Since 2008, he's been stopped seven times in Portland, twice in Biddeford, and twice in Old Orchard Beach. Every time, the police cite calls from concerned citizens about the presence of a gun. But "a call doesn't justify a stop," Hamann points out. In order to be detained, without being free to leave at any point, officers "have to have reasonable suspicion of a crime."
That's why, on his recordings, one hears Hamann ask several times, "What crime am I accused of? What crime do you suspect me of?" The cops never have an answer.
The most recent recording is from earlier this year, when Hamann was stopped on the corner of Neal and Congress streets by Portland police officer Joshua McDonald.
"Officer McDonald claimed to have received calls that I was walking around with a holstered firearm," Hamann wrote in a subsequent email to Portland Police Department (PPD) chief Michael Sauschuck. "This is a legal activity in Maine. He stopped me, put on gloves, and removed my weapon from me. I told him I do not consent to any searches or seizures. He unloaded my firearm and before ejecting the round from the chamber, he pointed my loaded firearm at my legs. This is unacceptable behavior."
The letter goes on to cite several US Supreme Court and US district court decisions, including Terry v. Ohio, Delaware v. Prouse, and US v. DeBerry, to show that Hamann was illegally stopped, detained, and disarmed. According to Terry v. Ohio, for example, a police officer must be able to articulate reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before stopping and frisking an individual. (Hamann has taught himself all this case law.)
"Officer McDonald admitted that the only reason why he stopped me was because of my legally carried firearm," Hamann wrote. "I would like to point you to US v DeBerry from the 7th Circuit. In that ruling a federal judge said that a the presence of a firearm where legal to possess cannot by itself be reasonable suspicion of criminal activity."
In the video, Hamann requests to speak to McDonald's supervisor; when that supervisor arrives, he immediately tells Hamann he is free to go.
Sauschuck wrote Hamann a cursory reply, thanking him for bringing the matter to the PPD's attention. In a phone interview with the Phoenix, Sauschuck admitted that open-carry calls are often "complex" — requiring police officers to balance what some citizens consider to be "a very shocking sight" with the constitutional right to bear arms and the state right to do so in public without a permit (though a permit is required to carry a loaded weapon in a vehicle — even in plain sight). To be sure, Portland isn't the most inviting place to openly carry — two years ago, the city council passed a resolution calling on the state Legislature to allow municipalities to prohibit people from openly carrying firearms in public. (Hamann was present, handgun proudly displayed, to argue against the proposal.)
"It is commonplace for us to get multiple phone calls," when someone walks down the street openly carrying, Sauschuk says. "Officers respond to those situations and try to do the best that they can to find out what is going on."