(MLIVE) It resembled most any Sunday afternoon picnic in Bronson Park. Except most of the people assembled around tables filled with watermelon and grilled goodies had firearms in holsters strapped to their waists.
The Glocks and the Smith & Wessons remained holstered but visible during a three-hour Open Carry Picnic designed to raise public awareness of what organizers called Second Amendment rights in Michigan to openly carry a firearm in most places.
They were high school teachers, college students, computer geeks and housewives with one thing in common. Rather than a cell phone, the leather pouch they wore at their waist contained a gun. The picnic drew about 40 people on a wet afternoon.
Josh Tishhouse, 22, a native of Otsego now living in Ann Arbor, was wearing his 9 mm Glock 17 as he held a soda in one hand, passing out Michigan Open Carry information brochures with the other.
The University of Michigan systems administrator said he has openly carried his handgun for the past year. But not at work, saying he respects the university’s work rules that ban firearms on campus.
• For more information on gun laws and the national Open Carry organization, go to www.opencarry.org.
Ryan Ransom, a Coloma High School automotive technology teacher, said people who open-carry their handguns often are assumed to be off-duty police officers.
And although Ransom said he has never been confronted by a civilian for wearing his 9 mm pistol, some police officers have been unaware of the laws that allow it and have questioned him.
Stephanie Grinage says people in their Edison neighborhood refer to her husband, Robert, as “Wyatt Earp,” an iconic 1800s Western lawman. Robert often walks their dog with his holstered firearm in full view.
The owner of a neighborhood convenience store refers to the pair as “my friends,” she explained, after a “shady” man eyeing the cash register left the establishment one day when the openly armed Grinages stopped to make a purchase.
Stephanie Grinage has a concealed weapons permit that allows her to keep her Smith & Wesson .38 Special tucked in her purse.
“The weight of a gun around my waist pulls my pants down,” she mused.
For the young housewife who is often home alone, her gun is about protection.
“I don’t want to feel powerless,” said Grinage, who still suffers from the scars of a physical assault when she was 18. “I want to be able to protect myself and not worry about the cops showing up too late.”
People milling around at Sunday’s event said they’re not all the stereotypical conservatives criticized by Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign for “clinging” to their guns.
“I don’t identify myself as a Democrat or a Republican,” Tishhouse said. “I consider myself a constitutionalist.
“If you want to know the truth, I voted for Obama.”