Nick Glunt and David Knox | The Gazette
If it wasn’t for all the firearms, Saturday’s “open carry” demonstration walk could have been mistaken for a July 4 parade.
“We’re not in anyone’s faces. We’re not trying to force our beliefs down anyone’s throats,” said Brett Pucillo, president of Ohio Carry, who was wearing a Springfield XD 45 pistol.
Pucillo bought his daughters, 2-year-old Addison and 3-year-old Aubree, to the walk.
“We’re enjoying a beautiful day and taking the chance to educate people,” Pucillo said.
Participants were a diverse group. They included teachers, contractors, tow truck drivers, consultants, corrections officers, a male nurse and nail salon owners.
“A lot of people have preconceived notions about what kind of people will open carry a firearm, Pucillo said. “We hope with the wide diversity of people here we can dispel some of those myths.”
The walk started on the sidewalk near O’Reilly Auto Parts on North Court Street in Medina at about 1 p.m. The group originally wanted to assemble in the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit parking lot, but changed plans on Friday after the restaurant’s owner objected.
Twenty-two adults started north toward Reagan Parkway, where they crossed the street and headed back south all the way to a Goodyear Tire outlet, just south of Harding Street. They then turned back north and ended where they started.
By the end of the 90-minute demonstration, latecomers had swelled the ranks of the group to nearly 40.
During the walk, members of the group were met with both boos and cheers from passing motorists.
Supporters responded by honking and flashing thumbs ups. Opponents shouted out windows.
One flipped his middle finger and another threw a cheeseburger at the walkers, according to Mike Krasnevich, of Brunswick.
“Most people were supportive,” he said.
Four people came with signs opposing the demonstration.
Dan Cooper, of Liverpool Township, carried a protest sign reading, “Medina welcomes gun nuts. Les shoot sumpin.”
Pucillo said he objected to Cooper’s sign because he said it made gun activists sound uneducated.
“To me, that’s as offensive as this gun on my hip is to him,” he said.
Cooper said he was attempting to use humor to make a point.
“I feel it’s dangerous,” he said. “It makes me uncomfortable. I respect their rights, but they don’t need to be carrying these big weapons.”
Almost all the demonstrators had holstered handguns — mostly semiautomatic pistols and only a few revolvers. But several carried military-style rifles — either AR-15, the semiautomatic version of the U.S. military’s M-16, or the Russian designed AK-47 — equipped with high-capacity magazines.
At least two carried Kel-Tec KSGs — pump action, 12-gauge “tactical” shotguns with a 15-round capacity.
Chasity Slater, of Creston, carried one of the Kel-Tecs. She came with her boyfriend, Nicholas Burton, also of Creston, who had an American-made AK-47 equipped with a 30-round magazine.
Asked why they carried such lethal weapons, Slater answered, “Because we can.”
Burton said the weapons made a point.
“It’s important to educate the community on their rights. In Ohio, the law is you do not have to have a permit to open carry.”
Open Carry Treasurer Jeremiah Frame, of Aurora, in Portage County, said none of the participants in the demonstration carried any automatic weapons, which fire continuously with a single trigger pull and are strictly restricted by federal law. Semi-automatic weapons fire only once with each pull of the trigger.
“There were no automatic weapons,” Frame said. “I can say that because I’m pretty well-versed in the weapons field. I would have recognized it.”
Protesters also objected to a sign briefly displayed by Angie Kovacs, of Medina, who was a candidate for the Medina school board last year. The sign read: “No, that gun does not make your d—- look big.”
Kovacs said, “I did respect their wishes and turned it away from the children that were there.”
She said the point she was making with the sign was that the display of firearms frightens many people.
“If you’re carrying a gun to make a point, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons,” she said. “I think it’s 100 percent about intimidation.”
“A gun doesn’t make you more macho,” she said. “I’m not impressed.”
Kovacs said openly carrying guns reminded her of scenes from the violent streets of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. A sign she carried read: “Fallujah, Kabul, Mogadishu, Medina.”
Kovacs argued that most Medina residents oppose the open display of firearms and said that almost all the demonstrators were from outside the county, some from as far as Cincinnati and Columbus.
One passer-by said he opposed the demonstration — but not for the reasons most would think.
“I fully support what they’re doing, but I wish they didn’t have to,” said Al Wygal, of Medina. “The Second Amendment is part of the Constitution, and that’s what our country was founded on.”
He said the group shouldn’t have to inform people of what their rights are because everyone should already know.
“When some real nut comes in shooting, I hope one of these guys is around to take them down,” Wygal said. “If there were more law-abiding citizens who carried guns, there wouldn’t be as much crime.”
But another passing motorist said carrying guns so openly could cause the very violence they hope to combat.
“What if some people saw them carrying guns and (felt) they were in danger?” asked Kellie Biegel, who pulled over in a parking lot with her husband to watch the walk. “I don’t feel safe with these people walking around.”
Biegel said she thought this sort of demonstration would actually cause more restrictions on gun owners.
“What it’s going to do is backfire on them,” she said. “People are going to get scared, and then there will be even more regulation.”
Carolyn Robey-Warren, of Columbus, president of Ohio Carry’s Central branch, argued the opposite.
“A right that’s not exercised is a right you can kiss goodbye,” she said.
Saturday’s walk was in response to a May 7 incident, when two men with an AR-15 rifle and shotgun slung over their backs were approached by police while walking near Medina’s Public Square.
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, carried by both the men and the officers, which showed the men at first refusing to show their identification when approached by officers.
The men complied only after an officer told them they would be disarmed if they didn’t.
The officers said they were justified in demanding the IDs because of the 911 calls and because one of the men fumbled when asked his age.
The demand for the ID was the key issue cited by several demonstrators.
“We have a constitutional right to carry a firearm to protect ourselves,” said Harry Wynn, of Stow, who wore an AR-15 across his chest and also carried a Glock 30. “Nobody should get forced ID’d because they have a firearm — I don’t care how many 911 calls came in.”
Two police cruisers were seen parked in lots along Saturday’s demonstration route, but officers did not approach the demonstrators or the protesters.
“We had officers assigned to shadow the demonstration, said Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci, “both for their safety and those of the other side.”
Berarducci, who said he drove by the demonstration while on the way to lunch with his wife, said there was no reason to do more than observe.
“We tried not to interfere with what either side was doing,” he said. “I’m glad everybody acted responsibly.
“There are people who are emotionally invested on both sides and our job is to keep that from building into a confrontation.
“Our guys did their job.”
“Open carry” walk, June 21
Waving flags and accompanied by a half-dozen children, more than two dozen people carrying sidearms, shotguns and rifles showed up for a 90-minute %u201Ceducational walk%u201D along Medina%u2019s North Court Street business district on June 21, 2014.