PORTLAND, Ore. — Two men carried assault weapons over their shoulders through a Portland neighborhood, demonstrating their Second Amendment rights and hoping to educate the public. They also prompted worried residents to call 911 and a school to go into lockdown.
Portland police say the two 22-year-olds did nothing illegal: They kept the weapons over their shoulders, and they have concealed handgun licenses that trump a city ordinance on possession of loaded firearms in public places.
Police reported receiving several 911 calls Wednesday afternoon. The Creative Minds Learning Center went into lockdown, sending an email to parents about armed men in the neighborhood.
“We’ve been keeping the kids away from the windows,” Meredith Cone, the school’s director, told The Oregonian. “It sounds unusual, but everyone here is safe and happy.”
A police spokesman said officers admonished the pair because of the alarm their walk caused.
“We support everyone’s constitutional rights, but we ask that they exercise them responsibly,” said Sgt. Pete Simpson. “Anyone walking around with a visible firearm is going to generate calls from concerned citizens that we have to respond to. That takes resources away from potentially more serious incidents.”
The Oregonian identified the two men as Steven M. Boyce, of Gresham, and Warren R. Drouin, of Medford. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach them were not immediately successful. Drouin did not respond to messages left in response to YouTube videos that documents several such walks and police encounters in Oregon cities.
Police in Gresham, a Portland suburb, said the men were seen there Wednesday and allowed to go on their way without incident.
Cases of people openly displaying firearms are rare in Portland and usually involve handguns, Simpson said.
The city has an ordinance against loaded weapons in a public place, but state law says holders of concealed handgun licenses are exempt. Once the officers verified the licenses, they had no reason to inspect the weapons, Simpson said.
He said one rifle was a semi-automatic AR-15, and the other was similar.
Karl Janiak said he was home with his wife when the young men passed through the neighborhood, but he did not see them.
He said he supports the Second Amendment, grew up in Alaska using guns to hunt and take target practice, and owns a firearm. He said he was upset.
“Someone could have spotted them, felt threatened, and the situation easily could have escalated because someone felt they had to make a statement that’s already in the Constitution,” Janiak said. “When you purchase and own a gun, you owe it to the community to be responsible with it.”