Supporters of Ohio House Bill 12 rally in Ashtabula

Should Ohioans have the right to walk the streets packing a pistol?
By MARK TUSCANO
Ashtabula Star Beacon
November 30, 2003

ASHTABULA — Whether law abiding Ohioans have the right to carry concealed weapons or not, has been an ongoing issue in the Ohio General Assembly this year. It has been a hard fought battle with grass roots support on both sides. On Saturday, those supporting their right to carry handguns rallied in favor of legislation that would allow Ohioans to carry concealed weapons legally.

About 50 supporters assembled in North Park for a rally to support Ohio House Bill 12; proposed legislation currently in committee that may grant Ohioans the right to carry concealed handguns on their person or in their vehicle. Many in attendance wore holsters filled with their own handguns, in plain view, as they assembled and walked the rally route from North Park, south on Main Street to 48th Street, then back on Park Avenue.

John Bailey of Austinburg Township coordinated the rally with help from a couple others including Tracy Williams of Plymouth Township. Bailey secured the permit for the rally through Ashtabula Police Chief Ray Mattson and City Manager August Pugliese.

“I have a lot of respect for the chief, he was 100-percent against the concealed carry legislation in Ohio,” Bailey said. “But he supports our right to demonstrate peacefully.”

As a hunter, outdoorsman and an Army veteran, Bailey has handled guns most of his life. “We need to get involved and support this legislation,” he said.
Bailey cited one case in particular that supports his stand on the issue. A [Seneca County] woman, the victim of a recent rape, was arrested and sentenced to jail time for carrying a handgun in her car.

“I’m totally outraged,” Bailey said. “She had a handgun under the seat of her car because she was afraid. We have Ohioans living in fear. If Governor Taft gets his way, he will be giving criminals all the rights. We want Ohioans to be able to protect themselves.”

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Taft recently demanded the legislature write an amendment into HB-12 that would make all who qualified to carry concealed weapons under the proposed bill a matter of public record. He has threatened that if the amended text is not included, he will veto the bill.

Supporters of the concealed weapon bill insist that most other personal information is not in the public record for good reason and that amendment would amount to a blueprint for would be gun thieves.

Keith E. Sawyer of Champion, Ohio attended the rally. He has been a member of the National Rifle Association (a National organization supporting Americans gun ownership rights) for many years.

“I started hunting when I was about nine-years-old and I still do some target shooting,” Sawyer said. “I feel the NRA has done a lot to further the safe use of firearms and promote gun safety. I’m here to support and defend our rights as written in the second amendment to the Constitution; to safeguard the rights of gun owners. I don’t think our society has progressed to the point where it can protect the citizens yet.”

Dale and Janie Sunderlin of Geneva also walked in the rally. The Sunderlin’s are certified firearms instructors and sports enthusiasts.

Bill Midgett of Conneaut wore a stars and stripes hat and carried the American Flag as he rallied in support of HB-12. He has been active with the National Guard for eight years and was in the Army for nine-years before that.

“That’s what this is all about; the flag and the Constitution, but you’ve got people like Senator Kennedy trying to take our rights away from us,” Midgett said.

While the group walked, some observers did doubletakes after noticing many participants with a sidearm in their holster and in full view. Among the supporters were people from all facets of life from retirees to young families with children.

Bailey addressed the group as the rally ended near the veterans memorial.
“If you didn’t notice, the police haven’t been here,” he said. “They know we are the safe ones.”

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Click here to read the story in the Ashtabula Star Beacon.

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