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Posted: 1:44 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Advocates put police, gun laws to the test

By Jim Otte, I-Team Reporter

RIVERSIDE, Ohio —

Advocates of "open carry" of weapons are testing police on their knowledge of state laws and then posting the results on the internet.

The most recent case involved a Tipp City man, Roy Call, who walked into a Speedway gas station at 3201 Valley Pike in Riverside at 4:30 am on August 28, 2012 with a gun holstered on his hip in full view by anyone in the store. A customer alerted a police officer who happened to be in the store parking lot. When the officer asked Call who he was and what he was doing, Call said he was exercising his Second Amendment rights and initially declined to identify himself. The officer arrested Call and charged him with obstructing official business.

Call eventually produced identification and was released. Later, the charge against him was dropped but Call filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging his rights were violated and demanded $3.6 million.

Larry Moore, a leader of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said Call was within his rights to openly carry a weapon. The store does not have a sign telling customers that guns are not allowed. "Open carry is legal. It's constitutional under our Ohio constitution but a lot of people don't understand that and maybe our law enforcement community is not as well educated about it as they should be," Moore said.

Prof. Tom Hagel of the University of Dayton Law School confirmed the legality of "open carry." He said almost half of the states in the country allow it with some restrictions. Still, Hagel said the lawsuit in federal court is focused on how the officer responded. "It shows a clash between the law and common sense. I can't imagine a person not thinking under the circumstances that the officer did not have the right to at least walk up and ask some questions," Hagel said.

The city of Riverside is supporting its officers and their handling of the incident. Police Chief Mark Reiss told the I-Team that officers make decisions in the field every day that have to balance people's rights and public safety. "Given the circumstances that existed that evening, the time of day, the type of establishment and given the fact that convenience stores are often targets for robberies, I think it was reasonable for the officers to make that approach and ask that person for that identity," Reiss said.

Moore said though the officers overreacted and should not have detained Call. "We understand that law enforcement officers have a very difficult and dangerous job on the street," Moore said. Still, Moore added that people have the right to carry their weapons openly without a license. He described the situation as a thin double-sided coin of rights and responsibilities. "A little respect on both sides will go a long way," Moore said.

The suit in federal court was not the only response from Call after the incident. He obtained a copy of the police dash-cam video of the incident through a public records request and posted it on YouTube. He added quotes from sections of Ohio Law on when people must identify themselves to police officers. The internet posting is among many others from around the country showing how local police react to "open carry" situations.

Anti-gun advocate Sean L. Walton Sr. , of the Community Initiative To Reduce Gun Violence, said he questions the motives of advocates who might think is within their right to carry a weapon openly into a gas station.  

"The public is hyper-sensitive and I consider it insensitive. I just wonder what is the intended purpose of this open display?" Walton said.

A spokesman for Speedway and its parent company, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Jamal T. Kheiry, declined comment.

Roy Call and his attorney, Charles McFarland declined requests for an interview.

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