Beaver man who brought gun to Obama rally acquitted
Saturday, July 18, 2009
By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Beaver County judge yesterday said the actions of a man who brought a gun to an Obama rally last year were "foolish." But they weren't criminal.

Both a jury and Common Pleas Judge Harry E. Knafelc decided that John Noble, 51, of Industry, broke no law when he strapped on a holster carrying a Glock pistol and went to an Aug. 29 campaign event in a park across from the Beaver County Courthouse.

The jury, after deliberating over parts of two days, said Mr. Noble was innocent of the charge of disrupting a public gathering. Judge Knafelc separately found Mr. Noble not guilty of a summary charge of disorderly conduct in the same incident.

"In my lifetime, there have been a number of assassinations of presidents and presidential candidates. A number of presidents were shot at. I'm very cognizant of that," the judge said in a phone interview after yesterday's decision. "The defendant's actions were very foolish. But not all foolish actions are criminal acts."

It is legal to carry an unconcealed weapon in Pennsylvania, but a state trooper at the rally charged Mr. Noble after someone alerted authorities about the pistol.

"We're talking about heightened security," Judge Knafelc said. "The police did nothing wrong."

Mr. Noble testified that had gone to the rally to hand out pro-gun pamphlets as a "very quiet protest" against President Barack Obama's comments in San Francisco during the presidential campaign that Pennsylvanians "cling to guns or religion."

After his acquittal yesterday, Mr. Noble told KDKA that he didn't take offense at Judge Knafelc's description of his actions as foolish.

"That's the judge's opinion," he said. "I think he ruled on the law and that's the way it should have been."

"God is good," said his wife, Janet Noble. "Our constitution stands."

Mr. Noble's trial attracted others who support gun rights -- several of them checked their arms at the door of the Beaver County Courthouse before entering to watch the proceeding.

"The action by the Pennsylvania State Police and Beaver County prosecutor to bring criminal prosecution ... can only be described as an abortion of justice," the group said in a statement yesterday.

Some postings on the organization's Web site called for advocates to demonstrate solidarity with Mr. Noble by openly carrying guns in Downtown Pittsburgh during September's G-20 summit of world leaders.

Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at or 412-263-1183.
First published on July 18, 2009 at 12:00 am