Royal OakJuly 28, 2010
Gun advocates want to carry firearms at Arts, Beats and Eats
By Jeremy Carroll
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — A group of pistol-packing gun advocates has come to consecutive City Commission meetings, asking the city to overturn a clause in the city’s agreement with Arts, Beats and Eats that bans firearms from the festival.
More than a half-dozen people, openly carrying guns at the meetings inside City Hall, say the restriction banning firearms from the festival is unlawful. But the festival organizer disagrees, and the city is looking into the issue.
The advocates say although there are specific locations where citizens are outlawed from carrying firearms, public streets are not among them.
But Jon Witz, the festival’s producer, said he is operating under the assumption that the festival acts like a private business, which would legally allow Arts, Beats and Eats to outlaw firearms.
“We feel that we’ve leased those streets and sidewalks, no different than a development, and it’s a private event,” Witz said. “We have the right to restrict access. We think we have the right to do that because it’s a private event.”
The event, taking place Sept. 3-6, will be fenced in and there will be a $3 charge to get inside the festival gates. Arts, Beats and Eats was started by Oakland County, but is run as a nonprofit organization.
Royal Oak City Attorney Dave Gillam said he does not completely agree with Witz’s characterization of the event.
“This is still an issue that we are taking a look at,” Gillam said. “There is still information we need from the festival organizers in terms of footprint, and once we get that, we’ll have the necessary discussion at that time.”
Gun advocate Robert Harris said they brought the issue forward to city officials not to set them up for a lawsuit, but instead to attempt to avoid any situation where someone’s individual rights would be violated.
There are certain areas designated as pistol-free zones in Michigan, where those with a concealed pistol license are barred from carrying a concealed weapon, including a business with a liquor license where the primary source of income is alcohol sales, an entertainment venue with more than 2,500 seats, schools, churches and court buildings, among others. Municipal buildings like Royal Oak’s City Hall are not among those restricted.
After the gun advocates first appeared on July 12, several city commissioners reacted with surprise that members of the public could legally carry a firearm into the commission chambers. Most vocal was Commissioner Terry Drinkwine, who said a safety plan should be drawn up, and police officers should be at every meeting to protect officials.
“Asking police officers to be at every meeting seems like a knee-jerk reaction to seeing law-abiding citizens open carry,” Harris said, a week later on July 19. “For this commission to imply that those who open carry are somehow like criminals who need to be surrounded by a half-dozen police officers while we peacefully attend these meetings is inappropriate.”
Shaun McElory, who came to the meeting in military fatigues, said he was not asking permission to bring his weapon to the festival.
“I am saying I will be there because it will be a great event, and since you can’t make a rule to restrict my right to bear arms … I will also be legally armed,” he said. “I do not ask permission to be somewhere I can legally be.”
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