Cleanup crew is armed and helpful
Published: Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A group of residents who support openly carrying firearms held a cleanup effort at Bicentennial Park in Plymouth Meeting April 3, hoping to benefit the community and spread information about their philosophy at the same time.

From 1 to 5:30 p.m., about 17 firearms owners — some wearing their guns on their hips — picked up litter at the township park and held a group picnic.

“We went around with trash bags and cleaned up a good part of the park,” said George Donnelly, who organized the cleanup.

The event in Plymouth Meeting was one of several across the country organized by people who support open carry in an effort to give back to the community and spread awareness about their cause.

“There have been a lot of these events,” Donnelly said. “The idea was percolating among a bunch of us.”

. . .

The specific issue all of the attendees are concerned about is the right to carry firearms openly.

“One goal is to let the public know that just because folks carry a pistol doesn’t mean that they’re bad folks or have bad intentions,” Donnelly said. “We’re regular people; we have regular jobs and families. It was to soften the image a little of firearm owners, to show we have something positive to contribute.”

While no one came out to the event with questions about open carry, the group was ready to answer questions members of the public may have about the policy, according to Donnelly.

“Open carry is just the practice of openly carrying a firearm, usually a pistol, openly and securely,” Donnelly said. “There have been a few controversies, a few incidents when police have hassled people about it even though it’s legal, including in the state of Pennsylvania.”

Open carry involves an individual carrying a firearm in public in a manner so that it can be seen by others, as opposed to concealed carry, in which the firearm is not visible.

Under Pennsylvania law, firearms owners do not need a permit for open carry, while they do for concealed carry, according to the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association Web site. The two exceptions are open carry without a permit is not allowed in Philadelphia or in a vehicle, according to the Web site.

Those who support open carry do so for several reasons, including the practice being “a visible deterrent to crime,” “a form of legal civil protest of unconstitutional firearms laws” and “a form of firearms community diplomacy,” according to a press release for the event.

“It’s a normal thing. It used to be the mark of a free man,” Donnelly said. “I carry just as a part of my do-it-yourself lifestyle, for the same reason I like to brew my own beer or grow my own vegetables or fix my own car and provide for my own security.”