For 2 hours, Cincy's Northside was ''Safest Neighborhood in the State''

Concealed gun ban protested with a march through Northside The Cincinnati Post

NORTHSIDE - In a scene reminiscent of the Wild West, about 75 people paraded through Northside with handguns strapped to their sides Sunday.

Unlike the Old West, though, it was a modern-era media publicity stunt to protest last week's Ohio Supreme Court ruling upholding the state's ban on carrying concealed weapons.

Had protesters concealed their guns, they would have violated the law. But they openly and legally toted their firearms as they marched 1.4 miles on Northside sidewalks for about an hour.

Vernon Ferrier, one of four Cincinnatians who has filed a lawsuit against Ohio's ban on concealed weapons, was pleased with the march.

"It was a roaring success," he said. "There were no problems, and we got our message across. I think the state legislature will get our point.

"We promoted carrying concealed weapons, which is practical but illegal, by carrying weapons openly, which is silly but legal."

On Wednesday, in a 5-2 vote, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the legality of an 1859 Ohio law that said while there is a right to bear arms, "there is not a constitutional right to bear concealed weapons."

The decision overturned a ruling last year by Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman, a ruling that had been upheld by the Cincinnati-based 1st District Court of Appeals.

The state Supreme Court decision puts the burden on the state legislature if there is to be any change in the law.

Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich joined the marchers.

"I'm supporting concealed-carry," said Heimlich. "I think it keeps people safer. People have a right to defend themselves, as long as they take handgun training.

"I'm taking handgun training myself. If a concealed-carry law passes, I'll be first in line to get a permit."

Commentary by Chad D. Baus: I was there. And while I'm a terrible judge of numbers, the line of armed citizens taking a Sunday stroll through sunny Northside look far more than "50", as reported by the AP (which has since been reported by every other media outlet who didn't bother to attend). The Cincy Enquirer guessed "80", but as far as I could tell, their reporter was only there after the event ended. The local FOX affiliate estimated "100" - that station did not bother to send out a reporter - just a nice young camera man who had recently moved to Cincy from Cleveland.

The actual numbers don't really matter. As the march progessed, it stretched for two city blocks, and was three persons deep. It was a sight to behold. And for two hours, it made Northside what one Ohio police chief called "the safest neighborhood in the state."

What really DOES matter is that as more and more of these Walks are held, Ohio citizens and it's elected officials are going to be forced to wake up to the fact that the choice in Ohio really never has been "guns or no guns". The choice for Ohioans, as highlighted by last week's Supreme Court ruling, is simply "open carry or concealed carry."

A number of OFCC members were in attendance - including one man and wife in OFCC denim shirts, with their children. Many more became members at the even, including march organizer Vernon Ferrier and Hal McKinney, who became a neighborhood hero when he stopped an armed robbery in a neighborhood bar a few months ago.

All persons who participated in the Walk, young and old, men and women, black and white, were from my vantage point, courteous, friendly, and responsible to those they came in contact with. On the other hand, the few who came to counter-march - ONN has this count right at "8" - were generally an angry, violent bunch. They pushed toy guns in people's faces and verbally taunted walkers thoughout the walk. One of the camera men I interviewed with remarked that the protestors were the only violent people there.

Police were in attendance - on bicycles, mainly. The smiles, waves, and salutes gave me the general idea that they were supportive. Their district commander cruised circles in an unmarked car. He neither waved, nor smiled. This presented a rather good visual image of law enforcement and concealed carry - support by rank and file, political opposition by bureaucrats.

Perhaps my greatest enjoyment was speaking with persons we are always told are against concealed carry - minorities. I spoke with two members of the Black Panthers, who seemed quite surprised when I told that OFCC is trying to get the word out that the CCW ban was founded in racism. They eagerly accepted copies of our press release on the subject. I also spoke with several "community relations" people (a neighborhood watch-type group), who did not carry, but who marched with us. At first I thought they might have been there to "watch" us for signs of trouble. After speaking with them longer, I realized they too wanted to recover their right to self-defense.

Finally, I spoke to a one of the counter-marchers, who lives across the street from the "Defense Walk" organizer. He was, in general, completely unfamiliar with Ohio's laws regarding firearms. His perception was that one had to have a license just to purchase a firearm in Ohio (only in certain gun-control cities, such as Cleveland). He thought we had to have licenses to carry in the open (we do not). Once he began learning the truth, he began to struggle with his position - he began to see he was fighting against legislation (HB12) that would actually provide more of the types of safeguards (background checks, training, etc.) which he was advocating. He discovered that the Ohio Supreme Court this week encouraged a much more liberal way to exercise one's self-defense right (via current Ohio law) than is enumerated in HB12. A convert? Not yet - but I'm hoping he'll do some homework. And I hope there are more blissfully unaware Ohioans who have their eyes opened by this and future marches.

Those who have formerly opposed "concealed carry" may wind up deciding it's not such a bad idea. And those who quickly declared victory this past Wednesday when the OSC ruling came down, may realize they spoke prematurely.

Special thanks to all who attended, and a hearty welcome to OFCC's new members. If YOU plan to organize a "Defense Walk" in your community, please contact us.

Media coverage of the "Defense Walk":

Cincinnati Enquirer

Associated Press (really poor coverage - they only sent a photographer). Unfortunately, this is the story most Ohioans will read, as other news outlets (ONN, Akron Beacon Journal, WTVG Toledo, to name a few) will pick this up instead of sending reporters and writing their own stories)

WXIX FOX Cincinnati Right now it is perfectly legal in the state of ohio to walk down the street and openly carry a handgun. You don't need a background check or any training. If it sounds crazy to you, gun advocates and opponents agree, for different reasons. Yesterday they showed their feelings in a very "open" way. Does the sight of a hundred or so people openly wearing guns on their hips threaten you? They hope that it does.

USA Today had a one paragraph bit about the "Defense Walk" on page 3A, entitled "Gunning for a Change". No mention of OFCC or Vernon, but they do have a picture of a holstered gun.

Related Stories:

Self-Defense Advocates Call on Legislature to Act in Wake of Ohio Supreme Court - Group says majority opinion reads like “Jim Crow”

Media Agrees: All Eyes on Senate President Doug White

Toledo Blade: Conceal carry: Impact on Ohio? Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said she and others don’t want people carrying handguns in plain sight or concealing them.

Cincinnati Post: Jury clears bar 'hero'

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