Josh from Iowa, who frequently comments on this Blog, has this to say:
In response to the news about the lawsuit filed by the owner of the AK-47 pistol, we may have to agree to disagree. I think this guy got exactly what he was asking for. Notice that I said “asking for.” I believe this guy went out with the intention and the hope of provoking a reaction from the public and a response from the authorities. Let’s not forget he was dressed in camouflage clothing. I imagine dressed in woodland camo with an AK-47 (pistol or not) slung across his body he looked more like an Afghan militia member than the upstanding, law-abiding citizen he will be portraying in court. Worth noting also is that he had painted the end of the barrel blaze orange, seemingly in an attempt to make it look like a harmless toy. At the very least I think that he demonstrated a lack of maturity and showed a sense of irresponsibility that law-abiding gun owners and gun rights activists should be ashamed of. This is not the image of gun owners I want popping into peoples’ minds when they pause to think about the second amendment.
Admittedly, whether or not he was trying to provoke a response from the authorities, and regardless of the fact that in doing so he may not have been acting in the most responsible and civilized way, it seems that nothing he did was illegal. Let’s examine that though. It seems that his weapon is legal by the slimmest of margins. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, section 479.11, defines a pistol as:
“A weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having (a) a chamber(s) as an integral part(s) of, or permanently aligned with, the bore(s); and (b) a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand and at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s).”
It seems to me that it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to argue that his weapon was originally designed as a rifle, not a pistol, and therefore does not meet the requirements to be classified as a pistol. I know this isn’t the case, but I think this weapons classification as a pistol is a bit shaky. I have yet to see one of these things being fired from one hand either; that certainly seems improbable, and certainly not how it was intended to be fired. Its legitimacy as a pistol is, I think, questionable to begin with.
All of that aside, let’s look at why he’s filed a lawsuit. I haven’t seen the actual lawsuit, but according to the story that was linked to, his civil rights were violated by, “detaining him on Dec. 20, 2009 without probable cause and for longer than was necessary to determine he was not committing a crime.” The officer acted in good faith while performing his duties in stopping him to determine whether he was acting within the law or not. As a combat veteran infantryman, I’ve spent enough time in Afghanistan to recognize an AK-47 (or its variants) when I see one. I certainly would not have thought this to be considered a pistol by any means. He had probable cause to detain him, that’s clear. To release him without verifying the legality of a weapon that does not appear to be a pistol would have been irresponsible on the part of authorities. The only real question seems to be whether or not he was detained for an unreasonable amount of time. It seems that will be left for a judge to decide. I’ll say this though, if I were the authorities detaining him, once I determined that it was technically a pistol, he would remain detained while I determined whether or not he violated any laws by painting the end of the barrel orange to make it look like an airsoft toy. I believe that’s illegal in some jurisdictions, and I think rightfully so.
In the end I think (and hope) that this case will be dismissed; nothing awarded to the plaintiff. I feel no sympathy for his predicament. I do, however, feel sorry for the fact that he must go through life operating with a sub-standard level of maturity, and am regretful that he feels compelled to act out in ways that bring negative attention to the firearm rights he purports to hold so dear.