PUBLISHED: Thursday, August 14, 2008
'Open carry' group to gather
Guns on hips, advocates to meet in Warren
By Norb Franz
Macomb Daily Staff Writer
Ron Gibson carries a semi-automatic pistol on his hip for anyone to see, and insists he's not out to intimidate.
Ron Gibson and his wife, Jennifer, talk to their neighbor, Diana Pussehl, right, Wednesday in Washington Township.
Macomb Daily staff photo by David Dalton
When he goes to bed, the .45 caliber firearm is nearby and loaded.
"Just because I'm carrying a gun, I shouldn't be viewed as a threat. I don't bring any attention to it whatsoever," he said.
Gibson is among about three dozen members of a gun rights group who will "pack" a picnic with their families Saturday afternoon in Warren.
They are part of a growing movement of advocates promoting the Second Amendment and the open carrying of handguns.
The group, members of OpenCarry.org, invites the public to stop by at Veterans Memorial Park, on Campbell at Martin Road, and ask questions or pick up a pamphlet.
But don't look for them to fire shots into the sky - or even take their weapons out of the holster.
It's the first public event in Macomb County for the gun proponents, following other gatherings around Michigan - the most recent in Hastings. None of the events has caused much of a stir, but still raised a few eyebrows.
"Our goal is to be educational without being confrontational," said Gibson, 38, of Washington Township.
Pat Glide, salesman at Michi-Gun in St. Clair Shores, said most customers are knowledgeable about Michigan's right-to-carry gun laws.
"We get asked questions on a daily basis," he said.
Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer said Wednesday his department is aware of Saturday's picnic.
"We don't believe there are going to be any problems. We feel they certainly have a right to do what they're doing," he said.
Still, Warren police plan to monitor it. Dispatchers have been advised about the picnic and how to handle any 911 calls. Dwyer refused to divulge details of an operational order he has issued for officers Saturday.
"Hopefully it will be a peaceful picnic," he added.
With Macomb County leading the way, Michigan's concealed weapons law was changed six years ago to require county gun boards - which previously could deny permits for virtually any reason - to issue a permit to any adult who passed a safety course and did not have a criminal record or mental illness.
Gun-owning motorists must remove the holster and store the firearm unloaded in the trunk or other place far from reach when behind the wheel. [I think reporter meant to state this rule for those without concealed carry permits from Michigan or their home state - Mike S.]
Michigan is among 44 states where it's legal to carry a weapon in public with a permit. If the guns are holstered, they must be in plain view at all times, and legally purchased. [The reporter is conflating rules for folks with and without permits to conceal. if you have a conceal permit, you can conceal the holstered handgun. - Mike S.] Anyone purchasing a pistol must be at least 18 years old and register it with their local police department.
Gibson said open-carry is not a form of machismo. He said some in law enforcement aren't knowledgeable about gun laws in their own respective states, occasionally leading to disputes with local officials. Members who are detained are usually released after police check with their municipal attorney.
"Here in my neighborhood, I open carry almost every day," said Gibson, who said he's been threatened with arrest.
Across the nation, gun rights advocates have gained new confidence from a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June that clarified that individuals have the right to keep guns in their homes for personal protection. The 5-4 decision overturned a 32-year-old handgun ban in Washington, D.C.
In a society where many people keep cellular phones and Blackberry units on their belt, the handgun on Gibson's hip usually doesn't stand out. Still, someone in a store occasionally will inquire if he's a cop. When he replies that he's "just an ordinary citizen," some will question why he feels the need to pack a pistol. His answer: to protect his family and practice his constitutional rights.
"A right unexercised is a right lost," the married father said. "I hope and pray I never have to fire that thing at anything but the paper target at the (gun) range. But if I feel my life is threatened or my family's life is threatened, then yeah."
Gibson, a deer hunter who said he owns "several" rifles and shotguns, recalls firing a 12-gauge shotgun at age 4 with his father's guidance. The owner of a computer business, Gibson said he doesn't open carry when meeting with customers because he considers it inappropriate to display his advocacy to customers.
OpenCarry.org members acknowledge that it might be unnerving for some in public to see a group openly toting handguns. With that, members try to combat what they describe as a stigma that gun owners are lawbreakers.
Founded in 2004 by Virginia residents Mike Stollenwerk and John Pierce, OpenCarry.org's Web site boasts more than 8,500 registered members and records 600,000 hits a month.