The following email was received from GCO Member, Jerry Strange detailing his dealings with the Department of Natural Resources concerning an encounter he had earlier in the year. This shows what strength we have as a group and as an individual if we decide to use that power properly. This is a very positive outcome due to Jerry’s due diligence.
During the third week of February, 2011, I was stopped and detained at Cloudland Canyon State Park to verify that I had a valid Weapons Carry License for my openly carried firearm.
During the encounter I was sitting at a picnic table, at my campsite, beside my campfire, getting ready to grill some steaks. My wife was sitting beside me, reading a magazine.
I was confronted by the Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Ranger on duty, and advised that he needed to verify that I had a valid Georgia Weapons Carry License for my firearm. During the discussion about the legalities of his action, he insisted several times that he was within his legal right and legal authority to stop and demand to verify that I had a license. He advised that his training had been that he needed no Probable Cause, nor any Reasonable Articulate Suspicion on order to stop and verify.
After showing my license, I had an opportunity to speak to the Head Park Ranger, and to the Assistant District Attorney of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit concerning the encounter. All the parties involved continued to tell me they were acting within their authority and that any visitors to a Georgia State Park would be subject to the same treatment.
Knowing this was not correct, I contacted GCO Leadership and explained the situation. After some guidance and a letter or two from John Monroe, it is my opinion that the Assistant District Attorney changed his opinion, but the Department of Natural Resources staff would not.
I exchanged several letters via USPS and e-mails with members of the command staff, and asked for explanations of their behavior and actions. At first I was, in my opinion, “pushed off” by the Department of Natural Resources. It appeared to me they did not want to, and would not, answer any questions concerning their policy of stopping law abiding citizens while in Georgia State Parks.
During the month of July, I received an e-mail from a Commissioner in the Department of Natural Resources staff, who promised to look into my encounter, and the reason I felt it was wrong. At this point I provided relevant legal info and case law concerning citizen stops.
On August 24, 2011, I received the Opinion, Interpretation, and Ruling packet from the Department of Natural Resources. This packet is being sent to all the Command Staff at the Department of Natural Resources, and is to be circulated to all the Law Enforcement Officials that work for the Department of Natural Resources.
I would sincerely like to thank the leadership of GCO for their guidance, and to the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources for his open mind and follow through.
I think this is a great outcome, and I look forward to seeing the policy set in motion.