An organization that advocates openly carrying firearms will not meet today at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit as announced earlier this week, but still plans to hold a demonstration walk through Medina’s retail business district.
Nicole Frame, president of the Northeast chapter of Ohio Carry, said she received a call from the North Court Street restaurant’s manager early Thursday afternoon telling her the group couldn’t meet there.
The group had said it would begin its 1 p.m. walk at Dickey’s parking lot, and then return to the restaurant afterward for a monthly meeting.
“They’re kind of in a position where their hands are tied,” Frame said. “Apparently, there’s been quite a number of phone calls and people stopping in to complain.”
Dickey’s general manager Tony Raad said he respects Ohio Carry’s opinions, but the company’s owner, Dr. Anthony Salem, didn’t want it happening at his business.
Raad said Ohio Carry had met there last month, but he didn’t know it was against Salem’s wishes until the phone calls started coming in from concerned customers on Thursday.
“They’ve got to understand that people may not like to see that when they come here,” he said. “And they did seem to understand.”
Salem did not return a call for comment, but Raad said the business has another concern: its liquor license to serve beer. Under Ohio law, the only guns allowed on the premises are those carried by individuals with a concealed carry license. No drinking is allowed.
One of the regular customers who complained to Dickey’s was Medina resident and nationally known comic book writer Tony Isabella, who said Ohio Carry’s mission is irresponsible.
“Nothing of what this group has done is proper,” Isabella said. “I was very alarmed that they’d allow guns inside a restaurant, especially where there could be children.”
Isabella, best known as the creator and writer of Marvel Comics’ Black Goliath and DC Comics’ first major African-American superhero, Black Lightning, said he’s sure Dickey’s would have lost customers if today’s meeting had happened.
“I like going to Dickey’s,” Isabella said. “But I’m not going to Dickey’s if they’re supporting this.”
Frame said the new assembly location — another nearby parking lot — will be announced today.
“We have secured a new place to have our meeting after the walk. We’re choosing not to put it on Facebook,” she said.
Frame said the location will not be announced because of concern that people opposed to the open carry movement “can’t go talk this place out of our business again.”
Frame said this is the first time they’ve had a restaurant cancel on them so close to a meeting, but she said she understood the eatery’s position.
“Apparently a lot of the people who complained were regulars,” Frame said. “I can completely understand that. They’re a business, and they have every right not to let us in there if they think it will hurt their business.
“That’s their call. Any owner of an establishment can ask us to leave, even if they don’t have signs on the door.”
Frame said she fully supports advocating the right to bear arms openly, but she understands why businesses might be leery.
“Going into a restaurant before I was in this group, I may not have liked the people carrying guns inside,” she said. “I’m a parent, so I can see it from all perspectives — as an advocate and as a woman and a mother.”
She said the situation was frustrating and stressful because the organization had its monthly meeting at Dickey’s last month without incident.
Still, she said the walk will go on — and she’s making it a family affair. Jeremiah Frame, who’s her husband and the treasurer of the statewide organization, and her two children will be there.
She stressed her children will not be carrying weapons.
During the walk, Frame said the group will steer clear of Public Square because of a federal law prohibiting guns within 1,000 feet of a school.
Garfield Elementary School stands about 500 feet away.
Brett Pucillo, president of the statewide Ohio Carry organization, said he won’t fight business owners when it comes to letting them meet on private property.
“When you own a private business, you absolutely have the right to refuse service to somebody or not let them bring in weapons,” Pucillo said. “Personally, if I owned a business, I would sleep better at night knowing that I had let in some people who were just trying to exercise their rights. But that’s just me.”
He said he suspects their plan to meet at Dickey’s was posted to an anti-gun Facebook page, and the calls to Dickey’s resulted from there.
He said he wasn’t worried about finding a place to hold the meeting.
“Every once in a while, we run into businesses that are getting a lot of pressure,” he said. “And that’s fine. There are plenty of businesses who are willing to host us.”
Today’s planned demonstration has sparked debate on The Gazette’s website and Facebook page.
“Obviously my family will be avoiding Medina completely on Saturday,” wrote Rebecca Breen.
An anonymous commenter added, “I like to use my Saturday to do some shopping in the Medina retail business district, but I will do my shopping somewhere else on June 21.”
Other commenters said walks like today’s only hurt the cause of upholding the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“You are still hurting local businesses as well as your cause because nobody wants to have their families around a bunch of guys with guns,” another anonymous commenter wrote. “It makes people very uneasy and makes you look like belligerent jerks.”
Others defended the open carry group.
“You are amongst people carrying firearms on a daily basis,” wrote Mike Potting, the statewide organization’s secretary. “You are also subject to a criminal entering a no gun zone with a gun and shooting up the place.”
The upcoming demonstration is in response to an incident May 7, when men were approached by police while walking through Medina’s Public Square. The men were carrying a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a handgun and police received more than 10 calls from concerned residents.
The men were members of Ohio Carry, but were acting alone.
Their encounter with police was captured on video cameras, which showed the men at first refusing to show their identification when approached by officers. The men said they were doing nothing wrong because of Ohio’s open carry laws.
Police and legal experts argued, though, that the police had reasonable suspicion to demand ID because so many residents called 911. Open carry advocates dispute that argument.
Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci told The Gazette last month that his officers will not interfere with today’s demonstration as long as it is conducted responsibly.
“If you feel in this day and age that you need to carry a firearm day in and day out, go ahead and do it, but do it responsibly,” he said. “It is when you do it irresponsibly that you cause problems.”