In an astounding bit of police work, a student was cited for “causing alarm” on campus by wearing an empty holster.
The University of South Alabama has some “unusual” gun policies. A few days ago two students were confronted by campus police over the fact that one of them, D.J. Parten, was wearing an empty holster. Parten is the president of Students for Concealed Carry and was wearing the empty holster as a form of protest against the University weapons policy.
He and fellow club member Kenneth Tews were manning a table promoting a screening of the documentary Can We Take a Joke? (“a thought-provoking and wry exploration of outrage culture through the lens of stand-up comedy”) when they were approached by three campus police officers.
Officers demanded identification, which Parten provided, and asked to pat him down, which Parten refused. One of the officers asked Parten if he was aware of the school policy concerning weapons, which he acknowledged that he was aware. Parten reaffirmed that he was wearing the holster as a form of protest, which the officer acknowledged but remained steadfast in his insistence that the protest was irrelevant.
At one point the exchange went like this:
Parten: “Is this just because I have a holster on me?”
Officer: “Yeah it is, because somebody called it in. So if you’ve been a student since 2014 you know that there’s a no weapons policy out here. But then you want to push it.”
Parten: “This is a protest.”
Officer: “Doesn’t matter. You got permission to wear it?”
Parten: “I have the right to protest.”
Officer: “Do you have permission to wear it?”
Parten: “I don’t need permission to wear it.”
Officer: “You need permission from the university.”
Parten: “To wear a holster?”
Officer: “There’s a no-weapons policy, period.”
Parten: “That’s not a weapon.”
Officer: “I understand that.”
Parten: “It’s an empty holster.”
Officer: “Well, we’ll take it up with the Dean of Students, then. Because you are gonna be written up for disciplinary. And I am gonna put in here your attitude, you understand?”
The school policy concerning weapons states:
All weapons are prohibited in University housing buildings, parking lots, and on University property. This includes, but is not limited to, bullets, ball bearing bullets, bullet balls, pellets, firearms, guns, knives, paintball guns, air guns, hunting bows, archery bows, swords, martial arts weapons, and replicas of such weapons. Toy and water guns are prohibited. In addition, fireworks and pyrotechnic devices and materials are prohibited on University property. Students who violate this community standard may be subject to the Housing Judicial Process.
It is interesting that during the confrontation one of the officers gets frustrated with Tews putting his hands in his pockets. The officer reprimands him for it and says “One, you’ve got a knife in his [sic] right pocket. I don’t know if you’re ever gonna draw it out. But I’m not gonna take it from you. But if you keep being a smart-ass, we’ll figure out something. Okay? It’s for my safety as well as yours.”
Later, as the other officers step away, this officer calls Parten in closer to him and explains in a more conciliatory manner that the students have not done anything wrong, technically, and that in the future they should respond to officers in a more respectful manner. They both agree.
The other officers returned with a citation for Parten, charging him with violating sections 7G and 7N of the Student Code of Conduct. Section 7G deals with “Engaging in activities that threaten the safety of the campus community” and states, in part:
use, possession, or storage of any weapon which has not been authorized by University Officials; or intentionally initiating or causing any false report, warning, or threat of fire, explosion, or other emergency. The term “weapon” means any object or substance designed to inflict a wound, cause an injury or incapacitate including, but not limited to, all firearms, pellet guns, BB guns, switchblade or gravity knives, clubs, blackjacks, brass knuckles, or ice picks.
Section 7N states that students are prohibited from being in “Violation of any approved University rules, regulations, or policies.”
Kassy Dillon, who reported the incident, concluded by stating that “Before leaving, the officer asked Parten to remove his holster, warning that he will be written up for the same violations again if the department continues to receive calls about it, but Parten refused and the officers departed without further incident.”
It seems that as soon as the officers realized that the empty holster was indeed a protest, they could have, and should have, defused the situation by recognizing that an empty holster is not a weapon. But egos got involved and Parten was charged with a very dubious violation, one you would think that he should be able to successfully fight should he choose to do so.
As for their protest, the encounter did a lot to raise the level of awareness of campus carry. Unfortunately, it also did little to raise the respect that people should have for the police, and their understanding of or adherence to the rights of citizens.
When empty holsters become outlawed, only outlaws will wear empty holsters.