Detroit News Birmingham— Gun toting advocates filled the Birmingham commission chambers Monday night, displaying their firearms in holsters and strapped to their backs in protest of charges against a teen they say had the legal right to do the same in public.
“It seems like cooler heads should prevail and the charges should fall,” said Dave Campbell, a Westland resident involved with AR15.com, a website and resource center for gun supporters.
At issue is the April 13 arrest of Sean M. Combs, a Troy High School student, after he strolled Old Woodward Avenue in downtown Birmingham with a M-1 rifle strapped to his back.
Gun enthusiasts and supporters of “open carry” flocked to the regularly scheduled meeting of the commission, which was not expected to take action or address the charges, to voice their opposition.
They say the penalties ignore a right protected by law, even if that might be unpopular among some. They also called for improved police training.
“Why ruin the life of an 18-year-old man for the actions of an overzealous police officer?” said John Roshek, president of the Citizens League for Self Defense, a group that works to educate people on their Second Amendment rights and open carry.
But not everyone agreed with the advocates’ stance.
Longtime resident Margaret Betts said while she supports citizens’ legal rights, openly bearing arms in a community generally considered safe seems “silly.”
“Just because you can doesn’t mean you have to,” she told the commission.
In April, Birmingham Police Chief Don Studt acknowledged the constitutionality of Combs’ decision to carry his gun, but said “this guy was creating a disturbance and he wouldn’t cooperate.”
Mayor Mark Nickita said while public input was appreciated, the commission was not set to intervene.
“The issue has gone to the courts,” he said.