Shooting instructors and gun owners weighed in Thursday on open carry encounters, such as occurred Monday on Medina’s Public Square.
Several criticized how the gun rights activists promoted their cause.
On Monday, police stopped two men, one carrying an AR-15 rifle and the other a handgun, after residents placed several 911 calls.
“I believe you have a right to carry firearms, but I also believe we have a responsibility not to incite panic,” said Will Evans, president and CEO of American Tactical Concepts in Wadsworth.
Evans’ company manufactures weapons and designs specialty firearms. He said he and his company are proud members of the National Rifle Association — his business serves as a recruitment center — and he offers concealed carry classes.
Evans said a concealed carry permit is the safest way to a carry weapon in public.
“If you’re not a felon and you’re over 21, it’s not hard to get a CCW permit and that’s the way to do it,” he said.
Evans said he’s not opposed to the right of Ohioans to openly carry guns, but gun owners have a responsibility to educate the public, and open carry demonstrations have the opposite effect.
“Most people who are gun owners would like to sit you down and talk to you about guns, and help make sure you understand them, not cram it down your throat,” he said.
John Cerne, a concealed carry instructor with American Tactical Concepts agreed, and said guns should be used as a tool and not for intimidation.
“I think they’re doing it for the wrong reasons, just to prove some point,” Cerne said. “The state law says you can open carry in Ohio, but there are charges you can be hit with like inciting panic or other charges.”
Cerne said walking through public areas with firearms is looking for trouble.
“You use a gun like a tool; it’s there if you need it,” he said. “You’re not trying to intimidate people or prove some ridiculous point.”
He cited police officers who openly carry a handgun every day as an example of how to openly carry a firearm.
“It’s a tool. They keep it in their holster. They’re not taking it out and flashing it around,” he said.
Another concealed carry instructor, Michael Diturno, of Medina, said openly carrying weapons to attract attention does a disservice to the gun owners who are working to gain more acceptance for gun ownership and rights.
“They have the right, but what’s their point,” he said. “You’re only going to bring negative attention.”
Diturno, who isn’t teaching any classes this year, said concealed carry courses include 12 hours of training and two hours of range shooting. A background check is required before concealed carry permits are issued.
“One of the largest parts of my program is gun safety,” he said. “We spend a lot of time on the safe handling of guns and ammunition and how to properly shoot.”
Diturno said he understands why local residents called police when they saw armed men walking around Medina’s Public Square.
“I just question the need for that sort of attention given the sensitivity that anyone would have,” he said.
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.