May 23, 2014
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine
30 E. Broad St., 14th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
Subject: Ensuring Ohio law enforcement training on and respect for the right to bear arms
Dear Attorney General DeWine,
I am writing to express concern that Ohio law enforcement is not receiving proper training
regarding the duty of sworn officers to respect and protect the right of the people to openly bear
arms in public. Some have exhibited ignorance on occasion, as well as contemptuous attitudes
that endanger the public and may create blowback. I am also offering a solution to help ensure
the law is observed and that dangerous situations and unwarranted responses will not be initiated
by the authorities.
I am writing to you because, as the chief legal officer of the state of Ohio, you are in a unique
position to defuse a situation wherein rights you have sworn to uphold may be violated under
color of authority. That’s potentially extremely dangerous, and not just to citizens.
“I am committed to the comprehensive training of law enforcement and the public regarding
concealed carry laws, expansion of reciprocity agreements with other states whenever possible,
and protection of the public,” you wrote in the foreword to your department’s “Ohio's Concealed
Carry Laws and License Application.”
Unfortunately, except for a brief blurb at the bottom of page 17, you don’t include much on
“open carry,” and appear to place the burden for avoiding negative consequences entirely on gun
“Ohio’s concealed carry laws do not regulate ‘open’ carry of firearms,” the brief section states.
“If you openly carry, use caution. The open carry of firearms is a legal activity in Ohio.”
That is what needs to be imparted, in no uncertain terms, with those tasked to enforce the law.
It’s a subject I’ve written your predecessors about, starting with Nancy Rogers back in 2008,
following a situation in Cleveland where a man openly carrying and peaceably sipping tea was
wrongly arrested, for concealed carry [http://tinyurl.com/okb9yna], after first being ordered at
gunpoint, along with his girlfriend and four other friends, on their bellies, on the ground, by
unjustified Cleveland policemen who were ignorant of the law.
That incident followed another terrifying one in Willowick, when an openly carrying citizen,
(one who conducted himself respectfully and with informed awareness of his rights) was ordered
to his knees at gunpoint by several officers [http://tinyurl.com/ph6sjmd], and subjected to illegal
threats and commands by the sergeant who arrived on scene. The citizen was treated to no small
amount of verbal abuse coupled with profound belligerent legal ignorance, including “"Shut up,
don’t talk to me about that, I taught the goddamn class. It doesn’t allow you to walk around with
it exposed ... Are you going to kneel there and argue with me all goddamn day? How about
nodding your head and saying 'OK, yeah I won’t do it again'." [You can listen to the disturbing
and outrageous audio recording of the encounter at http://ohioccw.org/files/2008-06-
Following that incident, the Willowick Police Chief wrote the Attorney General’s office to relate
the incident, his follow-up, and recommended actions
“As a department, we have taken steps to inform and train our officers and staff regarding open
carry,” Chief Michael Lazor told Attorney General Rogers, then calling her attention to an
important consideration. “During this time, we have had occasions to discuss this with other law
enforcement agencies and officers and come to the realization that uncertainty regarding open
carry issues reaches across the entire state. Open carry, as an issue, is misunderstood by a very
large portion of the law enforcement community and the public at large.
“An opinion from the Attorney General’s Office along with some training options would go a
long ways toward giving law enforcement some guidance from the state level,” Lazor concluded.
I agreed with him, and told Rogers as much [http://www.examiner.com/article/i-m-gonna-sit-
right-down-and-write-myself-a-letter-1], along with her successor, your predecessor Richard
To repeat the essence of what I asked both of them, how hard could it be for the state's top law
enforcement officer, you, to write a memorandum recognizing the legality of peaceable open
carry, and then sending it to every police and sheriff's department in the state, as well as to the
Highway Patrol? One would assume flow-down communications explaining your interpretations
and positions on law enforcement issues are already established and routine.
And how hard would it be for the individual LE departments to transmit this information to their
sworn personnel? Again, one would assume they all receive policy training as a condition of
employment. If you're already requiring employees to sign acknowledgments such as they
understand sexual harassment rules, etc., and are placing such proof of training documents in
their personnel files, how much more effort would be required to have each officer sign and date
a simple acknowledgment that he or she understands that open carry is lawful?
In fairness, Ohio has made significant progress since the incidents I related above. I have
documented three events I attended recently where gun rights supporters were openly carrying,
one in Akron [http://www.examiner.com/article/bloomberg-bus-tour-continues-stealth-
deployment] , one in Oberlin [http://www.examiner.com/article/ohio-league-of-women-voters-
chapters-exploring-home-rule-gun-law-changes ] and one in Columbus
rights-ohio], and police at those events were watchful, but non-aggressive.
So what’s my beef now? It appears the message is not getting through to all, and comprehensive
individual training for all officers is needed, on citizen rights, on proper respect citizens deserve
from public employees, and on the inappropriateness of joking, even (especially?) among
themselves about killing citizens for open carrying, assuming they were joking. That specific
training needs to be documented and backed up with serious consequences for noncompliance.
Here’s why I’m concerned this might not be sufficiently registering with the troops, and why it’s
incumbent on you to make sure that it does.
I recently blogged about a Facebook post
18123060&offset=0&total_comments=16] involving two self-identified Ohio officers [see
documenting links at http://waronguns.blogspot.com/2014/05/were-only-ones-double-tapping-
enough.html] discussing the recent incident at a Texas Chipotles restaurant. Open carriers
apparently unconcerned by public perceptions prompted the chain to ask customers not to
display firearms in their stores. Admittedly, that incident has caused no small amount of debate
even within the pro-gun community, with some condemning the activists for tactics they believe
hurt the cause, and others arguing they are needed.
Debate and disagreement are fine. The following exchange is not, and because social media posts
can be removed and links to them will no longer work, I am including a screenshot of the
relevant portions of the discussion as an enclosure to this letter.
“Shoot the kid on the right,” wrote one. “And they should never know you’re carrying anyway.”
“I’d be yelling at him to drop the gun,” wrote the other. “Then tap tap.”
“You can do both at the same time,” replied his Facebook friend. “Haha.”
Mr. DeWine, as a rare Republican who was once endorsed by the Brady Campaign
campaign], I’m going to assume you may not be aware of the meaning and significance of
“double tap,” so I will include a link to a definition [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_tap].
As a citizen who believes in the right to keep and bear arms, and as one who has documented on
uncounted occasions over the years incidents of police officers shooting and killing citizens and
then being reinstated after paid leave under an “acceptable department protocol” rationale, I find
that conversation offensive and chilling. If they are joking, and with that attitude being their
evident gut reaction, that’s hardly a guaranteed given, that’s totally unacceptable and merits
official cognizance and action.
A few years back, a similar outrageous social media “joke” was made by an East Palo Alto
policeman talking about open carriers in California.
"Sounds like you had someone practicing their 2nd amendment rights last night!" Detective Rod
Tuason wrote on his Facebook page. "Should've pulled the AR out and prone them all out! And
if one of them makes a furtive movement ... 2 weeks off!!!
“Haha that's when you attend one of their meetings and laugh at them cuz they can only dream to
have a ccw,” Tuason continued on the Facebook page, one that he subsequently removed.
Fortunately, the internet Archive “Wayback Machine” has preserved a blog post that presented a
screenshot to document his statements
Is this not the same attitude we’ve seen on display once again, but locally this time?
Mr. DeWine, surely you see the dangers here, to citizens, to the State of Ohio in terms of
liability, and yes, even to members of the law enforcement community who either have not
received proper training, or if they have, do not exhibit that it has sunk in, and that they take their
duties and legal obligations seriously.
As citizens become more aware of their rights, more are also becoming aware of their right,
backed by court precedent, to defend themselves from unlawful police actions
[http://www.constitution.org/uslaw/defunlaw.htm ]. So why not just use the influence of your
office to minimize negative consequences for all concerned?
I’d appreciate hearing back from you on this, and will be sharing this letter, along with your
response (or lack of one) with gun owners who read my work.
[ADDRESS INCLUDED IN MAILED VERSION, REDACTED FROM ONLINE POST]
Screenshot of Facebook discussion between two Ohio police officers joking (?) about shooting
E. Palo Alto detective “joking” on Facebook about getting two weeks off for shooting open