So, had my first encounter with LEOs while armed today.
As is our custom, Mrs. JustaShooter and I attended the Stark County Fair today. As we frequently do, we were openly carrying, I with my XDs in a kydex OWB retention holster and she with her marsala (hot pink) Ruger LC9 in an OWB leather holster prominently displayed against her white outfit. We had enjoyed the fair for the better part of three hours and had several positive interactions with other fairgoers who weren't aware you could carry in the fair, etc. We even found a pink Stark County Sheriff vehicle for Mrs. JustaShooter to have her picture taken with!
We eventually settled in at the pavilion to take in a band we had enjoyed the past few years (the John Hampu Band, Classic Rock & Roll 60s–80s - decent band, but struggle with the venue and getting the board mix and volume right - but I digress...)
Part way into the second set as my wife re-joined me at our seats from dancing in front of the stage, something she enjoys - and is likely the source of the call that resulted in one of Stark County's Finest approaching her as she settled in the seat and asking her "is that real?" clearly referring to her sidearm. She answered it was (and leaned over to me to tell me she had thought of adding "... and so is his!" but decided against it), and we continued to take in the band, but not without noticing Officer Friendly had been joined by another Stark County Sheriff Deputy, and the pair were standing at the back of the pavilion observing us. Somewhat later, after a few more trips to dance a bit, she took some trash to the bin at the back of the pavilion and quickly returned and told me she had been asked by one of the deputies to take her gun and lock it up in the car (!).
I then approached the pair of deputies (noticing that Officer Friendly was not there) to see what was up. I asked if there was a problem, at which point they were re-joined by Officer Friendly. Up until this point I'm not even sure they realized I was openly carrying as well, as I had my holster at about 4:00 or a bit past because my width with holster didn't work well in the pavilion seats and the angle I approached them would have likely prevented them from seeing my holster. But I'm pretty sure Officer Friendly would have noticed given his direction of approach.
In any case, cue blather about not taking away your rights but surely you understand with the place we are with kids and people and blah blah blah I just asked her if she would consider taking her gun and locking it up in the car blah blah blah. I reply that we are just here to enjoy the band, and when the set is over, we were planning on leaving. Cue story about guy who was openly carrying in the grandstand earlier and how people were concerned, etc. etc, he agreed to leave because he didn't want to upset people, and surely you can understand... I respond that I agree that I don't want to upset people, but it is our right to carry, and that right is guaranteed by the Ohio constitution, and I don't see people getting upset, and all we want to do is finish listening to the band and then we are leaving. Somewhere in here, deputy #4 arrives (who couldn't *possibly* have missed that I'm also openly carrying.) Round and round she goes, after a couple more iterations and variations on this theme, I finally decide I'm done and tell them I'd like to go back and sit down and enjoy the rest of this set - is that going to be OK guys? They make noises in the affirmative and I return to my seat and have my wife join me for the remaining songs in the set.
During the remaining time we spent listening to the band, we noticed we had a cheering section at the back of the pavilion - all four of Stark County's Finest had remained to observe. As the set finished and we headed off to pick up a custom airbrushed t-shirt my wife had commissioned (pointedly *not* in the direction of the fairground exit), we thought they were going to be escorting us around the fair for the remainder of our stay - but alas, as we made the turn to the airbrush artist stand, they went elsewhere. We then left the fair without further incident - although I was fully expecting them or some of their friends to magically appear at some point after we had gotten in the car "just to check up on us" or some other pretext to see if we notified... But I was to be disappointed. Oh well! lol
Some things I learned:
As often as I have practiced this sort of encounter in my head, my heart was pounding. I think I did OK all the same, but not great - maybe not even "good", depending on how you look at it. I certainly have room for improvement.
It completely left my mind to get names, etc. for followup. Ugh.
I need to practice some additional responses, especially to the "people get alarmed" / "people get concerned" types of statements. I don't think I handled that particular one well.
Having a loud rock and roll band playing 75' behind you makes it *really* hard to understand what everyone is saying when you play back the recording afterward to evaluate yourself.
I *really* should have cut the encounter shorter than I did once it became clear they were in "strongly suggesting that we leave and disarm" mode rather than "ordering us to leave and disarm" mode, or even "you are being detained" mode. I spoke with them for nearly 5 minutes before breaking it off. Sigh.
It's pretty clear they did *not* like having a couple of mere citizens disregard their strongly-worded suggestion.
LEOs really don't like open carry, do they? I can't think of a single one I've talked to that does. One of the things they said was that unless they are in uniform, they conceal, and of course the implication is I should too - god forbid I disturb the sheep...
Anyway, I'm going to replay the audio a few more times to see what else I can learn. I don't suppose anyone knows how to clean up background noise in the form of loud music from an audio recording?