Comments in an online forum that encouraged carriers of unconcealed firearms to attend Maplewood's Coffee Crawl on April 30 led the Maplewood City Council to draft an ordinance banning the practice known as "open carry."
Supporters of open carry planned to attend the event to show their support for Brett Darrow following an encounter at Walmart on March 12 where Darrow was arrested, according to comments in the forum.
In opencarry.org's forum, user Superlite27 made the suggestion:
"What better way to fulfill our mission of educating the public ... than to attend a function promoted by the very municipality that is a little foggy on it's own citizen's firearm rights?"
The post appeared as a Google alert for a city worker, which prompted her to pass the information to City Manager Marty Corcoran and Police Chief Steve Kruse on March 18.
Carrying an unconcealed gun—a practice often referred to as "open carry"—is legal* in Missouri unless it's outlawed by local ordinances.
The city immediately drafted such an ordinance and brought it before city council during its March 22 meeting in an effort to outlaw open carry before the Coffee Crawl. The ban received initial approval at that meeting but it will require a final approval during a April 12 meeting. Ordinances don't become effective until 15 days after passing through city council.
"There was a need based on the threat from the open carry people to disrupt the Coffee Crawl," Corcoran said in a phone interview. "This has nothing to do with the individual. This has everything to do with the issue of open carry."
City council members said very little during that March 22 public meeting, but records obtained by Maplewood-Brentwood Patch show that three council members debated the issue by e-mail ahead of the meeting.
On March 17, following Darrow's encounter at Walmart, Corcoran sought city council feedback by email. He wrote:
"Before I would put something like this on the Council agenda, which has the potential to create public controversy on both sides of the issue based on the response of the public and management of Walmart and on the other side the response by second amendment individuals, I want to get your input on the matter."
Council members Tim Dunn (Ward 2), Barry Greenberg (Ward 3) and Shawn Faulkingham (Ward 3) debated the ban through a string of emails on March 17.
Dunn, who was absent from the March 22 meeting, wrote, "I'm leaning to no open carry allowed," but added, "trust me, I'd rather not have conceal carry either, but I'm not sure banning open carry is helpful/better."
Faulkingham, who voted against the open carry ban, wrote:
"I'm not sure at this point where I stand exactly; however, if we do
look at an ordinance to prohibit open carry, I would want exemptions
for persons on private property that are not public. I don't want to
get a ticket for bringing in my guns from my car to my home.
But before we jump on the bandwagon of creating an ordinance, we have
been fine up to this point. It is only non-law-abiding citizens it
seems that have issues with this. What's the difference between this
and conceal and carry? What if he was cooperative? At least the police
and people knew that he was carrying one."
Finally, Greenberg challenged the previous two council members' points:
"Tim, If someone is going to use a gun for illegal purposes, I seriously doubt that they are going to openly carry a weapon to be in conformance with the law.
Shawn, My concern is that we would send a message (yes, it's a stretch) that it is OK to sit on your front porch or stand in your front yard and openly display a weapon. You could even it point it at someone with impunity. I wouldn't think that if you were transporting a gun from your car that a neighbor would not call the police, especially if it was in a case. I am all right to allow a weapon within a certain proximity to your residence if it is in a case and not exposed to view and not loaded with ammunition. If you want to clean it in your backyard, I am OK with that too.
I see way too many guns on TV and I don't want our kids thinking that brandishing a gun in public view is acceptable behavior in real life."
In a phone interview, Faulkingham told Maplewood-Brentwood Patch he wanted to discuss the potential ban during a council meeting or work session, but the idea wasn't supported by fellow council members.
"With something as contentious as open carry, I'd like to discuss it face to face before voting," he said.
Corcoran said he sent his email to city council to see if he should add the item to the council agenda. Council members rarely debate issues via email, he said.
"I wasn't looking for some eloquent debate. Obviously, there was some eloquent debate," Corcoran said. "Most of the time, that doesn't take place. That is not the norm."
*Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly outlined requirements for carrying an unconcealed firearm in Missouri. Maplewood-Brentwood Patch is sorry for the error.