Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement)

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Mike Lawlor, undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning for the state of Connecticut, joins the ranks of other public officials who are choosing to simply ignore those rights they don’t believe citizens should have.

“In almost every situation you can imagine this happening in, it qualifies as breach of peace,” he said. “If you walk into a restaurant with a gun it’s almost by definition a breach of peace.”

That results in an arrest and sets in motion a chain of events that usually results in the revocation of an issued pistol permit, he said. And that’s the way it should be, Lawlor said. Anyone who walks into a McDonalds plainly carrying a firearm either intends to alarm people or is irresponsible, he said.

Here’s the problem: If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Connecticut simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace. It’s an abhorrent and lazy mindset that forgets everything about who serves who in a free society. In a just world, Lawlor would be resigning over it.

And he isn’t alone. Law enforcement officials in Milwaukee and Philadelphia have expressed similar sentiments, and without much consequence.

I suppose if there’s an upside to all of this, it’s that when someone in one of these jurisdictions does inevitably sue, they’ll be able to show that the violation of their rights was systematic, and part of an ongoing policy. Unfortunately, when they win, the payout will come from taxpayers, not from the pockets of clueless public officials like Lawlor.


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81 Responses to “Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement)”

  1. #1 |  Chuck Pelto | 

    TO: All
    RE: There Seems to Be….

    ….a developing ‘pattern of behavior’.

    I’m seeing a series of reports from various different jurisdictions that ALL indicate that the police are not authorized to ‘make the law up as they go along’, based on THEIR idea of ‘common sense’.

    From rafting down a flooded street after Hurricane IRENE, to recording police activities in the public venue, to children riding their bicycles to school, the police are now arresting anyone whose activities THEY DON’T LIKE!

    And I have to wonder if there has been some sort of change in philosophy on the application of the Law that has been passed down to them, considering so many different jurisdictions are now doing this sort of think.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    P.S. Well….

    ….considering that the Chief Executive makes it up as he goes along, the Law notwithstanding, maybe they’re just taking their cue from him.

  2. #2 |  Chuck Pelto | 

    P.P.S. ERRATA….

    That SHOULD READ….

    “….that the police are NOW authorized….”

  3. #3 |  Arnold Williams | 

    Actually, this public official has just laid the groundwork for a lawsuit to name him PERSONALLY as “depriving others of their civil rights under color of law” — which is not covered by the state’s insurance pool. He may not know the “under color of law” rules (they are federal), but, as noted above, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Especially if you can get a large jury award against him.

  4. #4 |  StoneHeads | 

    #7 | DoubleU | August 27th, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    JS, I know the reason why the lawyers go after the city/county instead of the officer is because that is where the bigger payout, easier target is. However I would love to see them go after the officer’s pension. I heard about an officer that has 3/4 of a million dollars in his pension, and he isn’t ready to retire. If they went after that money the police would start to care a little more, but because the end result really doesn’t bother them, they don’t care.

    DoubleU nails it. We need to go after the individual officers and the officials personally. Bureaucrats everywhere are unaccountable because they’re playing with other people’s money. Make them feel the pain and see how fast this arrogant behavior changes. If the police feel threatened, that is understandable but still not an excuse. they are charged with enforcing the law, not making up new laws to suit themselves. And it is the officials and the officers’ responsibility to know the law. If they don’t that would seem to indicate they are not fit for their positions. if the law is bad, then let’s change the law, not go after law-abiding citizens.

  5. #5 |  theBuckWheat | 

    We have to be careful about where we draw the line with the owner of private property. If we want don’t want to allow the owner of a restaurant or a store from being able to refuse entrance to a person who carries HIV, then how can we allow him to refuse entry to a person who is carrying a concealed weapon? A property own cannot force me to disrobe to prove whether or not I am carrying. Neither can he force me to take a blood test to see what diseases I may be carrying concealed. When something is concealed it should be legally distinct than when something is openly carried.

  6. #6 |  65r79gjhgcxc6 | 

    I think the problem is the way the police are trained. They get trained on how to handle criminals with guns and that’s all they know, they do what they are trained to do and they apply that training to anyone with a gun. They don’t have any mental flexibility to conceive that a person with a gun might not be a criminal and if they did they still wouldn’t have any notion that they should do something different than threat them as a criminal.

    The problem is with the civilian government that should be supervising the police and their training. If a few police chiefs get fired because the police officers are mis-serving the public who pay their salaries these problems might get fixed.

    Attention should be focused not on the individual officers but those who supervise them and who are ultimately responsible for police department policy.

  7. #7 |  Reason 9,070,377 Why We Need Federal Preemption Laws With Teeth | Extrano's Alley, a gun blog | 

    […] Writing at the Agitator, Radley Balko discusses yet another of the endless stream of public official who chooses to ignore rights he does not think the people should have. […]

  8. #8 |  Ignore Carry Law, Make Up Your Own? - INGunOwners | 

    […] carrying handguns in that state and substitute his own. The Rule of Man is on the march out East. Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) | The Agitator __________________ Notice: IMPD's tank is now known as "The Lemon […]

  9. #9 |  DonM | 

    If they get to ignore the law, so do we. And there are a lot more of us then them. And we are well armed.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  10. #10 |  DonM | 

    If a crook is going to shoot an open -carry-er first, why not shoot everyone in the store? Bullets are fairly cheap, and people are easy to search when they are dead. The death penalty doesn’t hurt more when you are getting the spike for 30, rather than for 1.

    The answer is: the professional crook needs to rob two banks or stores a week. Eventually that kind of behavior will catch up with him. Better for him to try to stay under the radar, and find the easiest of easy target.

    The smart citizen merely makes sure that the easiest of easy targets is someone else.

  11. #11 |  links for 2011-09-01 « Marty Andrade | 

    […] Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) Quote:"If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Conn simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace." Note to (future permit holding) self: never openly carry. (tags: concealedweapons secondamendment police policestate guns) Share this:TwitterEmailPrintFacebookMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  12. #12 |  John C. Randolph | 

    When a law enforcement official states his intention to violate the rights of the citizens in his jurisdiction, and then goes on to do exactly that, he should be removed from office and prosecuted.

    -jcr

  13. #13 |  RS | 

    So much for the rule of law… and the rise of the rule of the lawmen.

    Liberal lawmen, and now to a lesser extent lawmen who call themselves conservatives.

    Either way, it’s a serious blow to liberty.

  14. #14 |  tv_racin_fan | 

    I can not think of an article where someone who open carried was attacked first. I can however find at least one article where someone who open carried apparently caused the bad guy not to committ the crime he intended to committ.

    http://www.examiner.com/gun-rights-in-atlanta/open-carry-deters-armed-robbery-kennesaw

    I myself carry and on occasion open carry. I find it much simpler just to leave my handgun on my side when entering a store or the occasional Waffle House while I am out handgun hunting. The local police dont seem to mind when we open carry at the local gun shop either.

  15. #15 |  links for 2011-09-02 « Marty Andrade | 

    […] Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) Quote:"If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Conn simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace." Note to (future permit holding) self: never openly carry. (tags: concealedweapons secondamendment police policestate guns) Share this:TwitterEmailPrintFacebookMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  16. #16 |  Libertarian Advocate | 

    A couple of things. First: Michael Lawlor is an extremely liberal Democrat who by his comments is deliberately encouraging the police to arrest OC’ers in CT because he hates the fact that the state even permits citizen carry at all.

    Second: Odds are, a criminal who sees an OC in a store or on the street is more likeIy to assume “cop present” than think “can I get the drop on this guy or gal”.

    I CC because I just prefer it that way, but I am not opposed to OC at all which I believe strongly deters idiots from engaging in armed robbery.

  17. #17 |  TonyD | 

    This gibberish about being shot at first in a robbery/criminal activity is a bunch of crap.

    A thief is out to steal money , with speed, using fear and intimidation. Thieves are cowards.

    This garbage about first to get shot and shoot em up, is bunk. If that happens, not only was the thief stupid, he is also suicidal and evidently does not want to enjoy the fruits of his attempted efforts.

    Any goblin that would resort to “shootin em up” was not a robber or petty criminal — they were scum and murderers from the get go.

  18. #18 |  Bill | 

    The argument seems to be that, notwithstanding the fact it is legal to carry, the fact of carrying is irrebutably presumed to disturb the peace.

    A question:

    Should the irrebutable presumption of fiream + civilian clothes = disturbed peace not apply also to off duty police, plainclothes officers, and federal agents? If it is a fact that someone in civilian clothes carrying a firearm disturbs the peace then the fact that it is a LE officer in plain clothes does not matter. The peace is still disturbed.

  19. #19 |  More Connecticut Liberalism | Yankee Gun Nuts | 

    […] at The Agitator, Radly Balko comments on this tale (from an admitted anti-gunner!) of a left-wing apparatchik gone […]

  20. #20 |  Beer Here | 

    Mike Lawlor, 1950’s version:

    “In almost every situation you can imagine this happening in, it qualifies as breach of peace,” he said. “If a black man walks into a whites-only restaurant it’s almost by definition a breach of peace.”

    That results in an arrest and sets in motion a chain of events that usually results in jail time, he said. And that’s the way it should be, Lawlor said. Any black man who walks into a whites-only McDonalds either intends to alarm people or is irresponsible, he said.

  21. #21 |  Edwin Leap, MD | 

    I’ve always wondered what other rights can be circumvented by the authority of the business owner. Do you see signs that say, ‘No free speech allowed,’ or ‘Leave your religion outside?’ Do we see signs saying, ‘No assembly here,’ or ‘Blacks need not enter?’

    Of course not. The only time we see it has to do with carrying a firearm. ‘No concealed weapons allowed.’ Where is the ACLU? Furthermore, what self-respecting criminal will be dissuaded by that ridiculous sign?

    Too often, the business owners have the same knee-jerk reaction as the police. Education, education, education. And some economic boycotts might help.

    The popular media only makes this worse. Whenever a permit law is passed, they predict blood running in the streets and random violence by permit holders; things which never pan out.

  22. #22 |  Jalan | 

    It sounds like they need the kind of law just passed in Florida that goes into effect Oct. 1. Any local government/agencies that enforce laws or policies in conflict with state gun laws are now subject to fines up to $100,000, AND the individual local actor is personally responsible for fines up to $5,000. Hit a few cop supervisors with $5k fines and this nonsense will stop abruptly.

  23. #23 |  richard40 | 

    We need to change laws so if the gov is sued for the willful negligence of an elected official or a public employee, the gov has the right to counter sue the official for part of the claim, and is mandated to exercise that right. Once these officials start to personally pay for this kind of crap, it will stop.

  24. #24 |  links for 2011-09-03 « Marty Andrade | 

    […] Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) Quote:"If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Conn simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace." Note to (future permit holding) self: never openly carry. (tags: concealedweapons secondamendment police policestate guns) Share this:TwitterEmailPrintFacebookMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  25. #25 |  NAME REDACTED | 

    “Unfortunately, when they win, the payout will come from taxpayers, not from the pockets of clueless public officials like Lawlor.”

    And this is why it won’t end. If you want it to end you need to be like the Scientologists. You should hire lawyers to sue the cops and DA’s personally, and hire PI’s to record them and their family’s every move.

  26. #26 |  links for 2011-09-04 « Marty Andrade | 

    […] Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) Quote:"If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Conn simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace." Note to (future permit holding) self: never openly carry. (tags: concealedweapons secondamendment police policestate guns) Share this:TwitterEmailPrintFacebookMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  27. #27 |  links for 2011-09-05 « Marty Andrade | 

    […] Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) Quote:"If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Conn simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace." Note to (future permit holding) self: never openly carry. (tags: concealedweapons secondamendment police policestate guns) Share this:TwitterEmailPrintFacebookMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  28. #28 |  links for 2011-09-06 « Marty Andrade | 

    […] Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) Quote:"If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Conn simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace." Note to (future permit holding) self: never openly carry. (tags: concealedweapons secondamendment police policestate guns) Share this:TwitterEmailPrintFacebookMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  29. #29 |  links for 2011-09-07 « Marty Andrade | 

    […] Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) Quote:"If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Conn simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace." Note to (future permit holding) self: never openly carry. (tags: concealedweapons secondamendment police policestate guns) Share this:TwitterEmailPrintFacebookMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  30. #30 |  links for 2011-09-08 « Marty Andrade | 

    […] Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) Quote:"If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Conn simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace." Note to (future permit holding) self: never openly carry. (tags: concealedweapons secondamendment police policestate guns) Share this:TwitterEmailPrintFacebookMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  31. #31 |  links for 2011-09-09 « Marty Andrade | 

    […] Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse (Unless You’re in Law Enforcement) Quote:"If you have a permit, it’s perfectly legal to walk into a McDonalds in Connecticut while plainly carrying a firearm. As Gideon notes, the problem is that too many cops in Conn simply don’t know the law. Lawlor’s solution isn’t to educate them, but to come up with creative (and baseless) applications of other laws that allow cops to continue to violate the rights of Connecticut citizens who exercise their right to carry. Gideon’s analogy to the camera issue is spot-on. Because exercising this particular right tends to upset police officers, and because police officers aren’t aware of the law, the state officials in charge of law enforcement have chosen to simply not give a damn about protecting this particular right. If a citizen exercising his rights combined with a cops’ ignorance of the law results in a “breach of the peace,” Lawlor’s conclusion is that the proper thing to do is charge you for breaching the peace." Note to (future permit holding) self: never openly carry. (tags: concealedweapons secondamendment police policestate guns) Share this:TwitterEmailPrintFacebookMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]