June 30, 2016

Mostly clear

Gun activist denies trying to stir up confrontation

An Ashland man who last year successfully challenged an Oberlin ordinance barring firearms in municipal parks said he and his wife weren’t attempting to provoke a confrontation by carrying firearms while walking by the Medina Police Department building Thursday afternoon.

Brian Kuzawa said he went to the police station to request copies of reports and other documents related to Monday’s encounter between police officers and two “open carry” activists.

Police had responded to 911 calls about the men, who were armed with a shotgun, an AR-15 assault rifle and a semi-automatic pistol.

After officers checked their IDs and determined the men were not underage or felons barred from having firearms, the men were allowed to continue.

Kuzawa said he and his wife, Janae, were not members of Northeast Ohio Carry, the group represented by the two men in Monday’s “open carry” walk on Public Square.

But he said he firmly believes he has the right to carry firearms openly.

Last summer, Kuzawa sparked controversy by emailing Oberlin Police Chief Tom Miller that he planned to carry firearm in a park, arguing that Ohio laws allow “open carry” of firearms in public places.

In response, Oberlin City Council amended its ordinance to allow firearms in city parks but also moved to pass a resolution asking the Ohio General Assembly to allow chartered cities to regulate firearms in their parks. The resolution was dropped after Ohioans for Concealed Carry and the Kuzawas filed a lawsuit.

Kuzawa said that on the trip to the Medina police station Thursday, both he and his wife wore holsters holding Ruger 40-caliber, semiautomatic pistols. He said Janae also carried a Hi-Point carbine slung on her back.

He also confirmed that he and his wife had brought their 3-year-old daughter in a stroller. He said his wife was wearing a carrier with their second daughter, who is a year old.

Kuzawa said that he left his handgun with his wife before he entered the police station.

A story in Friday’s Gazette reported Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci saying that the couple were seen walking along West Friendship Street in front of the police building but no action was needed. That was because — unlike Monday’s incident on the Square — 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.

Kuzawa said Berarducci was mistaken in “assuming that we were trying to have a confrontation.”

He said that raising his family around firearms is an integral part of who he and his wife are.

“It struck me as condescending that he said that,” Kuzawa said. “Police don’t have the duty of protecting individual citizens; their goal is to protect society as a whole.

“Carrying firearms is one way me and my wife provide for our family.”

After filing the open records requests at the police station, Kuzawa said he and his wife went to Public Square to play with their children.

Kuzawa said he has thought about using a firearm twice.

The first time was in Phoenix, where he and his wife were in a convenience store when a man in a hooded sweatshirt walked in.

“The man was really looking around at the register and saw me and my wife’s guns in our holsters and then walked out,” he said. “The clerk looked at me and my wife and thanked us because he felt that he was about to get robbed.”

The second time, a feral dog was acting menacingly toward his wife while she was pregnant with their second child on their property in Ashland.

“I did not end up having to shoot the dog,” he said.

Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or adavis@medina-gazette.com.

Andrew Davis About Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis covered Medina city government for The Gazette from January 2014 to May 2015. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.