Andrew Davis and David Knox | The Gazette
Northeast Ohio Carry, the statewide group affiliated with two men who openly carried firearms while walking around Public Square, is planning a larger open carry walk in Medina on June 21.
President of Ohio Carry, Brett Pucillo, said that open carry walks only are intended for educational purposes and not to frighten residents of the communities in which they are held.
Pucillo said between 20 and 60 people usually attend these walks.
“Our goal obviously is to work with the law director and the (police) chief to work this out by then,” he said.
In Monday’s encounter, Medina police officers responding to 911 calls stopped James Purdy, 25, of Brunswick, and Micah Butcher, 25, of Grafton, and asked for IDs to ensure they were not underage or felons barred from having firearms.
After initially refusing, the men handed over their driver’s licenses after an officer demanded they drop their weapons if they failed to provide IDs. The men were allowed to continue their walk after the checks came back clear.
Pucillo said Ohio law does not require the men to produce IDs and called for the larger walk in Medina to make that point.
“If I have not been accused of a crime or suspected of a crime under reasonable suspicion, you would never see me turn over my ID,” he said.
Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the police acted properly in Monday’s encounter.
“Officers are required to investigate when people call 911,” he said. “We have a duty to respond.”
The mayor stressed that each situation is different and officers will take that into consideration.
“Whether they ask for IDs or just personal information is up to the individual officers,” he said. “We’ll handle each situation on a case-by-case basis.”
An example of how police respond can vary came Thursday afternoon outside the Medina Police Department building.
Police Chief Patrick Berarducci said a man with a handgun on his hip and woman with a long gun over her back and handgun on her belt with a child in a stroller were seen walking along West Friendship Street in front of the police building.
But unlike Monday’s incident on the square when police received 10 calls from frightened residents, this time there were no 911 calls.
“We didn’t get any calls on it so we didn’t do anything about it,” Berarducci said.
But the police chief criticized the couple for bringing a child with them.
“Why would you try to set up a confrontation and bring a child,” he said. “That to me is ludicrous.”
Pucillo said Thursday’s walk involving the couple, as well as the one involving Purdy and Butcher Monday, was not sponsored by Ohio Carry.
The Gazette was unable to contact Purdy through Facebook, telephone and email.
But Butcher did respond. He said people shouldn’t be afraid to see firearms in public because the Constitution gives people the right to have them.
“We’re not trying to put the law in our own hands,” Butcher said. “We open carry to have something there to make a dangerous situation safer until the cops do get there.”
Asked if the weapons they carried were loaded, Butcher said the shotgun he carried was unloaded but there was ammunition in the magazines of the AR-15 assault rifle and semi-automatic pistol carried by Purdy.
“When we do these walks, we never have a bullet in the chamber,” Butcher said. “If we are walking, we have the guns in a way that is safe for other people.”
Pucillo said that he never carries a long gun with him in public unless he is using it for a demonstration walk. But he said the holstered double-action revolver he routinely carries always is loaded with one round in the chamber.
Pucillo also said that these types of revolvers have no external safety but require a sufficiently hard trigger pull and have an internal safety that prevents it from firing if it is dropped.
Butcher said that people who feel threatened by the presence of open carry advocates need not be alarmed and that the group generally is mindful of the wishes of other people.
“If they are intimidated, we would probably go to another area, but we would reassure them that we are no trying to harm anyone,” he said. “We are trying to decrease the fear and make it normal.”