Mark Worley was arrested in Vancouver, Wash., on Saturday for openly carrying a firearm, despite the fact that open carry is legal in Washington state.
“I was breaking no law and I was arrested for trespassing on a public sidewalk,” Worley said. “Whether or not you agree with open carry of a firearm or not, it’s not illegal.”
The police disagree, arguing that Worley took things too far when he walked onto private property while carrying a semiautomatic rifle. Worley has been charged with trespassing with a weapon capable of producing bodily harm.
That charge makes it sound like Worley waltzed into somebody’s home uninvited, but in fact it was much more nuanced. Worley entered a public restaurant with a rifle slung over his shoulder. The restaurant has a strict no weapons policy unless the gun owner has a concealed carry permit and keeps the firearm quietly hidden from the eyes of other viewers. A security guard apparently asked Worley to leave. When he refused, one of the employees phoned police. Worley was arrested shortly thereafter.
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“If the public is afraid, that’s not my fault. I don’t control their point of view," Worley later told reporters. "In fact, I welcome it. I welcome and encourage a debate on the subject. I am not responsible for their fear. People are concerned about weapons right now and people are afraid, and that’s understandable. I’m trying to show people that it is not illegal and that it’s OK to carry a gun.”
Worley has plead not guilty to the charges.
This gun-rights activist stood up for his beliefs, but he might very well have stepped over a line in his fight to banish prejudices against guns. Gun owners are legally allowed to openly carry a rifle over the shoulder while in public space. As soon as the gun owner enters private property, however, all bets are off. Property owners have the right to set their own rules, and Worley allegedly ignored the restaurant’s no open gun policy. This is a clash of gun rights versus private property rights.
Do you think that Worley was justified in his actions, or should the state throw the book at him for ignoring the restaurant’s gun restrictions?
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