Thursday, May 15, 2014

Open-Carry Advocates Spark Controversy in Medina

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 9:03 AM

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You can openly carry a gun in the state of Ohio. WE GET IT.

That should be the end of the discussion, which often leans heavily in favor of gun rights. OK. But some pro-gun “advocates” thought to drive the point home last week in fairly suburban Medina, where they posted up in historic Public Square to talk policy and flaunt AR rifles and other firearms.

And, yeah, they were on fine legal ground, as it happens, but the problems began when people dialed 9-1-1 in rapid succession - 10 times during the May 5 afternoon event alone. People were calling 9-1-1 because there were other people walking around historic Public Square with AR rifles. The visual is unsettling; the implications are harrowing. None of that has anything to do with Ohio’s open carry laws.

Medina police have caught flack for approaching these guys and asking for ID and generally trying to ascertain what in the world was going on. We’re certainly no police apologists here at Scene, but, wow, if there are guys strolling around Cleveland with firearms en masse, we would like to think an upstanding officer or two would touch base with them ever so briefly (hold the 137 bullets).

The broader problem with this whole thing is that literally no one is saying these people can’t own or carry their guns. In the realm of public demonstration, this is useless - and the ripple effect of armed civilians congregating and warding off police presence makes for a very alarming way of life in otherwise quiet Medina. Police Chief Pat Berarducci sounds weary when he addresses the concerns of this crowd and says that once an officer confirms all the right requirements are met, “We don’t care what you do.” Pretty simple, really.

The pushback from open-carriers comes from a perception that officers are treading on their rights by requesting ID. Sure, if a person is walking down the street and doing nothing more than humming the latest pop song, then of course there’s no legal basis for an officer to get all up in their grill. But the plain-view sight of a firearm prompts officers to request state ID - just to make sure and maybe even celebrate that such a person is following the law. It can be fun! It’s not a “reasonable suspicion” issue; it’s the simple fact that a machine created solely for the purpose of killing things is being introduced into a public setting. Which is fine, per Ohio law, as long as a diminishing list of requirements is met. Police are the people that society grants the ability to check out those reqs, however ill-begotten their methods most of the time.

“We take no issue with an officer responding, requesting ID or having a consensual encounter,” members of Northeast Ohio Carry say via a public statement. “We only take issue with the fact that the chief thinks that merely exercising a constitutionally protected right and carrying a firearm openly gives him reasonable articulable suspicion to force detainment and force ID. It does not.”

How articulable.

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The story has generated plenty of conversation in Medina. In Cleveland here, a question for both sides of the coin: Are intentional open-carry demonstrations effective as educational tools? What sort of reactions should be expected from police and non-carrying citizens?

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This story has been updated in response to inaccurate legal reporting.

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