Less than three weeks after a jury found 18-year-old Troy resident Sean Combs not guilty of disturbing the peace and brandishing a firearm, Combs picked up his M1 Garand rifle – which had been used as evidence during his trial – from Birmingham Police on Monday.
Then, he and a few other open carry advocates took to the streets of Birmingham once again Monday evening, openly carrying rifles and handguns at Shain Park.
The group, organized through opencarry.org, all share one interest: raising awareness of the right to openly carry firearms – and not get in trouble for it.
"I'm not here to make anyone feel uncomfortable or scare someone or make them feel like they're not safe because I have a gun," Combs said. "I actually want the opposite; I don't want anyone to feel like they're in any kind of danger, because they're not."
This is only the second time Combs has ever carried a gun in public, and said he did so in order to make a statement.
Combs ignited an open carry debate in Metro Detroit in April when he was stopped in downtown Birmingham for carrying a loaded rifle. Combs, who officers initially suspected of being underage, refused to present his identification and was arrested by Birmingham Police. On July 12, Combs was found not guilty of brandishing a firearm and disturbing the peace; a third charge of obstructing an officer was thrown out on the first day of the two-day trial.
"We start real small, speak softly and carry a big stick," said Jason Harrison, a North Branch resident who was also in attendance on Monday. "First, just send an e-mail or a letter to the City Council or the Mayor and explain what MCL 123.1102 actually says."
After holding a meeting on the south end of Shain Park on Monday, the group planned to walk over to the fountain area of the park with weapons in tow. Many of the men, who said they carry their guns for safety purposes, expected weird looks from those who saw them.
Adrienne Ruby-Fink, a bystander who carries a gun herself, explained that she is in support of the right to bear arms except in certain circumstances.
"I am pro-concealed weapon permit, but I think carrying rifles openly in a downtown area with kids around is just ridiculous," Ruby-Fink said. "But, I do feel it's our right as American citizens to be able to protect ourselves."