Walmart to stop selling ammunition for handguns, assault-style weapons

FILE PHOTO: Walmart's logo is seen outside one of the stores in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

(Reuters) – Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it would discontinue sales of ammunition for handguns and some assault-style rifles in stores across the United States, in response to the recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

The largest U.S. arms retailer, which has been under pressure to change its policies on gun sales, also said it would discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, the only state where it still sells these guns.

Walmart has already ended sales of assault rifle and raised the minimum age for gun purchases to 21. The latest move will leave it focused on weapons for hunting, including deer rifles, shotguns and related ammunition.

The company will stop selling all handgun ammunition and some short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber after clearing current stock. While short-barrel ammunition is commonly used in some hunting rifles for small animals such as prairie dogs, they can also be used in military-style weapons with high-capacity magazines.

The retailer said it took the action following the death of 22 people in a mass shooting in a Walmart store in Texas as well as deadly shootings in Ohio and Saturday’s incident in Midland and Odessa, Texas.

Just last month, the company said it would not change its policy on selling firearms even as it took down signs and playable demos of violent video games.

“As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same,” Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said in a letter to Walmart’s associates.

The company added that its latest actions would reduce its market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of about 6% to 9%, and would trend toward the lower end of that range over time.

McMillon said he would send letters to the White House and the Congressional leadership, urging the government to strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who could pose an imminent danger.

“These horrific events occur and then the spotlight fades … Given our decades of experience selling firearms, we are also offering to serve as a resource in the national debate on responsible gun sales,” he said.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

Walmart tells staff to pull violent video game signage from stores

FILE PHOTO: A police officer stands next to a police cordon after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso,Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo

By Nandita Bose

(Reuters) – Walmart Inc said on Friday it has asked employees at its stores in the United States to take down signs and playable demos of violent video games but made no changes to its policy on selling firearms.

In an internal memo, Walmart also asked its employees to turn off hunting season videos immediately.

The largest U.S arms retailer, which has been under pressure to change its policies on gun sales, said it took the action following the death of 31 people in mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, one of which took place in a Walmart store.

Meanwhile, a petition started by a junior Walmart worker in California to protest the retailer’s sale of firearms has gathered more than 50,000 signatures. It will be sent to Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon on Friday.

Thomas Marshall, an employee in San Bruno California who began the petition, told Reuters the decision to remove signage and displays of violent video games is good but not enough.

“They said they will be thoughtful and careful about their response, so we are respectful of that… But I disagree with violent video games and signage being the cause of what we are seeing in the United States,” Marshall said.

“They need to take some concrete step with the weapons they sell in their stores.”

Walmart’s steps are not good enough for a lot of critics including Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who tweeted on Friday that the retailer should “do the right thing – stop selling guns.”

The company told Reuters it has not changed its policies on sales of firearms and violent video games in its stores. It ended the sale of assault-rifle in 2015 and also raised the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 in 2018, bowing to years of public pressure.

Media reports said Walt Disney Co-owned networks ESPN and ABC have decided to delay the broadcast of an esports tournament of battle royale game ‘Apex Legends’ following the shootings.

Disney and its networks did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Shares of videogame makers Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive Software and Activision Blizzard fell between 2.9% and 3.8% amid a broader selloff on Wall Street on Friday.

The stocks had tumbled on Monday after President Donald Trump, in response to the mass shootings, called for an end to the glorification of violence and blamed “gruesome and grisly video games” for that.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Additional reporting Uday Sampath in Bengaluru and Noel Randewich in San Fransisco; Editing by Maju Samuel and Arun Koyyur)

Teen from New Mexico compound says he was trained for jihad: FBI

FILE PHOTO: Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew HayREUTERS/File Photo

By Andrew Hay

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – A 13-year-old boy who was part of group taken into custody at a squalid New Mexico compound last month has told FBI agents his mother’s boyfriend was training him to conduct “jihad” against non-believers, according to federal court documents.

The boy was among 11 children and five adults living at the compound in Taos County when it was raided on Aug. 3 by local sheriff’s deputies who discovered a cache of firearms and the children living without food or clean water. The dead body of a three-year-old boy was found buried at the site later.

They initially faced state charges, then on Friday, the five adults including a Haitian woman described as the group’s leader, 35-year-old Jany Leveille, were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and accused of conspiracy and firearms offenses.

In an affidavit filed in support of a criminal complaint, an FBI special agent wrote that Leveille’s 13-year-old son told investigators that his mother’s boyfriend, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40, wanted to “get an army together” and train them for jihad.

The boy told agents that Ibn Wahhaj trained him and another of Leveille’s teenage sons in firearms and military techniques, including rapid reloads and hand-to-hand combat, and told them jihad meant killing non-believers on behalf of Allah, according to the affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in New Mexico.

The 13-year-old also told the FBI that his mother believed she received messages from God, and that he watched her and Ibn Wahhaj perform supposed “exorcism” rituals over the three-year-old boy, including one during which the boy choked and his heart stopped, according to the special agent’s affidavit.

The teenager said his mother and others at the compound told him not to talk to anyone about the three-year-old ever being at the compound because they would “all go to jail.”

Defense lawyers have said that the five adults were exercising their constitutional rights to practice their religion and own firearms, and that the group is being discriminated against because they are black and Muslim. The defense attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.

The five defendants came under FBI surveillance in May after Leveille wrote a letter to Ibn Wahhaj’s brother asking him to join them and become a “martyr,” state prosecutors have said.

They are due to appear in court in Albuquerque on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Additional reporting and writing by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Marguerita Choy)

U.S. gunmaker Remington files for bankruptcy

FILE PHOTO: A man walks with his Remington 870 Express 12 gauge shotgun during a pro-gun and Second Amendment protest outside the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., January 19, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/File Photo

By Tom Hals and Jessica DiNapoli

(Reuters) – Remington Outdoor Co Inc, one of the largest U.S. makers of firearms, filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday to carry out a debt-cutting deal with creditors amid mounting public pressure for greater gun control.

The company’s chief financial officer, Stephen Jackson, said in court papers that Remington’s sales fell significantly in the year before its bankruptcy, and that the company was having difficulty meeting requirements from its lenders.

Remington, America’s oldest gunmaker, announced in February it would reduce its $950 million debtload in a deal that will transfer control of the company to creditors. The company plans to wrap up its bankruptcy as soon as May 3, according to court papers.

The filing comes after a Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school that killed 17 and spurred an intense campaign for gun control by activists.

The massacre led to huge U.S. anti-gun rallies by hundreds of thousands of young Americans on Saturday.

In some of the biggest U.S. youth demonstrations for decades, protesters called on lawmakers and President Donald Trump to confront the issue. Voter registration activists fanned out in the crowds, signing up thousands of the nation’s newest voters.

Major U.S. companies and retailers have taken some steps to restrict firearm sales.

Citigroup Inc <C.N> said last week it will require new retail-sector clients to sell firearms only to customers who passed background checks and to bar sales of high-capacity magazines.

Citi also said it was restricting sales for buyers under 21, a move adopted by other large retailers, while Kroger Co’s <KR.N> superstore chain Fred Meyer said it will stop selling firearms entirely.

CERBERUS TO LOSE OWNERSHIP

Cerberus Capital Management LP, the private equity firm that controls Remington, will lose ownership in the bankruptcy.

Remington’s creditors, which sources told Reuters include Franklin Templeton Investments and JPMorgan Asset Management, will exchange their debt holdings for Remington equity.

The creditors inked the debt-cutting deal prior to the Parkland shooting, and it is unclear if any have exited. The restructuring support agreement allows creditors to sell their holdings, but the buyer is bound by the deal.

One investor told IFR, a Thomson Reuters news provider, that his firm had contemplated buying the Remington loans that will be exchanged into equity, which were offered at as low as 25 cents on the dollar.

“We bowed out because we were uncomfortable,” he said.

After a Remington Bushmaster rifle was used in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Connecticut in 2012 that killed 20 children and six adults, Cerberus tried unsuccessfully to sell Remington, then known as Freedom Group.

Katie-Mesner Hage, an attorney representing Sandy Hook families in a lawsuit against Remington, said in a prepared statement that she did not expect the gunmaker’s bankruptcy would affect their case.

Remington and other gunmakers have suffered from slumping sales in the past year as fears of stricter gun laws have faded.

The chief executive of American Outdoor Brands Corp, maker of the Smith & Wesson gun used in the Parkland shooting, said on March 1 that some gun retailers reported increased sales after the Florida school shooting.

Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, Jessica DiNapoli in New York and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Gopakumar Warrier)

U.S. top court rejects challenge to California gun waiting period

Firearms are shown for sale at the AO Sword gun store in El Cajon, California, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a blow to gun rights activists, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away a challenge to California’s 10-day waiting period for firearms purchases that is intended to guard against impulsive violence and suicides.

The court’s action underscored its continued reluctance to step into the national debate over gun control roiled by a series of mass shootings including one at a Florida school last week. One of the court’s most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, dissented from the decision to reject the case and accused his colleagues of showing contempt toward constitutional protections for gun rights.

The gun rights groups and individual gun owners who challenged the law had argued that it violated their right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. The challengers did not seek to invalidate California’s waiting period for everyone, just for people who already owned guns and passed a background check.

In his dissent, Thomas scolded his colleagues. “If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt this court would intervene,” Thomas wrote. “But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this court.”

The Supreme Court has not taken up a major firearms case since issuing important gun rulings in 2008 and 2010.

The United States has among the most lenient gun control laws in the world. With the U.S. Congress deeply divided over gun control, it has fallen to states and localities to impose firearms restrictions. Democratic-governed California has some of the broadest firearms measures of any state.

A series of mass shootings including one in which a gunman killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida high school on Feb. 14 have added to the long-simmering U.S. debate over gun control and the availability of firearms.

In another gun case, the high court on Tuesday also declined to take up a National Rifle Association challenge to California’s refusal to lower its fees on firearms sales and instead use a surplus generated by the fees to fund efforts to track down illegal weapons.

Thomas said he suspected that the Supreme Court would readily hear cases involving potentially unconstitutional waiting periods if they involved abortion, racist publications or police traffic stops.

“The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this court’s constitutional orphan. And the lower courts seem to have gotten the message,” Thomas added.

Lead plaintiff Jeff Silvester, the Calguns Foundation and its executive director Brandon Combs, and the Second Amendment Foundation in 2011 challenged the 10-day waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and its actual delivery to the buyer, saying it violated the Second Amendment for individuals who already lawfully own a firearm or are licensed to carry one.

The waiting period gives a gun buyer inclined to use it for an impulsive purpose a “cooling off” period before obtaining it, which has been shown in studies to reduce handgun suicides and homicides, the state said in a legal filing. The waiting period also gives officials time to run background checks and ensure that weapons being sold are not stolen or being purchased for someone prohibited from gun ownership, the state said.

The states of California, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, Iowa, Maryland and New Jersey as well as Washington, D.C., have waiting periods that vary in duration and type of firearm, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gun control advocacy group.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law in 2016, reversing a federal trial court that had ruled it unconstitutional.

Last year, the Supreme Court left in place a California law that bars permits to carry a concealed gun in public places unless the applicant can show “good cause” for having it.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Philippines’ drug enforcement agents face heat now that they are running Duterte’s war on drugs

Agents of the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency (PDEA) search a house of a drug trafficker during a raid in Tondo, Manila, Philippines, December 10, 2017.

By Peter Blaza

MANILA (Reuters) – Carrying firearms and search warrants, and prepared for fierce resistance, about 30 Philippine anti-drugs agents pour out of three vans in a dramatic raid in one of the capital’s illicit drugs hotbeds.

Some wearing flak jackets, others carrying rifles, the agents burst into three suspected drug dens in Manila’s Tondo area and in under an hour, arrest all four targets, without a drop of blood spilled.

The operation by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, or PDEA, was one of the success stories of an 18-month-old war on drugs.

That campaign has faced intense criticism from United Nations’ officials, some governments, and human rights groups, because it has led to the killing of nearly 4,000 mostly poor Filipinos, largely by the police.

Human rights monitors allege that executions by the police have been commonplace. The police say that the killings have been in self defense.

In what he suggested was a move to appease such criticism, President Rodrigo Duterte in October put PDEA in charge of his signature campaign, challenging an agency with just a fraction of the manpower of the police. He has since ordered the police to play only a supporting role.

Reuters journalists spent more than a week with a PDEA unit in Manila earlier this month and joined them in the Tondo operation, which agents said followed weeks of surveillance.

Duterte’s critics say his drugs war is targeting street-level dealers and lacks commitment to go after drug cartels behind the methamphetamine supply.

PDEA disputes that, and highlights the challenges it faces in going after kingpins with only 1,000 agents compared to the 190,000 personnel the police had drawn from.

Each agent juggles intelligence gathering, drug busts and raids, and often exasperatingly long court appearances that disrupt operations. Cases must be watertight, they say, as high-profile targets can afford to hire top lawyers.

“We see to it that we are morally convinced that the suspect is really involved in drugs,” said an agent, known as “Happy”, who requested his full name be withheld to ensure operations are not compromised.

PDEA insists it does everything possible to avoid bloodshed. It says that 28 drug suspects and 11 PDEA personnel were killed during its operations from the start of Duterte’s campaign to the middle of October.

“If the suspect does not fight back, why would we kill them?” said Christy Silvan, the acting deputy head of PDEA’s special enforcement service.

“But if that person fights back and has a gun, then we would not allow our troops to be the first one killed.”

Founded in 2002, the agency specializes in gathering intelligence and its typical operations revolve around searching for mid-level to prominent drug suspects, making arrests, compiling evidence and supporting court proceedings.

According to “Happy”, the threat remains even when criminals are in handcuffs, because agents have to appear in court to testify.

“If we got a big-time drug lord, they may hire a hitman to kill us,” he said.

(Writing and additional reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty)

U.S. Justice Department shuts down dark web bazaar AlphaBay

FILE PHOTO: The Department of Justice (DOJ) logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference in New York December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Dustin Volz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it had shut down the dark web marketplace AlphaBay, working with international partners to knock offline the site accused of allowing a global trade in drugs, firearms, computer hacking tools and other illicit goods.

Authorities said the law enforcement action was one of the largest ever taken against criminals on the dark web, part of the internet that is accessible only through certain software and typically used anonymously.

AlphaBay allowed users to sell and buy opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, contributing to a rising drug epidemic in the United States, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news briefing in Washington, D.C. to announce the action.

“The dark net is not a place to hide,” Sessions said. “This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year – taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history.

The move struck a blow to an international drug trade that has increasingly moved online in recent years, though some experts thought its impact would be limited.

“The takedown of AlphaBay is significant, but it’s a bit of a whac-a-mole,” said Frank Cilluffo, director of the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.

Criminals, he said, “are going to flock to other places.”

AlphaBay mysteriously went offline earlier this month, prompting speculation among its users that authorities had seized the site. It was widely considered the biggest online black market for drugs, estimated to host daily transactions totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Justice Department said law enforcement partners in the Netherlands had taken down Hansa Market, another dark web marketplace.

AlphaBay and Hansa Market were two of the top three criminal marketplaces on the dark web, Europol chief Rob Wainwright said at the press conference.

The international exercise to seize AlphaBay’s servers also involved authorities in Thailand, Lithuania, Canada, Britain and France.

The operation included the arrest on July 5 of suspected AlphaBay founder Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian citizen arrested on behalf of the United States in Thailand.

Cazes was logged on to AlphaBay at the time of his arrest, allowing authorities to find his passwords and other information about the site’s servers, according to legal documents.

Cazes, 25, apparently took his life a week later while in Thai custody, the Justice Department said. He faced charges relating to narcotics distribution, identity theft, money laundering and related crimes.

FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe said AlphaBay was ten times as large as Silk Road, a similar dark website the agency shut down in 2013.

About a year later, AlphaBay was launched, growing quickly in size and allowing users to browse goods via the anonymity service Tor and to purchase them with bitcoin currency.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Opening statements to begin in Oregon refuge takeover case

A U.S. flag covers a sign at the entrance of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) – Armed protesters at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon were exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly in a bid to expose the U.S. government’s illegal ownership and mismanagement of public lands in the West, lawyers for the defendants are expected to argue at trial on Tuesday.

Opening arguments are set for the morning at a federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon in the case of ranchers Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five other limited-government activists who led an armed 41-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.

The seven defendants are charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers, possession of firearms in a federal facility, and theft of government property. A jury was seated last week.

The takeover at Malheur was the latest flare-up in a decades-old conflict over federal control of millions of acres of public land in the West.

The Bundy brothers have been at the forefront of that movement and stood by their father, Cliven Bundy, at his Nevada ranch in a 2014 armed standoff with authorities over enforcement of federal grazing rights.

The Bundys began the Oregon standoff on Jan. 2 with at least a dozen armed men, sparked in part by the return to prison of two Oregon ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, who set fires that spread to federal property near the refuge.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney declined to comment on the trial.

Inmates (clockwise from top left) Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Peter Santilli, Shawna Cox, Ryan Payne and Joseph O'Shaughnessy, limited-government activists who led an armed 41-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, are seen in a combination of police jail booking photos released by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Portland, Oregon

Inmates (clockwise from top left) Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Peter Santilli, Shawna Cox, Ryan Payne and Joseph O’Shaughnessy, limited-government activists who led an armed 41-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, are seen in a combination of police jail booking photos released by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Portland, Oregon January 27, 2016. Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via Reuters

Lawyers for the Bundys and other defendants said they will argue, among other things, that the peaceful demonstration was an effort to draw attention to federal government overreach, and illegal control and mismanagement of public lands.

“The government has been squatting on this land for years, illegally and contrary to how (the U.S.) Congress intended,” Marcus Mumford, an attorney for Ammon Bundy, said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Matthew Schindler, a lawyer for Kenneth Medenbach, charged with theft of a government-owned Ford F-350 truck, said: “Federal control of public lands in the West is destroying the rural way of life, and that is what my client and others were trying to draw attention to.”

More than two dozen people have been charged in connection with the takeover, and a second group of defendants are scheduled to go on trial in February.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum of six years in prison, a year more than the firearms charge, while the property theft charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

(Reporting by Courtney Sherwood in Portland, Oregon; Writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle)

In some cities, police push back against ‘open carry’ gun laws

Steve Thacker with a rifle and a handgun is surrounded by members of the news media in

By Julia Harte

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tents, ladders, coolers, canned goods, tennis balls and bicycle locks are banned in the area surrounding the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

But guns are fine.

When Ohio Governor John Kasich on Sunday rejected the Cleveland police union’s request to ban the open carrying of firearms near the Quicken Loans Arena, he weighed into a national debate pitting city authorities who contend with gun violence against state lawmakers who answer to gun-loving voters.

Law enforcement leaders in several major cities say municipalities should have to the power to suspend open-carry laws when needed to protect public safety. Currently, 15 of the 45 states that allow openly carried handguns give cities power to restrict those laws, according to a Reuters review of state statutes.

In Cleveland, police union head Steve Loomis said he made the request to protect officers following recent fatal shooting of three police officers in Louisiana on Sunday and the killing of five officers in Dallas on July 7. Kasich said he did not have the power to circumvent the state’s open-carry law.

A decade ago, all Ohio municipalities had the power to regulate how guns could be carried. Now, only the state legislature can do it.

In 2006, the state legislature passed a law denying cities the ability to restrict openly carried weapons, overriding the veto of then-Governor Bob Taft. Cleveland sued the state to try to win back that power, but lost in 2010.

Across the country, similar battles are playing out in states where municipal authorities, often backed by police departments, are clashing with state lawmakers over how to regulate the open carrying of firearms.

Dallas’s police chief drew criticism from gun rights advocates for saying open carriers made it more “challenging” for his officers to respond to a shooter who killed five policemen at a demonstration this month.

The debate occasionally transcends political ideology. Some opposition to open-carry gun laws comes from Republican politicians such as former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who said last year that he was not “fond of this open-carry concept.”

Police in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, have been trying and failing to restrict the open carrying of guns for years. The state attorney general argues that citizens have a constitutional right to publicly display weapons, which cannot be overruled by city authorities.

“I wish more of our legislators could see past the ideology,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn. “They have no concern about the impact in urban environments that are already plagued by too many guns and too much violence.”

Flynn attracted gun owners’ ire when he told his officers in 2009 to detain open carriers despite the attorney general’s ruling. Flynn said his department has since “adapted” to the state law.

SAFETY V. RIGHTS

Open-carry advocates say that criminals almost never openly carry firearms. And if law-abiding citizens fail to demonstrate their right to carry guns, they risk losing it, they add.

“We’re sympathetic to law enforcement being concerned about their safety, but that doesn’t mean we give up citizens’ rights just to make it easier to police large events,” said John Pierce, co-founder of national advocacy group OpenCarry.org.

Wisconsin state representative Bob Gannon said he personally is “not a fan” of the practice because it makes people uncomfortable. Still, he said, the right to carry guns in public spaces should be upheld because it is protected by the state constitution.

“The police chief is not an emperor for the state, and he should defer to the state statutes,” he said.

In states where cities can restrict open carry laws, they often have had to defend that right in court.

Colorado passed legislation in 2003 aimed at ensuring a state law on firearms supersedes local ordinances. Denver, the state capital, sued the state to make sure the laws would not affect the city’s longstanding ban on openly carrying firearms.

The city won in 2006 after a 3-3 ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in favor of Denver.

“In some parts of rural Colorado, where there’s a lot of critters, some people really like the idea of open carry,” said Dan Montgomery, chief of police of the Denver suburb of Westminster for 25 years before leaving the force in 2010. “Certainly, even in the law enforcement community we have our arch conservatives who strongly believe in it, but for the vast majority of us, it’s problematic.”

Not all cities agree. After a man carrying a rifle opened fire in a Colorado Springs neighborhood last autumn, killing three bystanders, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said he had “no appetite” for tightening the city’s open-carry laws because he did not think such restrictions would improve public safety. Suthers declined to comment for this article.

UNPOPULAR WITH COPS

Little research has been done on the views of open-carry policies among police officers nationwide or even within states, which each regulate guns differently. But studies by two top police organizations in the past year provide some insight.

In Florida and Texas, where open-carry laws were recently debated in the state legislatures, surveys found that a majority of law enforcement leaders opposed them. Open-carry legislation was defeated in Florida but passed in Texas.

In Florida, open-carry advocates will almost certainly try to legalize it again next session, said Bob Gualtieri, chair of the legislative committee of the Florida Sheriffs’ Association, which represents the state’s 67 sheriffs.

The association took a vote on the issue this year and found three quarters of the 62 responding sheriffs opposed open carry.

A 2015 survey of about one-fifth of the police chiefs in Texas also found that three quarters of respondents opposed open carry, according to the state police chiefs’ association, which ran the survey.

The same year, the state legislature passed a law permitting firearm owners with a concealed-carry license to openly carry handguns.

Gualtieri said the Dallas shooting illustrated the way people who openly carry guns can hinder law enforcement responses to active shooter scenarios. Dallas police said up to 30 people were carrying rifles during a protest on the night that a man opened fire on police officers, complicating law enforcement’s attempts to identify the gunman.

“Not a single one of these people carrying firearms out there in Texas caught this guy in what he was doing,” Gualtieri said. “It drained law enforcement resources and subjected citizens to being unnecessarily taken into custody, and I think we should all be very grateful that nobody else got hurt.”

(Additional reporting by Isma’il Kushkush; Editing by Jason Szep and Brian Thevenot)

New Black Panther Party says to carry arms in Cleveland if legal

Demonstrator and member of New Black Panthers Party

By Ned Parker

(Reuters) – The New Black Panther Party, a “black power” movement, will carry firearms for self-defense during demonstrations in Cleveland ahead of next week’s Republican convention if allowed under Ohio law, the group’s chairman said.

The plan by the group could add to security headaches for the Ohio city after last week’s killing of five police officers in Dallas by a U.S. army veteran who had been drawn to black separatist ideology, including on Facebook, before hatching his plan to target white police officers.

Several other groups, including some supporters of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have said they will carry weapons in Cleveland, leading to concerns about rival groups being armed in close proximity.

“If it is an open state to carry, we will exercise our second amendment rights because there are other groups threatening to be there that are threatening to do harm to us,” Hashim Nzinga, chairman of the New Black Panther Party, told Reuters in an interview.

“If that state allows us to bear arms, the Panthers and the others who can legally bear arms will bear arms.”

Nzinga condemned the Dallas shootings as a “massacre” and said his group played no role in the attack.

Police in Dallas, where Texas’s “open carry” law allows civilians to carry guns in public, said seeing multiple people carrying rifles led them initially to believe they were under attack by multiple shooters.

Officials in Ohio have said it will be legal for protesters to carry weapons at demonstrations outside the convention under that state’s gun laws.

Eric Pucillo, vice president of Ohio Carry Inc., a non-partisan firearms rights, education and advocacy group, said he supports the rights of others to carry firearms close to the convention site.

“As long as they’re abiding by the law, I see no issue with it,” he said.

“VIRULENTLY RACIST”

Nzinga said he expected “a couple hundred” members of the New Black Panther Party to join a black unity rally that is scheduled to begin on Thursday. Nzinga said he and the Panthers plan to leave Cleveland on Sunday, the day before the convention officially opens.

His group plans to join a “black unity” convention in Cleveland that will hold a series of protest events in the city from this Thursday through at least Sunday.

“We are there to protect… (the black unity) event. We are not trying to do anything else,” he said. “We are going to carry out some of  these great legal rights we have — to assemble, to protest and (to exercise) freedom of speech.”

“Black Power” groups promote defense against racial oppression, with some advocating for the establishment of black social institutions and a self-sufficient economy.

The New Black Panther Party became active in 1990 and has long espoused black separatist ideology. Founding members of the 1960s Black Panther Party have denounced the New Black Panther Party as racist, but Nzinga says his movement does include original Black Panther members.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate group watchdog, describes the New Black Panther Party as “a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers.”

But the center said the group has not been found to have actually carried out any violent attacks.

Nzinga complained that his group is regularly demonized. “When we use our rights, the police want to take it away from us and they can’t,” he said. “We protect our community and they make us the villain.”

Law enforcement officials say the New Black Panther Party and other black militant groups have not been implicated in any attacks against police since the 2014 police killing of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. They also say the groups played no roles in last week’s attack in Dallas.

Nzinga says his group has grown amid racial tensions in the wake of a series of police killings of black men in the past two years. The Southern Poverty Law Center says the number of black militant chapters around the country grew from 113 to 180 in 2015.

The center says there are 892 hate groups total nationwide and at least 998, anti-government “patriot groups.” It says white hate groups, such as the Aryan Brotherhood, have a much longer track record of carrying out violent attacks than black extremist groups.

(Reporting By Ned Parker; additional reporting by Daniel Trotta.; Editing by David Rohde and Stuart Grudgings)