Attendees at Ann Arbor picnic pack more than their lunches
by Tom Gantert | The Ann Arbor News
Monday October 13, 2008, 7:11 AM
Eliyahu Gurfinkel | The Ann Arbor NewsRandy Graham of Burton tends to the grill while wearing his Glock handgun at a picnic at Wheeler Park in Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon. The picnic was hosted by proponents of the open carrying of firearms.
In many ways, it was a typical picnic on a beautiful Sunday in an Ann Arbor park - hot dogs, potato chips and hamburgers.
Except for the fact it was BYOG.
That's BYOG as in bring your own gun.
For Julian Lizzio, a 21-year-old University of Michigan student, that meant packing a nickel-plated Colt .38-caliber pistol.
Lizzio helped organize a rally for about 50 people at Wheeler Park at Sunday at 1 p.m. in favor of exercising their legal right to openly wear a firearm in public. About 20 people wore weapons in holsters. In Michigan, it's legal to carry a loaded pistol openly, but a concealed weapons permit is needed to carry a gun that's hidden.
Eliyahu Gurfinkel | Ann Arbor NewsJulian Lizzio, a University of Michigan senior, talks to a reporter during a picnic at Ann Arbor 's Wheeler Park that he helped organize to promote the open carrying of handguns.
"When people say, 'Why do you carry a gun?' I'm a little speechless," Lizzio said. "Why wouldn't you?"
Sgt. Ed Stuck said Ann Arbor police received one call Sunday from a citizen reporting there were people in Wheeler Park with guns.
Stuck said the city attorney's office ruled that it is legal to have a weapon in a holster in the open. Many of the advocates Sunday refused to take their weapon out of their holster when asked.
"The only time you draw that weapon out in public is if you use it," said Brian Jeffs of Bath. "That's why you won't see anyone handling their gun."
Doug Holloway made the trip to Wheeler Park from his home in Westland. Most of the people who attended were members of the OpenCarry.org, a national organization formed in 2004, to promote the right to carry a gun in the open.
Holloway said he carries his Sig Sauer 4SW handgun for protection.
When asked when he felt threatened enough to need a gun, Holloway said last winter when a man was "aggressively" approaching him outside a party store.
"He asked me for change and he kept getting closer and closer," said Holloway, who was unarmed at the time. "He had his hands down by his side. I just told him to back up and stay away. He backed up."
Holloway said if he had been openly carrying his handgun, the man never would have approached him.
Lizzio said he was caught weaponless two years ago in Ann Arbor when he was chased by a drunken homeless person waving a broken bottle.
"Muggers can say, 'This looks a little riskier than I would like,'" he said.
Lizzio says he does not carry his gun to school, but feels his group would win in court if he challenged U-M over its ban on carrying weapons.
Jeffs has been a regular at the gun picnics since they started in Brighton last December. He said four people showed up openly armed at the McDonalds in Brighton and "never had a problem."
But the open gun advocates have their tales of harassment.
Jeffs said he was kicked out of Barnes and Noble in East Lansing on Saturday for openly carrying his .357 Magnum revolver at a Ted Nugent book signing. Jeffs said he demanded a refund for Nugent's book.
Jeffs said he thinks he could go his whole life without needing a firearm for protection. He carries it because it is his right. "I'm sick and tired of being told what to do by a police state," Jeffs said.
Sometimes it is the police. Other times, it is just business owners, as Lizzio found out Sunday before the picnic.
Lizzio went into Main Street Party Store to buy items for the picnic wearing his gun on his hip.
The manager told him not to do it anymore.
Dave Breher, manager at Main Street Party Store, said he'd rather give up the money if an armed robber came into the store than risk a gunfight happening in his store.
"It makes me uncomfortable," Breher said. "Why would anyone carry a firearm except to use it?"
"But you got to remember," Lizzio said. "No guns. No money. ... And I spend a lot of money there." When Breher was told he could lose a gun-toting customer, he said, "That's fine."
Tom Gantert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-994-6701.