Gun Owner 'Open Carries' On the Rise in Easton
Man with rifle in bank parking lot leads to police response, but his actions were legal.
There's no law against carrying a legal gun in the open in Pennsylvania.
But what if your open carry takes you past a bank's drive-thru window? Well, that's when the police show up.
This isn't a hypothetical situation. It's what happened to West Ward resident Andy Novick Wednesday when he purchased an old .22 rifle in downtown Easton and then walked it back to his car, which just happened to be parked in the Sovereign Bank lot on N. Third Street.
Novick -- who occasionally blogs for this publication -- admits that he hadn't thought things through.
"All of the sudden I realized, 'We're in a bank parking lot. This is definitely not cool,'" Novick said.
Novick said he figured a panicked U-turn might be more alarming than acting casually, so he put the rifle -- which he said doesn't even fire -- in his trunk and went to run other errands. When he got back, the police were waiting.
"I told them 'It's a .22, and it doesn't work,' and they all relaxed," said Novick, who plans to restore the rifle.
Easton police Capt. Scott Casterline said Novick acted lawfully,
But he also noted that the situation isn't that unusual.
"We are seeing more and more of it," Casterline said.
He couldn't give an exact number, but said it's something his officers have been noticing on patrol and have been reviewing as part of their training. Casterline did say he saw a man wearing a gun last year at the Easton Farmers' Market.
And he said he doesn't think the increase is in response to either mass shootings like Sandy Hook or any local gun murders. Rather, Casterline speculated that it's just a matter of people becoming more aware of the law.
Is he comfortable with more residents having guns in public?
"It’s something we have to be comfortable with to a point," Casterline said, which is why he said his officers train so that their actions don't violate people's right to carry.
Novick had been stopped by police once before, Casterline said, when officers spotted him near the 13th Street Dunkin Donuts wearing a BB gun on his waist. Novick says it's for protection against "knuckleheads" in his neighborhood.
Pennsylvania is one of 43 states where open carries are allowed. Only six states -- Texas, Arkansas, South Carolina, Illionois, New York and Florida -- allow no sort of open carrying.
OpenCarry.org, which tracks the laws around the country, rates Pennsyvlania as "open carry friendly." The state would get a "gold star," the website says, if not for Philadelphia's stricter take on the open carry law, and a law requiring permits to perform an open carry in a vehicle.
Open carries are not allowed in schools, courthouses, federal buildings, state parks or prisons, according to the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.