Incidents with guns at metro stores raise questions about open carry laws

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two incidents involving guns at Walmart stores in the metro this weekend are raising new questions and concerns about open carry laws.

In both Missouri and Kansas, you can carry a gun openly in most places without a permit. But how you carry can make all the difference in whether you're following the law.

On Sunday afternoon two men tucked guns into their waistband as they entered a Northland Walmart. Then on Sunday night, a man ran through a Bonner Springs Walmart parking lot with a gun. Both drew police response.

Many witnesses assumed the worst.

"It makes me a little nervous given the fact that they had all these Walmart shootings," Marya Smith said.

In the Bonner Springs case, police arrested a suspect for stealing a gun during a private sale.

In Kansas City, there were no arrests and no charges, as the two men had concealed weapon permits and did nothing wrong.

Nonetheless, police said they do want you to call if you have concerns when you see someone with a gun.

"You never know what might be prevented by a good community member being alert to their surroundings, seeing what's going on, then notifying us if something seems out of place," KCPD Sgt. Jake Becchina said.

But in most cases, carrying a weapon is perfectly legal.

Kansas City, Missouri, ordinance allows businesses to post specific signs to ban weapons. Certain individuals are also prohibiting from opening firearms.

The open or concealed carry of a gun, or any weapon, only becomes a problem if it is misused.

"This wouldn't be threatening, walking through with pocket knife or my gun in holster on my hip, being responsible with it, not threatening anybody with it," said Susan Hutchcraft. owner and instructor with Not A Victim Firearms & Personal Safety Training.

Hutchcraft is a police officer and teaches self-defense and firearms classes.

Although she often open carries for work, she knows where to draw the line. She said personally, she wouldn't choose to open carry her rifle, especially with body armor and ammo.

"Not saying that means I'm threatening anybody or have any bad intentions, but you're giving people reason to be concerned about what you're up to," Hutchcraft said.

Using a gun in a "threatening manner" is considered illegal. That's why prosecutors criminally charged a man who filmed himself walking through a Springfield Walmart in body armor and carrying a rifle.

"We take into consideration the totality of circumstances. If there was just a mass shooting somewhere, and you are in some ways mimicking that, drawing attention to yourself, creating some kind of disruption -- that's going to get a lot more calls to the police," Hutchcraft said.

That's one reason Hutchcraft encourages gun owners to conceal and not open carry. And she thinks anyone with guns can benefit from a training class to make sure they have a good understanding of their personal liabilities and know how to avoid getting into trouble.

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