Open carry walk on Saturday

Firearm-wielding group to move through campus, downtown

By Grant Morgan, News Editor

Don’t be surprised to see a group of people openly wielding firearms on UA’s campus this weekend.

 Jeffry Smith, a National Rifle Association Certified Firearms Instructor and Life Member, organized an “Open Carry/Firearm Education Walk” for Saturday, April 25 on UA’s campus. Smith has done similar events at two other Ohio universities, the University of Cincinnati and The Ohio State University.

“It’s to get interaction and education going…and I don’t mean talking at somebody, I mean talking to somebody,” Smith said. “I welcome people participating and I welcome people protesting. It is a subject on which I think there ought to be discussion.”

What do you think about the plan by gun-rights advocates to walk through the UA campus and downtown Akron openly carrying loaded firearms?

  • So what? It's perfectly legal. (77%, 119 Votes)
  • Open carry deters crime. (12%, 18 Votes)
  • It's another sign that society is being diminished by the gun culture. (6%, 9 Votes)
  • They should take the cannoli and leave the guns behind. (6%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 155

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The walk will be around two miles, starting at 1:00 p.m. in Lot 27 at the intersection of Hill Street and Forge Street. Smith planned a route through UA’s campus, but does not want to share it ahead of the event; it will partly depend on where people are outside.

After going through campus, Smith plans to walk to Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron.

“That is currently being discussed with [Akron’s Chief City Prosecutor Gertrude Wilms],” Smith said. “Whether we go [to Lock 3] and what we do [there] is going to depend on the results of that discussion.”

Wilms could not be reached for comment.

Smith says the downtown portion of the walk will be much different than the campus portion; he doesn’t even consider them the same event.

“The University walk is educational and interactive…the [Lock 3] walk is more of a protest walk,” Smith said. “It’s being done because there is going to be a lot of people in Akron, but the tone or the nature of that portion of the walk…may have a very different tone than the UA walk.”

Smith is right—there are going to be a lot of people in downtown Akron on Saturday. There is an Akron Rubberducks game, The Akron Patent and Trademark Resource Center’s 20th Anniversary event at the public library, a “Let’s Move, Summit County! Health Walk” at Canal Park Stadium, Crafty Mart “Mom & Pop Shoppe” workshops in three locations, and a “Scrapbook & Paper Craft Convention” at the John S. Knight Center.

Smith says most participants—43 have accepted the event invitation on Facebook—will be openly carrying a firearm on the UA walk. The firearms may be loaded; however, Smith posted more stringent “walk safety rules” to the Facebook page: long guns must have a sling, an empty chamber, and the safety on. Handguns must be holstered, but may have their chamber and magazine loaded.

Open carry is allowed on UA’s campus. Ted Mallo, UA Vice President and General Counsel, confirmed this in an emailed statement to Smith, writing: “Lawful ‘open carry’ is not prohibited conduct under The University’s Code of Student Conduct.”

In the email, Mallo added that students who are under a court order prohibiting the possession of a firearm, or students who—according to UA’s Code of Student Conduct—use their weapon “‘…in a manner that harms, threatens or causes fear to others,’” might be pursued for violating criminal code or UA’s Student Conduct Code.

Smith is using UA’s open carry policies to promote discussion on concealed carry laws.

With a license, it is legal to carry a concealed firearm in Ohio, but not on Ohio’s private or public university campuses. Smith says this law turns university campuses into “criminal empowerment zones.”

“We don’t need to—by law—enhance the protection of criminals by disarming the law-abiding [people],” Smith said. “I am trying to get people to think about that and, if necessary, push their legislators, or have their parents push the legislators, to say: ‘Why should my son or daughter be in an environment that I don’t consider safe?’”

When Smith was a University of Cincinnati student, concealed carry was illegal in Ohio; however, he or she who was found to be carrying a concealed firearm had the opportunity to offer an “affirmative defense” in court. Affirmative defenses made it easier to justify to the jury the concealed carrying of a firearm.

“I was a student one time on a college campus, and I had the opportunity to arm myself [with an affirmative defense] in what I considered to be a threatening environment,” Smith said. “Students today do not have that opportunity,” because Ohio’s concealed carry statute of 2004 got rid of “affirmative defense,” but also prohibited concealed carry on campuses.

Though UA permits it, open carry is not allowed by all Ohio universities’ student conduct codes, including the University of Cincinnati and The Ohio State University. Smith says this made it difficult to organize the events there; however, both universities’ General Counsels ended up letting students open carry, but only for Smith’s event.

“I was thrilled with the UC event and the number of people that we all talked to,” Smith said. Eighty people attended, according to the event’s Facebook page.

Smith says he was disappointed with the lack of student participation at OSU, though it was a successful event overall. A YouTube video, “Open Carry – The Ohio State University – 04/19/2014” documents the OSU group’s firearm walk, which Smith encourages others to watch as an example of what the walk at UA might be like.

“Instead of seeing what people might expect to see, which is a bunch of people running and screaming from the armed individuals, what you see if a bunch of people just doing their thing, both on the street and on campus,” Smith said about the video.

Smith emphasizes that this walk, and the legality and university conduct code policies surrounding it, focuses on the grounds of university campuses only, not inside university buildings. What students can and cannot do inside of buildings is not what Saturday’s open carry walk is for.

“At [UA], I very much look forward to the walk—I look forward to all these walks. My hope is just that we get a chance to talk with people.”