Did armed Ohioan near Obama's plane really break law?
Man at N.C. airport had permit to carry gun, advocates note
Thursday, April 29, 2010 2:55 AM

By Josh Jarman


. . .


Many gun-rights advocates will concede that telling security officials you want to see the president while wearing a sidearm in the parking lot of an airport recently used by Air Force One is, well, not very smart.

But is it criminal?

Joseph Sean McVey, 23, of Athens, Ohio, was arrested in Asheville, N.C., on Sunday for doing that.

Some proponents of the right to carry guns wonder whether the incident wasn't an overreaction by law enforcement. They point to McVey's valid - at the time - concealed-carry permit and North Carolina's open-carry laws and ask what, exactly, he did wrong.

Jeff Garvas, founder and president of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, said the first thing he noticed about the story was how easily he could have been in McVey's shoes.

"I'm a ham-radio operator; the day this story broke, I had a camera in my car," Garvas said. "Looking at everything this guy did, none of it seems illegal."

Garvas said it would be easy for someone with McVey's interests to overhear details of a presidential motorcade on a police-band radio and decide to see it in person or watch Air Force One take off.

Airport safety officers said McVey's vehicle raised suspicions because it was outfitted with clear strobe lights, radio equipment and a camera mounted on the dash.

McVey is an amateur radio buff, weather enthusiast and traffic-safety volunteer. Jeff Augram, the airport's public-safety chief, acknowledged that McVey's hobbies explained many of the items in his car.

. . .

The charge that McVey faces - going armed to the terror of the public, or GATTTOTP, as it's known by open-carry advocates in North Carolina - is vague, critics say.

. . .

Not all gun enthusiasts see the incident as an open-carry issue, however.

John Pierce, a co-founder of, said. . .he has often openly carried his gun in Asheville without police batting an eyelash.

He said every state has some version of the statute, down to a simple disorderly-conduct charge, and police will use such laws to hold someone for questioning if there is a concern about the suspect's mental state, for example.

Still, Pierce is not convinced that McVey broke a law.

"The best phrase I can think of is that there was an overabundance of caution on behalf of law enforcement."