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Gun rights advocates to march in Grand Rapids this afternoon

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Gun rights advocates gathered at a Grand Rapids City Commission meeting earlier this week.

Supporters of Michigan’s laws allowing people to openly carry guns plan to march through Grand Rapids this afternoon.

They’re supporting Johann Deffert, a Grand Rapids resident who’s suing the city in federal court. Deffert claims his constitutional rights were violated a year ago when Grand Rapids police briefly detained him for openly carrying a gun as he walked through a residential neighborhood.

For more than a year, open-carry advocates have been demanding Grand Rapids repeal a local ordinance they believe is unconstitutional.

But city attorney Catherine Mish says the ordinance has been mischaracterized.

“The federal court lawsuit that’s been referenced has, in my mind, nothing at all to do with the city of Grand Rapids ordinance because that had nothing to do with the officers’ actions on the day in question,” Mish said.

Police responded to emergency calls about a suspicious person with a gun. They observed Deffert talking to himself before detaining him. Deffert repeatedly told police he was licensed to carry the gun and was not breaking any law. He was released without charge.

Tom Lambert is with the group Michigan Open Carry. He’s has been coming to Grand Rapids City Commission meetings with his gun on his hip.

He thinks Grand Rapids’ ordinance is stricter than state law and is therefore unconstitutional. He’s asked the commission repeatedly to repeal it. But the mayor and a few other elected leaders are not willing to.

“It’s obvious. It’s easy. It's simple. It’s their job. But for some reason we just can’t quite get there,” Lambert said.

Lambert is convinced the city will lose the Deffert case. Deffert is seeking more than $500,000 from the city in the federal court case.

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