Earlier this month, I reported on a situation where a volunteer with “Art All Night” was open carrying a handgun at the event.
While Ledcat made her final rounds looking at the art, I went to sit down and listen to a mandolin player. I was puzzling over the probability that the two girls making friends in front of me *really* were both named Luna when it happened. A volunteer with the event walked past and I saw what I thought was a gun stuck in the waistband of his jeans.
I got up and walked after him because I wanted to be sure – perhaps it was something that looked like a gun. Ledcat followed me and we got close enough for me to take photos and for her to confirm that it was a gun in what appeared to be a clip type holster inside his waistband.
I received a response from Luke Reynolds who was on the Planning Committee for 2014.
Art All Night does not have a weapon policy for volunteers, artists, performers, or patrons. Art All Night has never asked its volunteers to bring weapons (though Art All Night does hire uniformed police officers [who happen to be armed] for the evening/graveyard shift). This is the first time (that I am aware of) that a volunteer has brought a weapon to Art All Night.
According to Reynolds, there is no formal year-round organizers for the event. He indicated that policy changes for 2015 would be handled by consensus.
I should add that City of Pittsburgh police officers are required to wear their service weapons when in uniform, even during “special details” like this function. So that’s not something the group could negotiate if they wanted, nor do I think anyone is challenging that.
So Art All Night does not have a policy regarding firearms for volunteers or the event itself. According to Shira Goodman with Ceasefire PA:
We have an open carry state — you can carry a gun openly in public anywhere that it is not prohibited to have a gun. Except in Phila, where you must have a concealed carry permit to even carry openly. A private business can ban weapons on its property. Public entities cannot unless they are special areas, like schools, where the state has made rules banning guns.
So this volunteer was acting legally and within the rules of the Art All Night when he brought his gun to the event and wore it openly as a volunteer. My personal recollection and the recollection of Mr. Reynolds as to what happened next differ – but the end result is the gun was apparently secured in the volunteer’s vehicle and I left the event.
What’s not clear is why the volunteer made this choice or if anyone even asked him that question? I would hope that is part of the dialogue for 2015. I can’t fathom Children’s Hospital sponsoring an event where volunteers are permitted to open carry. So many of you expressed shock – I urge you to channel that into action by contacting people in Lawrenceville connected with the event and asking them to thoroughly discuss this matter during their planning for 2015. Contact the participating artists. Dialogue is the solution.
Goodman advised, however, that community groups and organizations may want to consult an attorney to determine if/how private citizens can use their personal weapons in a volunteer security role as well as determining how to create a policy banning weapons to comply with Pennsylvania law. One can only imagine that it would be complicated to factor in the venue guidelines, the participating organization guidelines, the sponsors guidelines and so forth. Goodman further advised speaking with local law enforcement especially if they are providing security to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Reynolds described how policies may or may not change in the future.
The topic of weapons & volunteer conduct will be thoroughly discussed by next year’s planning committee – new policies may or may not come from these discussions.
(Note: The planning committee [which can have 40+ people in a meeting] is made up of diverse volunteers, who come from various backgrounds with unique experiences. Decisions are consensus-based, talking through topics from every angle until everyone feels comfortable with a decision. This can take lots of time [some topics are discussed over several meetings] and this format has helped ensure decisions are well thought out.)
My contacts in law enforcement expressed concern that these situations are going to be on the increase in Pennsylvania as political rhetoric grows more heated. They emphasized that private citizens should not confront armed citizens. If you are concerned about someone displaying a gun in a public setting such as retail establishment or a restaurant, speak with the manager – they have policies in place and can address the situation. If their policies permit guns to be openly carried, you can decide if you want to patronize them.
As for community events, ask ahead of time. There are notification requirements for banning weapons so look for those. If you are an event organizer, talk with a lawyer to ensure your event is in compliance with the law and people understand what you expect from them.
I personally don’t believe private citizens openly carrying weapons deters crime. It deters people like me attending events or activities. It creates a lot more headache for event organizers who need to add this into there planning process (and possibly more expense to consult lawyers.) I don’t want Joe Average Citizen pulling his weapon in a crowded room – filled with children – for any reason. I have no faith in their capacity to manage a potentially lethal situation based simply on the fact that they wore the gun their in the first place. That’s my opinion. If I go somewhere and people are wearing guns on their hips, I am going to leave and spend my money elsewhere.
It is a little sad that I might have to start calling ahead to determine who has what policy in place. I’m sure people have openly carried around me and I didn’t notice. I am equally sure plenty of people conceal their weapons, legally or not. I don’t know if I have an expectation of Giant Eagle, Applebees or Mike’s Hot Dog Joint. Factor in issues like franchises and I can only imagine what a nightmare this could be.
What events or spaces would you expect to have a policy banning guns?