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Federal judge dismisses open-carry advocates’ case against Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

A federal judge has ruled against a man who was demonstrating his right to openly carry a gun in a Grand Rapids neighborhood.

One Sunday morning last year, Johann Deffert decided to exercise his free speech rights. He put on some camouflage pants, put his tactical pistol in its holster, and started walking around a neighborhood.

Someone called 9-1-1.

Police who arrived on scene worried about his mental state when they observed Deffert loudly singing “Hakuna Matata.” They checked him out, and then let him go. He was not charged with a crime.

Deffert sued, claiming police violated his civil rights.

This week a federal judge disagreed, saying police acted reasonably given the information they had.

Deffert's attorney says it's not clear if he'll appeal the ruling yet.

The Deffert case had become part of a rallying cry for open-carry advocates in Grand Rapids. They repeatedly attended meetings at City Hall and urged the city to repeal a local law that prohibits carrying firearms in public places.

The city’s attorney says the city doesn’t enforce that provision.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.