Victory for California gun rights advocates, but the fight continues
By Martin Hill
July 28, 2012

There was recently a victory for 2nd Amendment advocates which didn't make big news among the national liberty movement, but it should definitely be acknowledged and used as a model for others. The city of Upland, California, located just east of the Los Angeles County line, settled a lawsuit in May with open-carry gun rights activists Christopher Hacopian and Scott Gibb, who had sued the city after being illegally detained by police. [The original article with full details of the Upland case appears below].

On May 19th, a local newspaper reported that the city of Upland settled the lawsuit with the two men for $37,500. The city manager was quoted as saying "It was going to be more costly to fight it."

A new law, which forbids the open carry of handguns in California, went into effect January 1, 2012. Open carry of rifles and shotguns is still legal in the state. Governor Jerry Brown signed the open-carry ban in October 2011 along with Assembly Bill 809, which allows the state to retain info on buyers of rifles and shotguns. Brown wrote, "Anytime someone purchases a firearm in California, whether a long gun or handgun, their personal information is sent to the Department of Justice for a criminal background check. While purchaser information on handguns is retained, purchaser information on long guns is destroyed. Since the state already retains handgun purchaser information, I see no reason why the state should not also retain information pertaining to the sale of long guns."

Jonathan Birdt, attorney for the plantiffs in the Upland case, is himself currently a plantiff in a federal civil lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department regarding his right to obtain a concealed carry permit. In his statement, Birdt writes "Appellant does not challenge California's statutory scheme of requiring a permit before a resident can exercise their Second Amendment rights outside of the home. Appellant does challenge Appellees' interpretation of the "good cause" requirement of that permit scheme as requiring evidence of a clear and present danger before they will issue a permit. Appellees denied Appellant's requests for a permit because he had not demonstrated a clear and present danger to his life, this standard is so draconian and arbitrary it precludes virtually anyone from gaining the statutory permit in Los Angeles."

Birdt also quotes testimony from the deposition of an LAPD designated witness, who defended the strict concealed carry parameters: "If we make the policy any less strict, the vast majority of the people in Los Angeles would have or would qualify for CCW, and would put more guns on the street and lead to more gun violence, and the fear of the gun violence." Birdt's brief concluded "As a benchmark we often refer to those bastions of fundamental rights embodied in the freedom of speech or religion, but somehow pay only passing lip service to something right in between, the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, a fundamental right no less trivial than the right to free speech or religion."

Christopher Hacopian, one of the plantiffs in the successful Upland case, has since run into additional problems while exercising his right to open carry. In December 2011, Hacopian and another person had a dramatic encounter with Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies in Lomita who pulled and aimed their guns at him in his vehicle. He posted a very dramatic photo of the scene on his facebook page, but has not released the video, stating "I got it all on video. But can't publish it or go into details. All I'm gonna say LASD is worse than Denzel Washington in Training Day. They set us up !!!!!!!!!!"

In a subsequent series of facebook postings on December 2, 2011, Hacopian promised it was the "Best OC (open carry) video guaranteed! We have severely injured, illegally searched, detained, attested, OCers. LASD set us up and F'ed us...And obstructed evidence..." His lawyer Jon Birdt replied to the facebook posting, encouraging Hacopian to publish the video: "Publish it! They deserve the ridicule. A gun is not a crime, but false imprisonment and brandishing deputy dumb fuck should be arrested."

Hacopian responded "I respectfully refuse to publish the video because the other person in the video asked me not to. I am morally obligated to." He continued posting some additional details about the incident in Lomita, stating "This is what happens when you inform that you will be lawfully OCing. Thanks for proving my point LASD... It's good to know that friends find you so valuable that they want you stay. But with Upland police officers with a history of stalking, assaulting, on duty his mistress. And new LASD issues? Holly shit they set us up!! I at least owe it to my future kids a "politically decent" place to grow up... And Ontario police openly intimidates me too? F'en bastards...For this specific incident we gave the local PD a heads up, We called them that we would be doing this. Then they have a local, larger department pull us over. They set us up. Then without probable cause they searched, battered, and injured us. No to mention destroy and tamper with evidence used against us. "

Hacopian, Gibbs, and Birdt should be heartily commended for their tireless defense of our God-given freedoms. Keep up the great work, guys. Below are the videos and full details of the original interaction between Upland Police and the two gun-rights activists which resulted in the payoff.

Martin Hill is a Catholic paleoconservative and civil rights advocate. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, The Orange County Register, KNBC4 TV Los Angeles, The Press Enterprise,,,,, Economic Policy Journal, FreedomsPhoenix, Haaretz, TMZ, Veterans Today, Jonathan Turley blog, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, National Motorists Association,,, WorldNetDaily,,, Dr. Kevin Barrett's Truth Jihad radio show,, Pasadena Weekly,, Los Angeles Catholic Lay Mission Newspaper, KFI AM 640,, Redlands Daily Facts, BlackBoxVoting, The Michael Badnarik Show, The Wayne Madsen Report,,, The Contra Costa Times, Pasadena Star News, Silicon Valley Mercury News, Long Beach Press Telegram, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, L.A. Harbor Daily Breeze,,,, Whittier Daily News, KCLA FM Hollywood, The Fullerton Observer,, From The Trenches World Report, and many others. Archives can be found at and DontWakeMeUp.Org.

Excerpt From "People are fighting back- Two Southern California cities sued for Constitutional violations" 3/9/12

The other lawsuit is a very interesting case out of Upland, Ca regarding the right to open carry firearms. Unfortunately, the State of California passed a law prohibiting open carry of handguns in the state late last year, but this July 2011 incident occurred prior to the law being passed. [See our Jan. 2011 article Calif. Rep seeking open carry gun ban just returned from Israeli political trip for details on California Democratic Assembly Representative Anthony J. Portantino, [44th District] who introduced the open-carry ban bill AB144.]

Two open-carry activists, Christopher Hacopian of Ontario and Scott Gibb of Adelanto, filed a federal lawsuit last year alleging the city violated the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Amendments by illegally detaining, searching them and recording their firearm serial numbers. The city offered to settle the lawsuit for $100,000 but the plantiffs refused. The Victorville Daily Press reports that "The jury trial is set for July 17 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles". The two plantiffs are represented by attorney Jonathan Birdt.

The two men had holstered weapons and were passing out informational leaflets about open-carry at the Crossroads Colonies Shopping center, located at the 210 Freeway and Campus Avenue in Upland. People at a jewelry store in the center, which had been the target of an armed robbery in the past, were reportedly frightened at the site of men with guns and called police. Police initially put the men in handcuffs on the ground and detained them for over 15 minutes.

Immediately following the incident in response to public outcry, the acting Chief of Police of Upland Jeff Mendenhall issued a statement acknowledging that the two open-carry advocates had broken no law and that "officers made mistakes during this contact and the incident could have been handled better". He also noted "when Command Staff became aware of the call and how it was handled, immediate steps were taken to ensure all officers received refresher training".

Hacopian, a staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution who served in the U.S. Marines, posted a link about the civil rights lawsuit on his facebook page, noting "This is gonna be fun".

Hacopian has been in the news before, when he thwarted a late-night robbery at a Denny's restaurant. in Ontario, CA. Yih-Chau Chang, the Oakland Gun Rights Examiner noted in his article about the incident that the "Ontario Police Department was only willing to release the case number--110501713" regarding the robbery and not the actual report, despite repeated requests for the public records.

Video footage of the original Upland incident was recorded by Hacopian and is on youtube in two parts:

Upland PD 1 of 2 (currently 7,301 views)

The video subtitles contain information about one of the officers listed in the complaint, stating "This link is a court case of Sgt Berry Belt was Stalking, Harassing, SEXUALLY ASSAULTING and Violating a restraining order while on duty (his MISTRESS) !!!!! Why is he still a Police officer?

Part 2 of the original incident was uploaded by another youtube user "fknblshyt" on Feb 20, 2012, and currently has 894 views. This is a must-see, outrageous video which should have millions of views, not 800. The Upland police officer originally turned off Hacopian's video camera before he got it back and resumed recording.

A third video, Upland PD's audio recordings, includes 5 downloadable links to audio of the original incident.

The detainment of the two gun-rights activists also starkly raised the issue of the public's right to film police.

The contentious interaction includes officers saying things such as "don't play games with me" and "what part of this don't you understand", while an indignant Hacopian relentlessly defends his rights and demands his firearm back.

Despite the fact that their own Chief later admitted that they were wrong and needed retraining on the matter, Upland officers at the time insisted "knuckleheads ruin open carry policy", that the two men were "not cooperating", and "there are certain rules you need to follow". In part two of the video, Officer Duran states "instead of walking by a store that recently got robbed at gunpoint by three men,...somebody's gonna misinterpret what you're doing. How about you do it in a productive manner..."

At one point, Hacopian states, "YOU HAVE ILLEGALLY DETAINED ME, searched my firearm serial number.." and reiterates that the police turned off his videocam. The Supervising officer eventually comes to return the gun to Hacopian, who is cautiously reluctant to take it in his hand while the officers stand by.

Scott Gibb, the 2nd man detained in the Upland incident, is founder and president of the Open Carry Club. At the end of the video after being released by officers, he reiterates the right of the public to film police officers while they do their job and states "these officers have violated many rights and they will hopefully be reprimanded for it."

Officer Duran, who is featured prominently in the video, makes an astonisihing admission upon questioning to Hacopian, stating "No, I don't believe in transparency of government".

The following is a partial transcript of some of the must-see bantering that occured between the police and the detained men.

Hacopian: "You shut this off. Why? Are you trying to hide something?"

Officer Duran states "I'm not hiding I have a recorder going." He then says "I am... (points to his chest for emphasis and begins again) I am legally allowed to tape, you can't when we are in the middle of an investigation."

Hacopian: "I am legally not?? What is the penal code that states I cannot tape you?"

The officer does not reply, and Hacopian asks

"Do you believe in the transparency of government?" to which officer Duran astonishly states

"No, I don't believe in transparency of government".

H: Well then you shouldn't be an American.

Cop: Well.

Cop: You're a prime example of what we deal with

H: And you shut off my recording device why? Because youre trying to hide something.

Other cop: You're free to go. Thank you.