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Gun walk prompts counter-protests

By Karolina Ulasevich, For The Miami Student and Mary Schrott, News Editor

Saturday afternoon, on the corner of Campus Avenue and High Street, approximately 15 Miami students and faculty members stood in protest of an open carry march directed by Jeffry Smith, a firearm instructor and concealed carry activist from Cincinnati.

The counter protesters stood in the rain under umbrellas, holding signs with messages of opposition and playing Bob Dylan songs on guitar. Some were even wearing homemade T-shirts reading "Don't Shoot" with a bullseye drawing.

"There was music, signs, an informative teach in and an opportunity to distribute information to dozens of interested people passing by," said first-year Nick Froehlich, who counter-protested.

Close to 70 people, the majority of whom were not Miami students, walked with Smith through campus and Oxford's Uptown openly carrying firearms in an effort to educate college students on the right to bear and keep arms.

The two groups met in front of the Phi Delta Theta Headquarters on Campus Avenue where a discussion ensued.

Froehlich said there were three open carriers who were polite and open to a discussion with his group, but overall the open carry walk was intimidating and uncomfortable.

"I've never seen dozens of people armed with rifles before," said Froehlich. "Several of them yelled and laughed at us."

However, Froehlich said what made him the most uncomfortable was hearing that some of the open carriers had referred to the counter protestors as 'sitting ducks' a few days before the rally.

"I have no clue why they would want to carry a gun through our campus," said Froehlich. "Maybe to somehow make us safe."

According the Open Carry/Firearm Education Walk Facebook event page, "The purpose of the Walk is to inform and engage college students and the public about the right to keep and bear arms, including discussing how those rights are diminished by various laws, for instance by making college campuses Criminal Empowerment Zones."

The page also asked participants to be willing to engage with people like the counter protesters in conversation. However, it did ask open carriers to refrain from telling people "It's my right" and wearing clothes that read "Don't Tread on Me," "From My Cold Dead Hands" and "Three Percent."

The open carry group demonstrated on other Ohio campuses earlier this year like Bowling Green State University, The University of Cincinnati and The Ohio State University. The walk at Miami was the 5th organized open carry campus event the group has done.

Ohio law allows people to carry firearms on public property, yet it's illegal to carry a concealed weapon on campuses. Miami's Code of Conduct doesn't allow students to carry on campus, however, prior to the walk Miami said it would not discipline the students who participated.

Graduate student Evan Fackler, who has spoken out against the walk before, said he simply does not agree that guns should be apart of campus culture.

"I certainly don't want guns in the classroom because when I attend a lecture on campus, I don't want to be wondering how many people are carrying concealed weapons," said Fackler.

While some of the open carriers spoke with the counter protesters, Fackler said many of them weren't interested in engaging with some of the intersectional issues the counter protestors brought up.

"That was essentially [the counter protesters] move," said Fackler, "to complicate the issue, not in the service of unnecessary obfuscation, but because it really is complicated."

Though Fackler was in attendance, some students like Kenny Halt, who planned to protest, opted out as to diminish attention.

"We want to help make it known that we don't think [the open carriers] should be here," said Halt. "But we didn't really want the rally to get a lot of attention."