Maryland cops profile gun owners in traffic stops and searches
J. D. Heyes
A rising number of gun owners in Maryland believe that law enforcement officers may be singling them out for an inordinate number of traffic stops, thereby infringing on their rights to keep and bear arms, among other constitutional protections.
The Washington Times, in a recent report, described a typical incident involving gun owners:
A year ago this New Year’s Eve, John Filippidis of Florida was driving south with his family on Interstate 95 when the Maryland Transportation Authority Police pulled over his black Ford Expedition and proceeded to raid it while his twins, wife and daughter looked on — separated in the back seats of different police cruisers.
The officers were searching for Mr. Filippidis’ Florida-licensed, palm-size Kel-Tec .38 semi-automatic handgun, which he left at home locked in his safe. (Maryland does not recognize handgun permits issued by other states.)
The search by police did not turn up anything, so Filippidis was allowed to go after being issued a warning for speeding.
“My wife’s hysterical, shaking“
When it was first reported, the incident garnered national attention. Filippidis, the Times said, appeared on a number of talk radio programs in which he described in detail how he and his family were both frightened and outraged at the same time. And he said he wondered how police knew that he was licensed to carry a concealed handgun, as well as what business it was of Maryland police, regardless, to search his personal things on that bitter, 10-degree day along side an interstate jammed with holiday travelers.
“My wife’s hysterical, shaking and crying,” Filippidis recalled in an interview with the Times. “I don’t have a criminal record. I own a business. I’m a family man, and I tried to explain that to [the officer]. But he had a bad attitude, didn’t want to hear my story. He just wanted to find that gun and take me away from my family. That was his goal, but he couldn’t do it, because I didn’t have a gun, like I told him.”
Filippidis’ outrage earned him support from gun rights advocates around the nation, as well as an eventual apology from the MDTA. However, an internal police review came to the conclusion that his stop and the search of his items was legal and did not violate any departmental protocols.
But the department’s findings have not satisfied others who believe that they, too, were targeted strictly because they have gun permits and other licensures in other states. And, as the Times reported, the incidents are growing.
John Tonnesen IV, of Lake Worth, Fla., was pulled over by Maryland police and arrested after a search of his work truck (incidentally, by the same officer who pull Filippidis over) turned up his .45 cal. Ruger, which was licensed in Florida. Tonnesen has said he doesn’t think that the stop was a coincidence.
“It was unloaded and stuffed into a bag far from me,” Tonnesen told the Times. “There’s scanners in Maryland that scan every tag, and Florida is one of their target vehicles. They’ll find whatever reason they can to pull you over.”
The department, of course, denies that it targets out-of-state gun owners. Officials there once again reminded Times reporters that their officers did not do anything wrong.
Paul Kramer, a criminal defense lawyer based in Baltimore, says the types of stops described take place far too often and tend to be a waste of taxpayer money.
Some of the toughest gun laws in the nation
Kramer said he represented a Pennsylvania security officer who got pulled over in Maryland for speeding. The officer asked Kramer’s client if he had a gun in his car and after answering yes, the officer arrested the client for having the gun and cartridges stored in the same container — against the law in Maryland.
“You think that Maryland would honor legitimate people with guns rather than charging people who are legitimately carrying but doing it incorrectly,” Kramer, a former deputy U.S. attorney for Maryland, told the Times. “I would think that the police would want to take the time to go after those people who don’t have a legitimate right to have a gun rather than locking up people who have a valid license.
“An otherwise law-abiding citizen can get arrested here. It’s just a waste of officer time and resources. The police should let those people go,” he added.
Maryland has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, and again, does not recognize more constitutional gun laws in other states.