Two Oregon men carrying semiautomatic rifles on their backs through downtown Portland caused alarm and sparked 911 calls on Wednesday. The men, however, defended themselves, saying they were exercising their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms in public.
According to KATU-TV, the men, Warren Drouin and Steven Boyce, both 22, who carried their guns in full public view, were spotted walking through downtown Gresham and Southeast Portland Wednesday, around 2 p.m. They said they were trying to "educate the public about gun rights." However, their action caused panic to spread as people repeatedly called 911.
Although, several concerned citizens made 911 calls to police on Wednesday with alarmed residents reporting seeing the men in the neighborhood of Southeast Seventh Avenue and Spokane Street in Portland's Sellwood neighborhood, the men were not found breaking any laws because Oregon state law permits open carrying of firearms.
Fox News reports that police say they found the two men carrying rifles openly on their backs, but both held valid concealed handgun licenses, according to KPTV. However, officers said that although carrying firearms openly is legal in Oregon and carrying a concealed gun is legal with a valid license, "doing one or both may generate 911 calls and possibly tie up resources that are needed for a real emergency."
Portland authorities identified the men as Warren Drouin and Steven Boyce.
According to Drouin and Boyce, they were only trying to get people used to seeing weapons in public. KATU-TV reports Boyce, said: "I just want to educate people that it’s OK however you want to carry or not at all."
Drouin described himself as: "Exercising my rights with a rifle to try to decrease the demonizing of peacefully exercising your rights in public."
However, residents and parents were upset and disturbed. They voiced their disapproval of the men's behavior coming less than a month after the tragic Sandy Hook massacre in which a man armed with a semiautomatic weapon killed 20 children and six adults at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Anglada Bartley, a mother of a 9-month-old, told KATU-TV: "That’s not the purpose of the Second Amendment, to frighten citizens, to frighten women and children. And I don’t think there’s anyone who can argue, especially after the tragedy where so many children were killed – nobody can argue that it’s not scary to have people marauding around Sellwood with guns."
Another resident Bob Cronk, said: "It’s completely ridiculous. I think our right to a peaceful quiet school day comes before their right to brandish their rifles in a family-oriented neighborhood."
Fox News reports that one of the men said he had hoped people would approach him and talk to him, instead of calling police.
He said: "What they really should do is observe the person to determine if the person is aggressive. We're not doing anything threatening to anyone."
The Portland Police Bureau, however, wisely asks anyone who sees someone armed with guns not to appoach the person and talk to him but to call 911 immediately.
OregonLive reports that Drouin has an extensive history with Medford police over his practice of openly carrying semiautomatic weapon in parks, businesses and other public places. Medford police say they have received at least 67 complaints about Drouin between June 2011 and December 2012. The incidents generated several 911 calls and one business barred him from its premises.
According to OregonLive, Drouin is very well know to the police. They refer to him simply as "Warren" and officers receive training and instructions on how to deal with and approach him and others in the "open carry [activist] movement."
He was once handcuffed and briefly detained when he showed up at the Medford City Hall complex openly carrying a semi-automatic. Medford police Chief Tim George, commented on Drouin's behavior: "Being legal does not mean it is a wise thing to do. Responsible firearms owners would not and don't do this."
Police filed no charges against the pair on Wednesday.
The Blaze reports that Drouin has a YouTube account under the name "Markedguardian," that contains several videos of him walking around with an AR-15 strapped to his back. The videos also document his encounters with law enforcement. Drouin describes himself as a "constitutional guardian and activist... trying to normalize firearms in public."
On his Facebook page, he says he was home schooled and writes: "I am a Classic Liberal that believe in the Rights of the Individual. I am here to promote the Rights of the Individual and the respect for them. I hate all forms of corrupt government that wish to infringe on the Individual Rights. As such, Dictators, Socialist, Communist, Collectivist, and etc. We the Individuals of the People, shall not allow our Rights to be infringe. Our Rights are Life, Liberty, and Property. No Person or Groups, weak or strong, shall harm our Individual Rights."
The videos above are among several "open carry" videos posted under his YouTube username.