Pro-gun advocates carrying weapons march at Miami, chat up students

About a dozen gun-toting advocates for carrying weapons on college campuses walked across Miami University in Oxford on Friday to many stares and some questions from students.

The Second amendment supporters carried unloaded handguns and AR-15 rifles as they crisscrossed Miami’s main campus without incident other than some students stopping to ask questions or politely disagree with their pro-gun stance.

Organizer Jeffry Smith, who in recent years has held similar “open carry” demonstrations at other Ohio college campuses, said the informal march through the Butler County school grounds went as expected.

A few Miami students joined in the march carrying empty chamber weapons, as required by school policy, but most students who questioned Smith said they objected to any guns being on their school grounds.

Smith said he wasn’t surprised by the reactions.

“As I have done more of these walks … I have more and more conversations with students and staff … I have come to the belief that campuses are largely indoctrination camps in some ways. As far as it applies to the right to keep and bear arms there seems to be little on campus to spark conversations about the right to keep and bear arms,” said Smith.

Smith wanted to highlight what he feels are unfair restrictions for concealed-carry permit holders at higher education institutions.

It’s illegal to carry a concealed firearm on an Ohio university campus, unless the firearm is locked in a motor vehicle or in the process of being locked in a motor vehicle.

Smith had made Miami University Police and school officials aware beforehand of his event, which drew gun rights supporters from as far away as Columbus. He last came to the school in 2016.

As a precaution, two campus police officers escorted the group but kept about a 30-yard distance so as not to interfere with the event.

Hours later, Miami police said the walk went off without incident.

Miami policy prohibits students or staff from having firearms on campus but officials said students who wanted to participate could do so.

Miami senior Nick Porter, president of the Miami University pistol club, joined in and said that “it’s important for people to realize open carry is a legal right that citizens of Ohio have a right to carry on public land.”

Porter said the idea of individuals arming themselves for protection meets with “general disapproval” among students.

“Most of them don’t understand that the legal concept of open carry and the idea that this university is public property,” said Porter.

Mallory Eichler, a freshman, was surprised when her walk to classes brought her in sight of the group.

“I’ve not seen an open carry happen on campus before and I was a little concerned about it happening,” said Eichler.

“I just don’t think a place for education is the right place for a gun. I get that you have the right to have a gun but I don’t feel comfortable being in the same vicinity as a gun,” she said.

Kendall Arroyo, sporting an AR-15 rifle slung on his shoulder and a handgun in a thigh holster, was joined by his wife, who wore a handgun on her belt while she pushed a baby stroller holding their infant son.

Arroyo, who has joined marches across Ohio State University’s campus, said “we are here to hopefully spur a little bit of dialogue with the students and faculty members regarding 2nd amendment rights, campus carry and anything else firearms related.”

Alexandria Fletcher, sophomore at Miami, was one of the first students to approach Smith and chatted amiably with him as they walked.

Fletcher, however, came away unconvinced.

“I still object to them being here,” she said. “I’m still opposed but I’m also wanting to hear their conversation.”

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