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January 20, 2014

From the Files of Police Squad: No CCWs Allowed?

I was going to lead yesterday's gun thread with this story, but after I posted my Lone Survivor review, the gun thread became a casualty of honey-do list prioritization.

You probably know the basics by now: a Florida resident and CCW holder named John Filippidis was traveling down I-95 on the way home from New Jersey, when he was pulled over and his car was rifled through by Maryland law enforcement officers looking for the gun in his safe in Florida.

Filippidis keeps his gun — a palm-sized Kel-Tec .38 semiautomatic, barely larger than a smartphone in a protective case — in one of two places, always: in the right-hand pocket of his jeans, or in the safe at home.

“There are kids in the house,” Filippidis says, “and I don’t think they’d ever bother with it, but I don’t want to take any chances.”

He’s not looking for any trouble, after all.

Trouble, in fact, was the last thing on his mind a few weeks back as the Filippidises packed for Christmas and a family wedding in Woodridge, N.J., so he left the pistol locked in the safe. The state of Florida might have codified his Second Amendment rights, but he knew he’d be passing through states where recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions affirming the rights of individuals to keep and bear arms have been met by hostile legislatures and local officials.

“I know the laws and I know the rules,” Filippidis says. There are, after all, ways gun owners can travel legally with firearms through hostile states. “But I just think it’s a better idea to leave it home.”

He's right about this on both counts, apparently. Before getting to some of the other issues with this incident, let's look at the relevant federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 926A, Interstate Transportation of Firearms, which reads as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

The article makes no mention of whether Mr. Filippidis has a New Jersey gun permit, but New Jersey does not recognize his Florida permit. Presuming he is only licensed in Florida, had he been transporting his pistol from New Jersey, where he wasn't licensed, to Florida, where he is, he would not have been shielded from Maryland's unlawful possession of firearms statutes by the federal interstate transportation law.

If he wasn't licensed in New Jersey, he made the right choice in leaving his gun at home. It would've helped even more if he'd informed his wife of this fact.

... Retreating to the space between the SUV and the unmarked car, the officer orders John to hook his thumbs behind his back and spread his feet. “You own a gun,” the officer says. “Where is it?”

“At home in my safe,” John answers.

“Don’t move,” says the officer.

Now he’s at the passenger’s window. “Your husband owns a gun,” he says. “Where is it?”

First [John's wife] Kally says, “I don’t know.” Retelling it later she says, “And that’s all I should have said.” Instead, attempting to be helpful, she added, “Maybe in the glove [box]. Maybe in the console. I’m scared of it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I might shoot right through my foot.”

The officer came back to John. “You’re a liar. You’re lying to me. Your family says you have it. Where is the gun? Tell me where it is and we can resolve this right now.” (emphasis added)

His wife made one of the classic mistakes. Never, ever volunteer information to the police, especially when you're just guessing. My father is a Sheriff's investigator; he'd tell you the same thing.

And look at the two places she said the pistol might be ... the glove box or the console. Those are two places the federal statute specifically does not protect in an SUV like the Filippidis family was driving. She might as well have sent the cops an engraved invitation to tear into the car.

I've seen this story portrayed as "man stopped in Maryland for having a Florida CCW permit" and I keep watching to see if there's more to it. It seems like an incredible waste of law enforcement resources to stake out the Ft. McHenry Tunnel looking for CCW holders to harass, but I haven't seen a better theory yet.

The Conservative Treehouse has requested the following information from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police that made the initial stop:

(A) the record/incident report, outlining the initial infraction which led to the traffic stop in question – and all subsequent written documentation pertaining to the encounter/traffic stop; and

(B) a recorded copy of the full Police Band radio transmission (between initial officer and all subsequent officers) as it pertains to the initial officer contact with the vehicle, to the stoppage, search, detention and subsequent release; and

(C) a copy of the dash camera recording for the initial MTAP officer encounter with the vehicle of Mr. John Filippidis (if available) during the entire timeframe of encounter with the vehicle, personage, and family of: Mr. John Filippidis, outlined in the traffic stop in question; and

(D) the full contact information for any other police, state or local agency who also responded to the traffic stop in question.

This will be a very interesting story to follow. At the outset it has the feel of yet another abuse of police power. Fortunately for Filippidis, he wasn't suspected of muling drugs in New Mexico.

Update: A good question from Bomber in the comments.

I have a Florida permit. I'll spend most of the summer in and around Maryland. I am very interested in how they knew the guy even had a permit in the first place.

More from The Conservative Treehouse:

Maryland State has a network of technical security databases which access the databases of all other states who comply and coordinate with them. For states who do not willfully comply, or those who are not set up to align technically, Maryland mines data from various LEO systems.

Maryland has a rather innocuous sounding name for the intelligence hub which contains this data, it’s called Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center.

The intelligence analysis hub has access to, and contains, Florida’s CCW list (among other identification systems) and mines the state’s database systems for vehicle plate numbers of the holders. These license plate numbers are then stored in a cross referencing database within the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center.

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posted by Andy at 10:51 AM

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