Barely Legal: Phillip Taylor’s Inappropriate Fight for the Second Amendment

Phillip Taylor does not believe he was creating a disturbance or being disorderly.

The 51-year old Orem resident, who was seen carrying an assault rifle and a handgun in the parking lot of University Mall on the morning of January 15th is being formerly charged with disorderly conduct.

Taylor told ABC 4 News that he was merely trying to test whether or not Utah’s “open carry” policy and his Second Amendment rights would be upheld by the powers that be.

As it turns out they were. Police arrived on the scene and ordered Taylor to drop his weapons. Upon compliance, Taylor was handcuffed. Officers checked the guns for ammunition and searched Taylor’s person, finding a large hunting knife. When it was determined that Taylor was carrying two unloaded firearms and was not directly threatening anyone, he was released from police custody. Mall security requested Taylor be escorted off the property. Formal charges against Taylor for disorderly conduct were levied against Taylor on Thursday, January 20th.

The State of Utah permits citizens to carry guns on their person under two conditions – that the gun is not concealed and that the gun is not loaded. Taylor was in compliance on both counts, and was therefore technically in compliance with the law.

However, the idea of a man in a leather jacket and a beret strutting around a crowded mall on a weekend morning, toting an assault rifle in full view does not exactly sit well with your common citizen. Despite Taylor’s claims to ABC 4 News that he was being nothing more than a simple pedestrian, the throng of citizens who flooded Orem Police Department with urgent calls and the police themselves do not denote the situation to be as benign as Taylor might.

“We wouldn’t cite him for just being a pedestrian,” says Sgt. Craig Martinez of the Orem Police Department. While officers on the scene may not have been able to arrest Taylor, Martinez said that it was the city attorney’s decision to file disorderly conduct charges against him. The infraction is punishable by up to $750 in fines with no possibility of jail time.

Much of the reason why Taylor’s actions caused such a panic is contextual. His appearance at University Mall was exactly one week after the shooting  of Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords at a Safeway grocery store in Tuscon. Closer to home, last August saw a fatal shootout between authorities and AWOL solider Brandon Barrett in downtown Salt Lake City.

Moreover, this is not the Taylor’s first experience with disorderly conduct. Twice before Taylor has been seen in different areas of Orem, brandishing unloaded weapons, flexing the proverbial muscles of his right to bear arms.

Incidents like Taylor’s raise important questions as to where one draws the line between law-abiding and menacing. Did Taylor have any live rounds in the weapons he was so prominently displaying? No. Is it legal for Taylor to openly carry the guns he did as long as they are not loaded?  Evidently, since he was not ever in police custody, yes. But does that make his actions acceptable? Not necessarily. Were Taylor to enter into the University Mall, guns not blazing but in plain sight, it is safe to bet that he could have caused a lot more hysteria he did. The sort of hysteria in which people get mowed down and seriously injured by other people haphazardly trying to escape to safety. Perhaps even someone else, in an attempt to pacify the situation, might have begun a weapon of his or her own, thereby seriously injuring either Taylor himself or an innocent bystander.  To wit: being within the confines of the law as written and being an irresponsible fool who strikes unnecessary panic in the hearts of his neighbors are not mutually exclusive terms.

Meanwhile, University Mall is doing their best to put the incident behind them and move forward.

“We think our security efforts are very strict, sufficient, and secure,” says Rob Kallas, the manager at University Mall. “This is evidenced by the fact that [Taylor] was intercepted before he entered the mall.”

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