Open-carry activist takes to the streets

Gun Rights
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  June 20, 2012

IN PLAIN VIEW Norman Hamann wore his Glock 19 on a recent afternoon in Monument Square.
On a recent sunny morning at Coffee By Design on Congress Street, Norman Hamann is well-armed. He's got a Glock 19 handgun in his hip holster (loaded with a 17-round magazine) and two additional 17-round clips strapped to his left side. Just like always.

It's enough to warrant a few raised eyebrows and a handful of double-takes, but no one hassles him. Nor should they, at least not under a legal pretense. Hamann, who is "a firm believer in following the law to a T," is well within his rights to walk around with a visible loaded handgun in the state of Maine (just not in a school zone).

Hamann, 27, grew up in Lyman, a woodsy town about 40 minutes southwest of Portland. He studied computer science for two years at the University of New Hampshire before tuition became too expensive, and he's currently unemployed and job-searching (having held various retail positions over recent years). He's a computer gamer, a sport-shooter, and a sandy-haired, outdoorsy type; his YouTube handle is boyscout399.

Over the past four years or so, Hamann has become something of a gun activist — though he claims to bear that label reluctantly. Since he started regularly carrying his gun in 2008, he's been stopped by law-enforcement officers about a dozen times for no reason other than the visible presence of a firearm. He's gotten a couple of these encounters on film or audio, and the recordings suggest that local police officers aren't quite sure of correct procedure when it comes to civilians and their guns. Hamann's goal is to fix that.

"I would say I am an activist," he admits. "But I don't want to be. I just want the police to leave me alone so I can go about my everyday life."

It all started in May 2008, when Hamann was walking around Back Cove with a holstered handgun in plain sight. (You do not need a permit to do this in Maine.) A group of passers-by called the police to report a man with a gun. Several squad cars arrived on the scene, and Hamann was approached and ordered to the ground by police officers who had their guns drawn. He was searched; the officers found three pocket knives (Hamann claimed he used them at work) — which they declared to be concealed weapons under state law. Hamann was arrested and spent six hours in Cumberland County Jail. The incident was reported by the local news media. He was suspended from his job at Staples. All because he was exercising his right to openly carry a firearm. The charges were ultimately dropped.

"It really opened my eyes," he says. "Prior to that, I thought cops knew the law." Hamann insists that the search was illegal. In some ways, Hamann says, his efforts are more about Fourth Amendment rights (which protect against unreasonable searches and seizures) than Second Amendment ones (which codify the right to keep and bear arms).

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Related: Does everyone feel safe?, Lock and load for gun control, Freedom to attend school, More more >
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