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June 25, 2022

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Prosecutors planning to charge man in open-carry handgun case

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In a case being closely watched by open-carry gun advocates nationwide, the Vancouver City Attorney’s Office said Tuesday it plans to proceed with its case against a man who was ticketed March 19 for wearing an openly displayed pistol outside an Albertsons shopping center.

Kurk Kirby, 26, of Vancouver was carrying a total of 35 rounds — including those loaded in the holstered .45-caliber gun and in two magazine clips — when he was ticketed for the crime of unlawful display of a weapon.

A follow-up investigation into the incident initiated by the city attorney’s office led to the formal charges against Kirby, said Kevin McClure, a supervising prosecutor.

“We are going forward with the prosecution of the case,” McClure said.

A notice of appearance filed on behalf of Kirby by Vancouver attorney Christopher Dumm is effectively a not-guilty plea.

The trial against Kirby is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. May 12.

“Mr. Kirby and I are obviously disappointed by this decision,” said Dumm, who noted the case has received attention from open-carry advocates. “I’ll probably have to save my arguments for the courtroom.”

Dumm has advised Kirby not to discuss the case in which a conviction could carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Police say Kirby made no menacing statements or gestures to anyone while he was at the strip mall at 5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. He simply stood around near stores for 10 to 15 minutes before someone called 911, according to a Vancouver Police Department report.

Kirby told officers that he was within his rights to carry the gun, the report said.

“Washington is an open-carry state,” Dumm previously told The Columbian. “The police deserve my respect and they have it, but nobody is perfect and mistakes are made.”

The Vancouver police report says officers were called to the strip mall shortly after 4 p.m. March 19, because a store owner had watched Kirby standing around wearing his gun. The man told police he called 911 because he was concerned for his customers, including several small children.

Three officers approached the supermarket and saw Kirby outside, wearing a skin-tight T-shirt that didn’t cover the large holstered gun.

The report said the officers contacted him, and one took the gun and extra ammo magazines from him.

The Springfield Armory XP pistol had a round in its chamber and several more in the magazine snapped into its handle. More cartridges were in the two extra magazines, for a total of 35, the report said.

“I asked Kirby why he needed to ‘open carry,’ ” an officer reported. “He said he needed to in case he was attacked. I asked if he felt he was going to be attacked today, and he said ‘no’ but maybe tomorrow he would be,” the officer said.

Kirby’s wife, Dawn Kirby, walked up and told officers she was wearing a concealed gun and had a permit for it, the report said.

Checking computers for the minivan the Kirbys arrived in, officers learned that the pair had staged an open carry the day before at Westfield Vancouver mall, the report said. It said that security officers had escorted them from the mall and reported they had been “belligerent.”

After receiving a copy of the ticket, Kirby “said he did not understand what the ‘big deal’ was because he had gone to about 10 different stores in the last several months with his gun in plain view and no one had ever complained,” the report said.

Kirby didn’t mention being told to leave the mall the day before, police said.

Bob Albrecht: 360-735-4522 or bob.albrecht@columbian.com.

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