State's attorney confirms 'open carry' is legal in Connecticut

Openly carrying a firearm in Connecticut is absolutely legal, the State’s Attorney said last week in a memo to police officers obtained by the HAN Network.

While the office also clarified in the memo that police officers cannot demand to inspect pistol permits for openly carried guns without reasonable suspicion of a crime, authors noted those openly carrying a gun in Connecticut may situationally be subject to search and seizure based on disorderly conduct laws.

Scott Wilson, president of the pro-gun group Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the memo is an example of an attempt to administratively reduce civil rights in Connecticut. The group was the first information outlet to publish the memorandum, which was sent to the group by Connecticut police officers. HAN Network later obtained the memo from the office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

“The language of this memo really stretches what they are looking for. They’re trying to administratively define [gun rights in the state],” Wilson said on Monday. “There seems to be an ongoing [idea that] something terrible happened in this state ‘therefore we have a right to do whatever we want to do as it relates to gun rights issues.’”

“We as an organization do not support non-existent laws,” he added later. “It is legal in the state statutes — or rather the statutes do not speak to whether it is legal or not legal, therefore its legal.”

The memo

In the memorandum, dated Friday, Feb. 5, Connecticut State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane, and other attorneys in his office, noted the act of possessing a firearm in public view “… is lawful in Connecticut by persons who possess a pistol permit.”

"By itself, without more, merely observing a person openly carrying a handgun does not give rise to criminal suspicion because doing so is lawful in Connecticut by persons who possess a pistol permit,” the memorandum reads.

"In this regard, openly carrying a gun is legally akin to driving a motor vehicle; both activities are potentially dangerous, heavily regulated, and require a permit/license to engage in,” the memo continues to say. “Just as a police officer cannot lawfully stop a motor vehicle based merely on observing a person operating one, in order to determine whether that person is licensed, the officer cannot lawfully seize a person merely on observing him openly carrying a gun in order to determine whether that person has a pistol permit.”

According to the memorandum, officers may request, but not demand, to inspect a pistol permit without reasonable suspicion of a crime.

Situations of suspicion

The state’s attorney’s office also used the memo to explain situations that may create a reasonable suspicion of crimes related to open carry. The offense most likely to create reasonable suspicion, the memo says, is disorderly conduct.

The memo appears to say that if any citizen reports concern about a person openly carrying a firearm, police generally have reasonable suspicion to inspect the carrier’s pistol permit.

“… it is reasonable to suspect, in situations in which the police are present in response to a citizen complaint reporting concern over a person carrying a gun, that the crime of disorderly conduct, in violation of § 53a-182 (a) (2), is being or has been committed,” the memo reads.

The manner in which a gun is carried, and the location where it is carried can also be cause for reasonable suspicion, the memo says.

“A lawful demand for production may be based on observations that the person is carrying or displaying the gun in an unsafe or unorthodox manner, atypical of persons with permits and the basic training that getting a permit entails,” the memo reads, before adding that “a lawful demand for production may be based on actual knowledge or a reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying the gun on school grounds.”

That someone appears under the age of 21, or appears intoxicated, also constitutes reasonable suspicion, the memo says.