Youngstown Walkers make new friends, but not with the Chief

Youngstown Police Chief Robert Bush: Arrest them all, let the courts sort it out?

Over 100 people, including Senator and HB12 Conference Committeeman Marc Dann (D) participated in Saturday's open carry 'Defense' Walk in Youngstown, which was extensively covered by area media. One Youngstown citizen told Walk organizer Rick Kaleda, "you sure do throw a fun party." But Youngstown Police Chief Robert E Bush, Jr. was in anything but a festive mood.

In Gahanna and Lima, Cincinnati and Lorain, in Swanton, Xenia and Manchester, law enforcement officials proved they truly are mindful of the "service" part of "protect and serve". 'Defense' Walkers have been met with open arms by law enforcement in every city they've attended to date. That all ended today in Youngstown.


Youngstown police officers were armed with video recorders, taping every move Walkers made. While they explained that was standard procedure at parades, it was clear from comments made by Chief Bush that the Constitution is not his concern.

Bush told two Walkers that if they had not obtained a permit, or if they try to openly carry in Youngstown on their own in the future, he would arrest them.

"If I get a call about one of you walking and carrying a gun, I will arrest you and you will go to jail and we'll let the judges figure it out. I am not going to explain to the person calling that you are simply exercising your right to carry. I don't care. I will arrest you and you can explain the situation in front of a judge," said Bush.

Bush's comments were mentioned to a newspaper reporter by Kaleda, with a question: how would you like it if you were arrested for writing this story, and had to depend on the Courts to decide if you had committed a legal act? The reporter planned to question Bush on his statements.

Bush was also quoted on a local news affiliate, complaining that this was like the "Wild West" all over again. Kaleda responded on camera, "If he were even trying to be intellectually honest, Chief Bush, and anyone else opposed to "just anyone" carrying without training or background checks ought to call the Governor's office and tell him to get with the program and get HB12 passed, since it is far more restrictive than current law."

Despite these intimidation tactics by Chief Bush, the Walk went well overall. "Senator Dann was welcomed by all, and he was interviewed by all the media," said Kaleda. "He seemed intent on communicating to us that we are his friends."

What follows is extensive coverage of this event by the Youngstown Vindicator, and Chief Bush's contact information.

November 2, 2003
Youngstown Vindicator

MARCHERS WANT RIGHT TO CONCEAL GUNS

Group organizes rally to support proposed law

The legislation would level the playing field between the criminals and the victims, one walker said.

YOUNGSTOWN - Carol Sell stood on Federal Plaza with a .22-caliber revolver strapped to her waist.

I believe law-abiding citizens have the right to carry a concealed weapon to defend ourselves, especially as a woman," said Sell, 58, of Champion.

She was one of 55 particpants in the Youngstown Defense Walk, organized to elicit support for state legislation that would allow Ohio residents to carry concealed firearms.

Ohio law already permits individuals to carry firearms openly, and that was one point of Saturday's march along Front and Market Streets, said organizer Rick Kaleda of Hazelwood Avenue.

Kaleda is a pistol and personal protection instructor, certified by the National Rifle Association. He is also Mahoning County Coordinator coordinator for Ohioans For Concealed Carry.

The Youngstown walk is one of eight being held across Ohio to draw attention to pending concealed-carry legislation, Kaleda said.

Others set

Other Walks are set today for 1 p.m. in Alliance, and 1:30 p.m. in Findlay.

Kaleda said his group wants people to know that they are already permitted by law to carry a firearm, as long as it is in plain view, and most of those attending the walk had firearms clearly visible.

Carrying one under a coat or in a pocket is illegal under current law. That could change with legislation pending in COlumbus.

The House and Senate have passed different versions of concealed-carry bills, and a conference committee has been formed to iron out the differences said state Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, who met the walkers on Federal Plaza.

Dann, who said he is generally supportive of concealed-carry legislation and voted for the Senate version, is a member of the conference committee. He said he wants to hear various points of view before the committee begins its work Nov. 10.

Background checks, training

Both bills would require a background check and some training before a concealed-carry permit be issued by a county sheriff, and Dann said he would like to see some of that training deal with teaching people when to use a firearm, not just how to use it.

Kaleda said his group supports the House version, which is less stringent regarding firearms in vehicles and carrying a concealed firearm while going through the permit process.

"At this moment, this is the safest corner in Youngstown," said John Bailey of Austinburg in Ashtabula County, as the group gathered at Front and Vindicator Square to begin it's march.

Bailey attended the event with his wife, Hillary, and their two daughters, Jenna and Victoria. He wore a Kimber .40-caliber semi-automatic on his hip.

A concealed-carry law would "level the playing field between the criminals and the victims," Bailey said.

Current law puts citizens at a disadvantage because criminals don't obey the laws, he said.

"We feel that people should have the right to carry firearms for self-defense," said James Denney, President of the Mahoning County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, which represents about 1200 members.

Denney said 45 states have versions of concealed-carry laws and haven't had an increased in violent crime as a result.

Police chief's view

Youngstown Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. signed the permit allowing the Defense Walk, but he's not a supporter of any concealed-carry law.

Bush viewed the walk from across Front Street, standing next to an officer videotaping the event. Although some walkers said they thought taping was intimidating, Bush said it is common practice at a march, rally or other event.

Giving people the right to carry concealed weapons would increase the danger to citizens and police, Bush said.

Backers of the legislation say it would be safer for citizens because criminals wouldn't be able to tell who was carrying a firearm and who wasn't. Bush, however, said that would likely have an adverse effect.

Criminals would be more inclined to approach victims with a higher level of violence, fearing their intended victims might be armed, the chief said.

"This isn't the Wild West," Bush said, adding that a criminal isn't going to give a victim an opportunity to pull a gun.

William Goodwin, a senior geology and chemistry major at Kent State University who attended the walk with a Glock Model 34 9mm strapped to his leg, had a different viewpoint.

"I feel I need to protect myself from crime," he said, adding that a concealed-carry law would give him that abililty.

Click here to read the article in the Youngstown Vindicator.

----------------------

The Youngstown Chief of Police can be reached as follows:


Youngstown Police Department
Chief Robert E Bush, Jr.
116 West Boardman St.
Youngstown, OH 44503
Voice: (330) 742-8900
Voice: (800) 837-2489
Fax: (330) 744-7452
E-mail: [email protected]

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