carry Law. Mark has been stopped by police in Lansdale, where the police officer knew that Mark had the right to open carry, the officer told him to have a nice day, that was that. Or they would ask Mark if he has a permit, if asked to show it, Mark would explain the Open Carry Law, and that would be fine. That is how it should be, the officer was aware of the law or would listen to Mark, and Mark was left to his business.

There’s no law saying you can’t do it. As long as it is legally in your possession, you can carry it openly,” Fiorino said. “You need a license to carry a concealed weapon or in your vehicle, or in a city of first class status. The only one is Philadelphia.”

In Philadelphia a first-class city, to carry there one must have a permit. Mark does possess such a permit, yet he still had issues with Philadelphia officers over his open carry. Now with the help of the ACLU Mark is suing the Philadelphia police. Mark has had 3 separate disagreements with Philadelphia police over the Open Carry Law.

They weren’t aware of it before, but they are now,” Fiorino said. “Prior to this, it seemed the officers on the street, all the way up to the gun permits division of Philadelphia, were unaware of the legality of this. Lt. Lisa King went on record that she was unaware open carry was legal until the whole thing was going down. And she’s the person in charge of the gun permits unit.”

The first was a 15 minute altercation, the officers told Mark he could not have his weapon, Mark said he could, they called in, found out they were wrong, Mark was on his way. Same issue happened in August 2010, this time they confiscated Mark's firearm, it took him 5 months to get it back. The ammo was gone, so he lost $50 in ammo. He was told the ammo was destroyed, but also told that they were holding onto it for safekeeping.

February 13, 2011 was the worst altercation. Mark was walking down the street, heard someone say "Yo Junior, what are you doing?" When he turned there was a police officer with his service weapon pointed at Mark.

Fiorino said his offer to show his License to Carry was ignored. Dougherty allegedly ordered Fiorino to get on his knees or “I am gonna shoot ya,” according to the ACLU.

The ACLU said Fiorino was verbally abused and humiliated by several other Philadelphia officers who showed up at the scene. Fiorino told police several times he was legally allowed to carry a weapon and referred to the new policy, according to the ACLU.

After 45 minutes, with Fiorino handcuffed and face-down on the sidewalk, according to the lawsuit, Fiorino was released with no charges. Most of the incident was audio-taped.

Mark would later post the audio recording on youtube. This resulted in charges of disorderly conduct and recklessly endangering another person against him and equal jail time. Officers came to Mark's place of work to serve the warrant for his arrest, Mark was away on vacation. When he found out about it, he turned himself in and spent 16 hours in a jail cell before being released on bail. A week later he would be arrested again due to police not clearing the warrant.

The lawsuit seeks damages for Fiorino’s monetary losses, the violation of his rights and additional harm, according to the ACLU.

“My biggest issue is lack of training and the fact that I was harassed repeatedly and abused and treated like a criminal when I’m exercising my right as an American,” Fiorino said. “Not to mention the fact that frivolous criminal charges were brought against me in retaliation because Philadelphia Police were exposed for not knowing the law.” From the Lower Gwynedd-Ambler-Whitpain Patch.


Not all cops are like those

Hi Mark, like you I also keep a .40 cal. Glock on my hip, but I also have that badge, that lots of bad guys use as a target. Now down here in Texas we don't have an open carry law, but we do have concealed carry for permit holders. Now if that isn't just about 3 kinds of @$$ backwards nothing is. Make it legal to conceal, so me as joe law can't tell if you are packing, and make it illegal to show me, god, and the whole world you have a gun on ya (will never figure that one out). I'm gonna just throw out a conjecture here and say, the officers you had trouble with were young?
I've noticed in the last 10 years or so, an influx of a lot more of "the law is the law, unless it's me, then just look the other way as I speed by at 110 mph in my pov, type cops, and all that goes with that".  Now getting to what happened to you, I never like commenting from just one side of a story, and I have not heard the tape you posted, but If things happened the way you said they did, I apologize for the way you were treated by those officers. First off, that officer was way out of line, with his "hey junior" opening remark. Respect begets respect, and it appears the cop's presence was taking up all the respect available in the area. Anyway if you were looking just like you are looking in the picture at the top, with your Glock in a holster, there is no reason in the world you should have been laid out and cuffed in felony style. That second part, over his threat to shoot you makes my blood boil, as he sounds like someone who needs to be off the street. Now I'm gonna go out on a limb here, but I'd be willing to bet that no officers have been shot by any citizen wearing a gun in an open carry holster in the last 100 years, it's the one's with the concealed guns that have shot officers. What I don't understand is you being released and not told that you would be filed on, and then after you post a tape that doesn't put them in the best light, they go and get a warrant for your arrest. If I didn't know any better, I would almost go as far as saying something called official oppression was being committed against you in retaliation for you making someone look bad on the internet, also the "clerical error" on your warrant not being cleared. There's a saying, you might beat the rap, but you won't beat the ride, which is basically saying they probably knew no charges would be filed, but that doesn't mean they still can't ruin your day by taking you down and booking you into jail. Lastly, I don't agree with the other officer who posted saying everyone with a gun should be contacted at gun point, that is just not true. I would like to ask him if he makes a scene some where and a security guard is there with a gun in a holster, is he going to contact him pointing a gun at him? if not why not? if he says because he's in a security guard uniform, then I would point out that security gurd uniforms are not secure wear, anyone can order everything he needs to be a security guard, including the "special security tin officer badge". So why would you be more inclined to trust someone wearing a gun dressed in everything he got on ebay, but not your typical law abiding citizen. Are you also not to always use the same tactics over someone wearing a gun in a holster, as someone, showing no gun, in other words always act as if everyone is armed, that you contact and that is how you keep safe. Good luck Mark in your lawsuit, the Blue line, that people talk about only come's out when the officer or officers are being railroaded, not when they are embarrassing the rest of us.


niceshot_smitty's picture

I beleave it.  Here in New

I beleave it.  Here in New Mexico it is a open carry state and i have been question a few times and had one officer draw his side arm when i didn't know he was talking to me.  It took almost 45 mins of telling the officer to call it in before another officer showed up and told him of the law.  It really scares me that are only lawman don't even know the laws they are inforcing.  I have also had local Police officers try and tell me what they that were hunting laws.  They later found out they were wrong.  Here in my small town where everyone knows eachother it scares me that they don't know they laws!!

Will_Hunt4Food's picture

Dangerous Situation

I was just talking about this the other night at work. I work as a Police Officer in NY but I'm from PA where I regulary excerised my right to carry a firearm. I understand the PA law and I'm aware of it but firearms in general tend to make the difficult job of law enforcement much more difficult.  Being a member of the NRA I'm strong supportor of our right to bear arms but working in Law Enforcement I do have a fear of the business end of someone elses gun. I believe in this situation the only answer is education for the legal arm bearer and the Police.  How to act when being confronted by the police can go a very long way.  The person with the firearm must be aware of the fact that the police are within their rights to question someone with a firearm and the Police need to be aware of the laws regarding carry.  The most difficult situation is how does a cop stop someone with a firearm legal or otherwise. There is only one answer, at gun point!!! Having worked most of my career as a Plaincloths Officer I have frequently been stopped and questioned at gun point and even though we were on the same team they were not aware of that until I was properly identifed. Remember the uniformed officer is always in charge regardless of if you believe hes acting correctly or not. The time for action in regards comes to that later on not in a street confrontation.  A firearm is a responsibility and sometimes even a burden at times. That being said educate yourself and others!

There is no excuse for a law

There is no excuse for a law officer to not know the particulars of the open carry law in PA!  Gun owners all over the USA are aware of this PA law! 

   No matter what state a police officer works in he should have to attend a firearms carry law class once a year just like permit holders do. then there wouldn' be any of this nonsense!

  I fully agree with the police having the right to make sure you have a permit if that is required but to be unaware of a state law that allows it citizens to carry openly is pure nonsence, no other way to say it.