About 60 people from around the state participated Saturday in a rainy open-carry gun walk through Miami University and Oxford with the goal of promoting firearms education.
“The purpose of this walk is to both advocate for concealed carry on campus in Ohio, which is currently illegal, and to start dialogue regarding firearms privileges in Ohio and in the United States,” said organizer Jeffry Smith.
The Cincinnati resident had previously organized walks at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Akron, Bowling Green State University and Ohio State University.
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Smith said Saturday’s walk had the highest percentage of students participating of the five walks he’s organized.
People traveled from other parts of the state and from Kentucky, according to Smith. The walk lasted about two hours. It started at Cook Field on the southern edge of campus and proceeded up and down campus streets, across residential and academic quads and into the Uptown section of Oxford.
Throughout the walk, participants were under the watchful eye of Miami University and Oxford police.
There was little dialogue or interaction with students on campus; some may have stopped to snap a quick photo as they went about their day.
Some of the participants brought their dogs along as they toted shotguns, AR-15s and other rifles as well as holstered handguns.
To help reduce concerns of potential onlookers, Smith reminded everyone that this “isn’t show and tell” and asked those carrying rifles to use their slings and keep the muzzles pointed up or down.
“If you see someone who looks inquisitive, stop and talk to them. We stop,” Smith said. “The idea of this is not to walk through campus. If we encounter people, we need to engage them.”
Benjamin Mouch, a Miami senior and an NRA-certified pistol instructor, said he had never participated in a gun awareness walk.
“I think gun rights are a very important thing to everyone. I want to make sure people realize that we’re not crazy people. We’re just normal, everyday people that are able to exercise our rights,” Mouch said. “We’re not trying to provoke any people, just exercising our rights.”
Kristine Meyer and Devoreoux Gross, both of Cincinnati, said they were walking with the group to see if anyone would talk to them. Meyer wore a pink shirt as she carried her AR-15 on a sling, while Gross carried a Springfield 1903 A3 rifle.
“We want to educate people to show them that guns are not dangerous,” Gross said.
“A lot of people gave us concerned looks and we got a few glares,” Meyer said. “We attempted to talk to people but we had no luck.”
Another supporter, Bob Mozeman of Hillsboro, said Miami should remove gun-free zone signs and allow students to conceal carry.
“A criminal would be hesitant to do a bad thing (if college campuses allowed students to conceal carry firearms),” he said.
When the walk reached Uptown, the gun supporters got cheers and some jeers as they passed the outdoor patio of Brick Street bar at High and Poplar streets.
“I thought it was great,” said Shawn Organ, a Miami alumnus and Dublin resident who was in Oxford to visit his son Alec. “I thought it was pretty educational. I didn’t know you cannot conceal carry if you are a professor or a student, and I didn’t know that you can open carry on campus.”
He said that he holds a concealed carry permit.
“I grew up around guns,” Alec Organ said. “I wasn’t bothered by it, but other students might be. I thought it was fantastic.”
Magda Orlander, an international student from Luxembourg, engaged in some respectful dialogue with the walkers, who invited her to a late lunch to get out of the rain.
Orlander declined the offer and said some people opted not to come out Saturday, fearing their personal safety.
“Guns alone can’t guarantee safety, and there is a need to raise awareness for other issues such as inequality and violence,” she said.